I recently took a trip to Walden Pond, in Concord, Mass., with my friend Gregg. It wasn’t part of the plan to stop there, but we didn’t exactly have a plan. We saw the sign and turned in.
My father had been a lifelong subscriber of the Transcendentalist movement and often quoted the likes of Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman. My dad was an artist who preferred to live simply. And he resented having to live in a world of social injustice.
Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was the first book my dad ever gave to me. As a young girl, I would carry it with me everywhere. I would take it to the woods and find a comfortable hiding place so I could read in peace. To me, the pages were simply magical. Every time I opened it, my surroundings were transformed into a fairytale scape.
It doesn’t matter what age you are, when you hear the truth, your soul recognizes it.
“For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”— Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, Leaves of Grass
As Gregg and I walked toward the pond, I felt myself becoming a bit defensive.
“So this is where they used to come to sit around and judge others.”
I was in awe that my rebellious inner teenager was making herself known. Now? Really?
She had recognized the hypocrisy of the Transcendentalist movement as it was understood by her father. She watched as he would make desperate attempts to love unconditionally while grappling with determining the value of those who didn’t agree with him, like it was his job — those who subscribed to capitalism, organized religion or politics of any sort.
As a teenager, I was doing my own judging. I thought it was ridiculous that Tuberculosis (back then, it was coined as the White Plague) was considered the Romantic Disease which was believed to only plague those with artistic and poetic qualities. In my mind, the fact that the ego could make a disease admirable epitomized the insanity of humanity.
It doesn’t matter what values or concepts parents subscribe to; their children will always figure out a way to find the flaws in them. That is exactly what I did. I rebelled against rebellion. What a concept.
As a kid, I sensed my dad’s attachment to a moral superiority that came with this literary period, which was partly his own egoic rebellion. The philosophy of Transcendentalism lends itself to the belief that it is impossible for anyone to be a pure Transcendentalist. I would remind him of this often.
Strangely, outside of Leaves of Grass, I never read much of anything else from American writers from that period. To me, they seemed to be eaten up with a God complex and were downright hypocritical, if not blindly immature.
Once we arrived at the pond, I felt like I was visiting a part of myself that I had never acknowledged. My inner teenager gave way to my inner 5-year-old who wanted the floor.
I pulled up my yoga pants as far as I could and walked into the water. I stood there, imagining what Thoreau would have been doing on this very day, 175 years ago. His ideas were bold for his time — he embraced the early sprouting of gender and cultural equality within the confines of an infant country. He embraced nature in order to learn about himself and the unseen. He lived simply.
In that moment, I thought of my dad and what he would say to me about judging those who judge. “Those who judge others are actually seeing something within themselves that they don’t like.”
Outside of the egoic triggers, my dad was obsessed with the purity of the individual and the idea that we are all born good. It is oppression that creates unsuitable behavior, which happens out of the necessity to survive. And when we hurt others, we are hurting ourselves too.
The Transcendentalist writers believed that we all have an element of source consciousness within, making us all part of the whole. This was my first introduction to the concept of Oneness.
I pondered what Thoreau might think of my dad’s quote: “Purity is the perfect order of chaos.”
I wondered if they’ve met since my dad dropped his body. Probably, I thought.
I felt my heart spilling over with joy and I longed for my dad’s presence. I imagined him standing right next to me — both of us basking in the glory of the landscape.
Gregg was standing on the beach taking pictures. I must have looked star struck. Star struck by a pond.
Gregg said, “Hey! There’s something reflecting light in the water! Right beside you! It’s blue and shiny. Get it!”
“Where?” I asked.
“Right there, to your right.”
I bent down and put my hand in the water.
“No. a little to the left. Now one inch up and to the right. No, back to the left. Back, back, back …”
And suddenly, I knew what was happening.
“I’m not going to be able to catch it. It’s not of this world.”
“No, it’s right there!”
“Okay, here?” I asked.
We did the whole right, left, back and forth thing again and again.
“Yes, right there!”
I reached down and picked up some sand.
Deflated, he said, “Aaww, now it’s gone.”
“Told you,” I said.
He said, “I think you got the water muddied up.”
My dad taught me that there is more to this existence than what we can see with our physical senses. And sometimes, the information we gather from our senses is beyond explanation.
Most of the games we would play together were ones that stretched my intuitive abilities, like he was grooming me for something.
“Trust your intuition. It’s probable that it’s the only correct answer. You already know how many leaves are on that tree right there,” he would say.
As we grow older, it’s natural that we begin to identify with the intrinsic values of our parents — or realize that we have identified with them all along.
I stood there in the pond, with the realization that the Transcendentalist movement is not something I ever needed to subscribe to or study. The concept had been weaved into my consciousness before I could articulate a sentence.
It is who I am at the core. It is me.
“Thanks, dad,” I whispered.
Collectively, us humans spend time learning things that we believe to be separate and outside of ourselves. But what we are really doing this whole time is learning more about ourselves, so that life can know itself.
“When self is known, all is known.”— James Daves, artist, philosopher, dad of two
Today, I work as a purpose coach. I teach my clients how to delve into the depths of their own consciousness, where the answers to all the questions reside. My work is my purpose, and it gives me permission to be exactly who I am.
Standing in a pond that was once nothing more than a fairytale in my mind, I witnessed the full circle of my life experience up until now — in one angelic, fleeting moment.
This full circle fairytale experience can occur for all of us, once we embrace and invite in our soul’s true essence.
This is my wish for you.
Love and light,