Transformed By The Re-Newing Of The Mind
By Marilyn Hurst
It was a quiet spring day in March 1990, the day my father died. I had visited him at home just the day before and though it was apparent he was in the last stages of the “disease”, I was still expecting that any time he’d reverse the diagnosis and pull out of this horrible thing that was consuming his life. His passing hit me so hard I could barely remember to keep breathing myself.
Over the following months, slowly at first then like a speeding train coming at me, the past, present and future closed in and I felt I was staring into a black hole. I could see no light at the end of the tunnel. Although it appeared to everyone around me I had lapsed into depression, I knew that a major life-altering event had occurred and the pain was so intense, I wanted to die myself.
I looked at the shambles of my life and realized I’d been sleep-walking through it for the better part of 40 years. My marriage was only held together because of our 9 year old son and were it not for my job as a flight attendant, which took me away for long periods every month, I probably would have ended it years before. This empty void wasn’t just the passing of my father; something within me was desperate to “get out”. At the time I didn’t recognize this as a symptom of a transformational process that was in the beginning stages. So I took the time honored road of least resistance and decided to toss in my marriage.
I gave my husband this “news” and his suggestion was to find a place of my own and “sort things out”; as if I were re-arranging the closets. The guilt I felt was suffocating but pressing on, I left with just the clothes on my back and the memories of my 20 year marriage.
I was married at 21, only a year after I’d joined the airline, and this was almost the first time I’d been living on my own since graduation. Hard to explain, but it was frightening and exhilarating at the same time; I felt like 18 again. My new rental was more money than I wanted to spend, but for some reason I couldn’t even explain to myself, I knew that this was where I should be. Only half a mile from the house, but down by the beach in the small seaside town where we lived, I could drive up and visit my son anytime. And yet my sanctuary was waiting when I got back.
I’d stopped drinking the year before, or more accurately, been forced to stop or jeopardize my job, and was attending AA meetings regularly. The support of the program and my sponsor kept me from running back home. It’s amazing how indoctrinated we are when it comes to that “marriage certificate and ’til death do us part” ceremony. If our marriage fails, somehow that makes us failures in life, guilt and remorse can seem overwhelming, and the easiest way to feel better would be to go back and somehow “make it work”. Interestingly, my husband never made the suggestion or demand of me to come “home”; clearly he was doing better himself without my presence and also, I think our repeated attempts to come to grips with our issues had worn him out. It had me.
Days after I moved into my new digs, I discovered a small metaphysical bookshop around the corner had just opened. I was in need of some serious soul-searching and the shop was filled to overflowing with inspirational, spiritual and self-help books. I saw this as serendipity, and over the following months a whole new world opened to me. I was ravenous for the “foods of the spirit”. The shop conducted a meditation circle in the morning before opening, and I went often whenever I wasn’t working. Meditation opened up new and exciting ways of understanding, and the surprising by-product became a calm reassurance that things were definitely “unfolding as they should”.
After meditation one morning and while on one of my morning runs along the boardwalk, I was brought up short by an art display being set up in front of our quaint little train station. With the idea of having some kind of hobby or distraction, I’d taken a 6 week course in painting when I stopped drinking. Coincidentally, the class was held at that very train station and although I loved painting, for some reason I never continued. The books I’d been devouring all stated emphatically that there are no co-incidents and that stopped me dead in mid-run. I was beginning to pay attention to the signs the universe was always sending.
The artist was setting up his painting display and seemed oblivious to me studying his work. I was amazed by his work and was trying to figure out how he managed to capture the light so well. When I looked up finally, he was staring quite intently at me. Embarrassed, I stammered something about having taken a painting course, and I had a few paintings at my place and would it be possible for him to critique the work, and I lived just down the road, and did he teach painting, and on and on I went blithering away in my sweaty running clothes.
He didn’t speak right away, but continued to stare, and after a moment I finally calmed down enough to introduce myself. Seemed his studio was directly behind my townhouse, one block over, and if I looked out my kitchen window, I could see his building. Yes, he would be pleased to come by and see the work, stop by anytime. Just around the corner, another “gift” from the universe.
It was a few weeks after returning from an overseas trip, driving past his studio, when he came out of the door. I invited him to come over for coffee and to see my “work”, which were the only decorations in my rather sparsely furnished condo. By this time, I was getting rather excited about the whole idea of painting again, and after seeing the paintings he agreed that I might be teachable. Of course, I explained that while I couldn’t actually pay him, he could use some “sprucing up wardrobe-wise” and I’d bring him clothes from Hong Kong, which I knew I could buy really cheaply on my airline allowance. He actually agreed to the plan, much to my surprise, and I promised to stop by his studio and set some times for instruction—soon.
It was another few weeks and another two trips before I saw the artist, Chris, again. I was at one of my meetings with my sponsor when he walked in. I’d never seen him at any of the meetings before and my sponsor hadn’t either. I assumed he was a “newcomer” and I went up to him, during coffee, to chatter on about how extraordinary it was that we were both in the “program” and congratulations on making the decision to come, and I rambled on and on again.
When I turned around after chatting with another friend, he’d disappeared. Not surprising, I thought, probably embarrassed by my blithering. I promised myself to stop by his studio and set things right, and get going on the teaching if he still wanted to continue.
Chris actually was very gracious about the whole thing and we hit it off right away. I liked his quiet, easy demeanor and he turned out to be an exceptional teacher. The saying goes “that when the student is ready, the teacher appears” and this was the case in more ways than I could have dreamed of. Not only was he a fantastic art teacher, but his knowledge of things otherworldly was an immense help to my increasing curiosity of “the things of the spirit”. During the 20 odd years living the life as an artist, he’d studied religion, spirituality, mysticism and the ancient wisdoms. He was happy to share these with me during our painting sessions, and over dinner or coffee we’d discuss the latest epiphanies from my readings.
This was a magical time and I could see and feel the changes taking place in my life. Months later, when I asked him about the “meeting” incident and his quick disappearing act, he told me he was in his studio, it was his birthday and from inside his head, as if being spoken to, a voice said, “Chris, go to a meeting!” Very loud and unmistakable. He’d actually stopped drinking of his own accord a couple of years before we met. He attended one or two meetings, then just continued on his own. He intuited what the voice meant but had to call to find a meeting close by. He chose the one I was attending that night and when he walked in, he said, I looked over towards him and a laser beam of light shot out and caught him between the eyes. Apparently, this was not the first time he’d heard THE voice but he always obeyed and accepted whatever instruction was given. Clearly, another sign of serendipity in action. I couldn’t ignore the evidence that something mysterious and wonderful was happening in my life.
We weren’t involved romantically; our friendship had a more sacred meaning and besides, I certainly wasn’t going to jump into another relationship after 20 years in the first. About six months later, the night before leaving on another trip, we’d been sitting on the beach around a fire Chris had built for us, chatting for hours while the full moon rose up out of the ocean. Six days later on my way home, I’d decided to stop by the studio to check in, when there on his easel was a painting depicting the magic of that evening, including a couple sitting by the fire that could not be other than the two of us. Chris titled the painting “Us and the Night”.
It was at this moment that something within me “clicked”. I saw so clearly that I’d been skating on the thin ice of my life, all surface living – no depth. Chris lived the life of an artist that expressed itself in his work, and each painting had a meaning to him. I was so consumed with all the so-called problems and situations in my life that I couldn’t allow the magic to show up. Living inside my head and ignoring the heart for fear of the pain, I was looking out of my eyes through the filters of my past, which kept me from experiencing the wonder of each moment. I had to let go of everything I thought I knew, and learn to let life teach me what it is to live in the now moment. That would be living the creative life.
I was learning to meditate regularly, but needed to really apply myself to learn the art of stillness. In hindsight, that moment when I saw that painting was that still, precious moment beyond thought. Finally, when I was absolutely speechless, that inner knowing and peace that is always available to us, had a chance to register in my awareness. The mind is such a fierce taskmaster and it takes patience and dedication to learn to value it as a tool, and to understand that we can learn to have dominion over our thoughts. Meditation is the key to unlock all our potential to live fuller more meaningful lives.
I believe that the “epiphany moment” for me came at one of my AA meetings and I actually came to know, not just with my mind, but truly to know that because I was seeing life only from my own narrow perspective, I was blinded by an inflexible thinking process, short-circuited so to speak.
We buy into the stuff our parents, teachers, friends and even our own experience gives us. Rarely do we question our motives, behavior, or impact on our relationships. Our minds run our lives, and until you can actually see how this operates for you, and unearth the repetitive and negative mind patterns, our lives will reflect what we believe, and we will continue to repeat negative behavior and habits.
It’s not easy to let go of old ideas, concepts, belief systems, and the hardest part is just seeing how rigid our lives can be. I have come to believe that if you open up, allow the new to seep in, it will transform your life.
Much has transpired since then. My ex-husband and I agreed to an amicable divorce and our son is now an artist in his own right. Chris and I married in 1997 while driving to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. We’d fallen in love there and were captivated by the culture and landscape of the Baja. We opened a studio/gallery and watched it morph over the next 13 years into the finest collection of art and artists in Southern Baja. Being able to paint full time in the studio, I finally became an artist in my own right.
I’ve come to see that it was the creative spirit trying to “get out” that I felt as pain so long ago. Resistance to the pain caused my worst suffering, and freedom came with the ability to see that it was my best teacher.
Through meditation and learning to be still, new ways of thinking, and being, unfolded. I’m a new person from that woman of 20 years ago, and I can’t speak highly enough of the benefits. It’s well worth the effort and the persistence required to learn the art of meditation. You don’t need to attend a class; there are wonderful books to help with instruction, and the beauty is, that once you start, your own higher senses take over and your guidance starts to come from within.
It’s never too late to begin the process of transformation. We have eternity to get it right.
God speed on your journey.
Marilyn Hurst Bio:
In the early 90′s my art “career” began to germinate after discovering a hidden reservoir of creative energy brought on by personal challenges. I had never considered painting before this time, but something within was pushing me to begin. I began with portraiture and since that time my work has expanded beyond anything I could have imagined.
My mentor and husband is longtime artist, Chris MacClure.
My work is a ménage of life, experience and creative energy and the landscapes, florals, portraiture and expressionist abstracts all reflect the vibrant colors of Nature and my life as a contemplative.
View my paintings at http://marilynhurst.com/.
Learn more about artist Chris MacClure at the following websites:
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