Driving home recently from my first memoir-writing class, reflecting on two hours of meeting new people and setting the intention to learn more about making my life stories interesting and relevant, I noticed that leaves are beginning to show their fall colors. Summer is fading, fall is taking its natural place in the seasonal continuum, and once again, thankfully, I’m along for the ride. Only this time, those colors are more vivid than ever for me, as is everything I see through my physical eyes.
Five weeks ago I had cataract surgery on my left eye, and two weeks ago on my right. Not to sound corny (I know…it’s corny) it’s been an eye opening experience! The day of my first surgery I came home and, as directed, took the time to rest. I was nervous going in that day, although I was surprisingly unfettered by it in the weeks and days leading up. The prep nurse was so kind. Early on I admitted to her that I was “a little nervous” and she assured me that it was certainly a normal feeling since I was entering unknown territory. I said to her “you must see nervous people all day long”, and she chuckled and said, “yes…you have no idea.” I sensed that my case of nerves was fairly mild compared to some of the folks who come through the surgical center every day.
I’ve had a variety of surgical procedures and other medical engagements over the years. This was easy-peasy by comparison. I had great drugs that made me a little “loopy”, and my doctor is a prince with a big heart and great compassion for his patients. Everyone I met that day was kind and incredibly patient. What I recall about that first procedure is seeing some cool colored lights and feeling very safe. Before I knew it I was in the car with my husband, wearing my “Stevie Wonders” (the very dark, very large polarized sunglasses they gave me to wear), heading home. We had a celebratory breakfast after which I made my way upstairs to the comfort of my darkened room and bed.
It felt good to close my eyes and let go. With Sophie curled up at my side I fell into a sweet sleep. The surgical center told me to expect my vision tp be blurred for a while; maybe even a few days. I woke up and felt the slight burning that reminded me that I had just had an eye operation and sat myself upright to remove the clear plastic patch I was given to protect the eye during sleep. I felt some stinging and looked up, trying focus my gaze on the furthest wall from my place in bed which is a wall in our bathroom with a tall cabinet on top of which are some perfume bottles. I was absolutely shocked when I could actually read the word R E D on a cologne bottle maybe 25 feet from where I sat! W H A T ? I can read that!! Not only that but the colors in the room were brilliant and the edges of everything I looked at were, in photographic terms, tack sharp! I was seeing everything in high definition…and I was completely stunned!! I called out to my husband, “B O B you have to come here! Something amazing…something crazy…I can’t believe it!” It was urgent. I was excited! He came flying into the bedroom thinking I was in pain or in trouble or something post-surgical that wasn’t supposed to happen. I did my best to reassure him that I was alright then began babbling about “I can see it”, “it’s crystal clear”, “I can see the word ‘RED’ from here”, “everything looks new and different”. I went on and on about it as he listened patiently and appreciatively. To put it simply, I was blown away by the color and the clarity and that in such a short time my vision became clear. At that point I was able to compare the vision from one eye to the other and the comparison made me take notice. Through one eye everything was blurred and had a yellowish cast to it. Through the other everything was clear and vivid. Food for thought.
Since then I’ve had the cataract in the other eye removed and I’m seeing everything…everything differently. This experience has made me look much more deeply at pretty much every thought, feeling, external and internal observation and every perspective I hold. I’ve asked myself the question, “What else has been unseen? How else has my “vision” been unclear? How many other “cataracts” do I have that obscure my vision of what is.
This experience has reminded me of a quote from the New Testament that speaks of Saul “removing the scales from his eyes” so that he could see the truth. This idea has been used as a metaphor in countless literary works and teachings. And here I am, someone who has chosen to live a life of service, study, contemplation and exploration suddenly finding that my perspective is forever changed in ways I could never have imagined. Lights are going on all over the place. Colors are alive and vibrating; I notice everything with wonder and curiosity that I haven’t felt in a long time. In a way I feel new and fresh. My internal work has been enlivened in that I now question every response and impulse with an awareness that the way I was seeing before may not have been accurate or clear and that I might want to examine my perception and look for other “cataracts” I can remove. By the way, the word cataract is defined as “an impediment to vision”. Wow. I can’t help but wonder how many other impediments are still in place that obscure what’s true for me.
Over the years in my work at One Spirit Interfaith-Interspiritual seminary I’ve had the opportunity to visit many of the world’s faith traditions. One of the emerging spiritual technologies I’ve had the opportunity to explore is A Course In Miracles. The Course has a teaching that tells us to ask to see a given situation differently, as in “Holy Spirit, help me to see this differently”. In a conflict we are given the gift of asking for help to have a different perspective or viewpoint so as to gain understanding and peace. This teaching is in perfect alignment with my cataract experience. I’ve been given a uniquely holy opportunity to see things differently, through clearer, cleaner lenses. And, while I am abundantly aware that my new ability to see is wonderful and miraculous, I am also abundantly aware that my ignorance of the veil that was lifted during my two surgeries can easily be drawn once again should I choose to become complacent in my desire to “see things differently” day to day.
I’m excited about the onset of fall, my favorite season. I’m an artist and photographer and fall is rich with color and wondrous beauty, not to mention all of the other delicious sensuous treats like the smell of burning leaves, apple picking, the bounty of the harvest, and the warmth of family gatherings around a roaring fire. This particular fall my husband I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary by taking a trip to Sedona, Arizona, a spectacle of color and the splendor of Mother Nature’s gifts. I will enjoy the experience of seeing my favorite place on Earth with “new eyes”. I will also take time in this spiritually charged and sacred place to burn sage, give thanks, and dedicate myself to go forward knowing that each day I can make a choice to see things through a clear lens, and to pay close attention to the times when perhaps that lens gets clouded with misinformation, misconception or impeded vision. And when that happens, and I know it will, I will ask for the wisdom to see things differently.
September 1, 2015