Thief of Sleep

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch
Don’t go back to sleep.
— Rumi

At approximately 2:39 a.m on a Wednesday, (my favorite day of the week) I am awakened by heat, by sounds, and by an obnoxious desire to paint. I get up for a glass of water, return to bed and try to go back to sleep. But there are colorful images from my dream, followed by words longing to be captured on paper or screen.  It sort of twists and turns inside me, and I wrestle with this for another hour and some until I decide to get up and allow it to bloom.

At 4:14am, I am in my studio, organizing paints by color and doing a little light cleaning. I’m finding things buried. I stumble upon an informative book/brochure about a lovely humanitarian known affectionately to the world as Amma, an Indian saint who has devoted her life to serving those in need. She has done it all, it seems…from embracing strangers for hours on end at Ashrams the world over, to building apartments in India for former slum dwellers. Clean water, building hospitals, healing the sick, blessing babies, women, men, children and those seeking healing.

This is where I begin to notice something. Beneath my suspicious insomnia, I realize that my sleep has been stolen from me for this reason. As I flip through this book chock full of illustrations of people all over the world, I am moved to tears. I come to the grips with the truth that the poverty I knew as a child is not the poverty of others. The healing work I have done is small in comparison. There is great suffering in the world, and there is great grace.

Amma speaks of preserving nature in her book. I tend to be hard on myself for an overwhelming desire to paint flowers lately. She says everyone has something to share to help preserve nature. I believe that what I do with my paintbrush helps preserve the human spirit. I believe I have stumbled upon the truest essence of my work. I am called to be a humanitarian, and my appetite for connection, service, healing arts and travel is all relative.

I received a hug from Amma, exactly 20 days ago. It was a beautiful Ashram in Elburn, IL…but it truly felt as if it was a village in India. Everyone was smiling, there was a light aura of joy and oneness magic in the air. It was community. It was my community. The experience is one I find extremely hard to describe with words. I will say this, though: She was able to do for me in a matter of minutes what I have never quite fully receive. An unconditional, warm, maternal, sustaining and all-encompassing embrace. As she hugged me, she whispered something in my ear that sounded like a song. I remember feeling tears soften my throat, followed by a deep wave of peace. When I stood to my feet, I floated back to my seat and allowed myself to be held by all the beauty in the room.  

This morning, I full of gratitude for relentless creativity. With the rising sun as my inspiration, I am reminded to allow myself to be held by the same beauty and grace I felt with Amma. My workday has officially begun...with my paintbrush and pen in hand, love flowing freely in my spirit, gratitude expanding my heart moment by moment.