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The Kiss of Life




May I laugh all my laughter, may I cry all my tears
May I love the rain as deeply as the sun when it clears
-Scott Kalechstein, An Open Heart

Did you ever have a moment, a single moment that forged such an impact that you knew your life would never quite be the same? Often such moments involve facing death in some manner. Near death experiences can be an effective wake-up call that directs us to examine our direction, values and priorities. For me, my moment came through a near life experience! You see, I received the kiss of life. In Brooklyn. In a fast food restaurant. While waiting for the bathroom. I will explain….

One day, while on my way to my favorite laundry bag sales area, I needed to use the bathroom. I spotted a McDonalds, strolled in with my sack of laundry bags strung over my shoulder (I must have looked like a homeless person, or perhaps a homeless Santa Claus!) and proceeded to wait in line for the restroom. Just as it was my turn to go, an elderly woman in a wheelchair came in, and her nurse asked me if they could go ahead of me. “Of course!” I told her enthusiastically, commanding my youthful anal muscles to squeeze a little longer in respect of this woman’s feeble physical condition. As she left her wheelchair and was escorted into the bathroom, I noticed a beautiful glow in her eyes, which reminded me of the eyes of a baby – crystal blue, clear, pure and precious.

Two minutes passed very slowly for me, and finally I heard the sweet sounds of a toilet flushing. Both women came out smiling, and before the elderly woman returned to her wheelchair, she came right up to me, kissed me on the lips, and said, “Thank you. I love you.” I embraced her frail body in a delicate and tender hug. Her eyes blazed with light, and I felt a ripple of energy go through my heart. We parted. I went into the bathroom to relieve my body, but also to sit and ponder what I had just received. The woman’s eyes, her radiant spirit, and especially her fearless, shameless offering of love had my knees shaking. I was in delicious shock, thrown completely into a state of wonder. The best moments in life catch us off guard, sneaking up to us when we least expect it, and this was one of them.

My mind, that endless question machine, was spinning. Who was that woman? Was she too old and senile to remember that one doesn’t go around kissing strangers on the lips, or was she too wise to let her heart be confined to the ways of the world? My thoughts raced with theories, questions that would never be answered. Finally, I gave up the detective work and surrendered to the mystery.

I’m happy to say that I never fully recovered from that experience. It was as if she had passed a torch on to me, igniting my desire to love boldly, to live without concern for what the neighbors might think. The torch burned a hole in my tolerance for mediocre, half-asleep self-expression. I wanted what this woman had, and I didn’t want to wait till my body was old and feeble before I was that free!

But how would I do it? What was my style of loving? Was I to kiss my laundry bag customers on the lips after each sale? Would that increase or decrease my sales, I wondered. Perhaps I would say, “Thank you, I love you” to the police officers when they handed me a ticket? Would that increase or decrease my encounters with the police, I pondered. Pretty soon I realized that I couldn’t approach this business of loving with a plan of action. It had to spring up from my heart like a bubbly fountain, spontaneous and unrehearsed. All I could do was practice being a channel for love, not its creator. From the depths of my being, I prayed to learn the ways of love, and my prayer took the form of a song:

I want to wake up in the morn, and know what I’m made of
Oh, great spirit, teach me, teach me how to love
I want to hear the birds at dawn, and know what they sing of
Oh, great spirit, teach me, teach me how to love
I’ve learned quite well just how to hide
Behind these rusty walls inside
But now my heart is calling me to rise above
Teach me how to love

I’ve shined on just a chosen few that fit me like a glove
Oh, great spirit, teach me, teach me how to love
Teach me to shine on everyone just like the sun above
Oh, great spirit, teach me, teach me how to love
I’ve walked the earth in self-defense
Bracing for some punishment
Could it be I’m safer here?
I’ve asked a jury of my fears
I’d rather ask a dolphin or a dove
Teach me how to love

ÓScottSongs

By writing and singing Teach Me How To Love, I was telling the universe: “I’m ready, I’m willing. Guide me on the path of love.” What I got, of course, was a series of experiences and relationships designed to pry me away from the beliefs I harbored that were in dire need of inquiry and release. Beliefs like ‘Romantic love will make me happy’, or ‘Deep down I’m not lovable’, or ‘I must perform and achieve at a frantic pace to earn love’, had to be brought up from the subconscious, examined and released. Gradually, I learned that the art of loving was not practiced through willful control but through surrendering and letting go, two skills not exactly taught to me in my years of schooling. In a culture that gives us messages in movies and music such as, “Once you have found her, never let her go.” or “I can’t live if living is without you.” it’s no shock that most of us have some significant ‘unlearning’ to do before we are able to learn healthy loving.

Lessons in letting go are an inevitable part of loving. Just last week, I walked into a sandwich shop to order a hero. As I was leaving the store with my to-go order, I passed by a woman eating by herself. She looked up at me, smiled, and asked me about the meaning of the words on my T-shirt. Feeling embraced by her warmth, I invited myself to sit with her and explain my shirt over lunch. She enthusiastically agreed, and soon we were talking about everything from angels to life after death. After sensing that I was a safe space, she revealed to me that her only daughter had died six months ago. She showed me her most recent picture. Her daughter was in her early twenties. I felt the weight of her loss, and silently prayed to be of some support to this woman. She openly discussed her healing process, her shock and sorrow, and I listened intently. As I listened, I noticed a light in her eyes, a radiance that was untouched by the hurricane of grief barreling through her heart. She closed the conversation by saying, “I can’t imagine anything worse that can happen in my life than losing my daughter. Now that the worst has already happened, what’s there to be afraid of? In a strange sort of way, I feel freed up to really live.”

The strength behind this woman’s choice of perceptions reverberated through my soul. I thanked her for teaching me about courage and I gifted her with one of my tapes. That night I thought about her a lot. I thought also about my angel in a wheelchair, whose kiss years back had prompted me to delve deeply into the mysteries of life and love. Suddenly I flashed on where that light in her eyes came from, where both of these woman got their strength. It wasn’t from leading rosy, sheltered lives where all their needs were met. It was from enduring and embracing adversity. It was from refusing to stop being in love with life in the face of searing pain and heartache. These women, like most of us, found the strength to stand tall while on their knees. 

Stephen Levine, gifted meditation teacher, has said that the happiest people he knows are the ones who have deeply investigated their own suffering. When I wrote Teach Me How To Love, little did I know that I was starting a thorough investigation that would take me through my darkness and on my way towards a light that is not dependent on outer circumstances for me to be happy. I didn’t realize that the maturity my soul was reaching for does not come from a challenge-free life, but from overcoming the obstacles placed before me, obstacles designed to make me wise, flexible, and responsive to love’s calling.

It has been eighteen years since I received the kiss of life and wrote my prayer-song. The lessons in loving have come, my heart has been many times broken, and compassion and wisdom have begun to rise up from the ashes of my disappointments. Perhaps the human heart is like an egg, and mother life pecks on our protective shell until it breaks. Then, later on, she stops providing food so our hunger can motivate us to find our own. Finally, when we’re ready, even though we usually think we’re not, she leads us to a cliff and gives us a push. And in the open air, in the middle of our free-fall, we discover our wings. How else do we learn to surrender? How else do we learn to fly?

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your heights and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Kahil Gibran, The Prophet

About the Author

Scott Kalechstein serves as a singer, songwriter, speaker, humorist, recording artist, minister, and workshop leader. You can visit him in cyberspace at www.scottsongs.com. His music recordings are full of joyous, life-affirming songs for adults and children. To contact Scott e-mail him at scott@scottsongs.com To enjoy more of Scott’s writings, just Google Scott Kalechstein, and start browsing his articles. You can also visit Awareness Magazine at: http://www.awarenessmag.com/library.html. You will find Scott’s column Living The Soulful Life in the Departments section of any of their back issues.


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