My birthday is today and it prompts me to reflect on my 33rd year.
Birthday celebrations. Book club brunches. Halloween in New Orleans. Tokyo. Sushi. Japanese hot springs. Too much wine at Thanksgiving. Dinner parties. Renegade. Cutting down a Christmas tree with Bill, AM, and John. Driving to Rockford. Kundalini with Carolyn. Holiday parties. Next. Bill and Jessica Christmas. Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Healing Circle at Sat Nam. Cooper’s Hawk with Gina. Dance lessons with Bill. Meditation retreat with Jody. Beer and cheese festival in Madison. Haircuts. Analogue. The CSO. The Milk Room. Fever in Breckenridge. Mass at St. Pat’s. Improv Shakespeare with my parents. The Americans. Dr. Stracks and thyroid medicine. Bel Canto at the Lyric. Daring Greatly. Ecstatic breathwork. The Goodman. Chris and Emily in Portugal. Marrakesh and the Atlas Mountains. Kasbah Bab Ourika. Foraging with Iliana. BBQ adoption fundraiser. Simone’s. Bike the Drive. Louis C.K. Petty moving party. Garrison Keilor at Ravinia. Hubbard St and 2nd City. The French Laundry. Glamping. Joey in San Fran. Rochester Hills. Paella. Massage. Banff. Half marathon. Door County. Aunt Pam, Uncle Doug, Megan, and Italian food. Schwa. Wicker Park Spikeball. Cubs game. Family triathlon. Presidential debates. Bill’s marathon. Princess cake.
What a great life. : )
I’ve been taking an online course called “Yoga of Awakening” by Seane Corn, a combination of lectures and yoga classes.
A portion of one of the lectures spoke to me so powerfully, I’ve transcribed it here. Forgive the length and the grammar, as it’s a transcription of spoken word:
In the yoga practice we’re taught to work towards something called samadhi, which is enlightenment, bliss. It’s hard to define a word like that because it’s ineffable. How could I possibly know what enlightenment is if it’s something I’ve never experienced? My words wouldn’t even be able to capture it. So the closest I can get to the idea of enlightenment would be love.
So I imagine that we’re in these bodies to learn what love is. To truly learn what love is. In order to do that part of the human experience you also have to learn what love is not. To be enlightened, to move towards the light you also have to learn the shadow. And we resist the shadow. We give it titles of bad, wrong, evil, rather than recognizing that perhaps it’s through loss that we can truly behold acceptance, it’s through heartbreak that we can truly understand forgiveness, and that in our human experience we’re not supposed to deny the shadow, instead we’re supposed to be in relationship with it. Hold both as sacred, hold both as holy, let both inform the other.
So if you believe this, (and I believe this), that perhaps all of the events in our life, no matter how catastrophic, perhaps there is a spiritual opportunity that exists. That will ultimately empower not in spite of the experience but because of it. If we can live our lives looking at our experiences as opportunities for spiritual healing, reconciliation and transcendence, maybe we can recognize that perhaps the people who have crossed our paths that have dropped us to our knees, the events that have just ripped our hearts wide open, that maybe even within that there is space for, dare I say, a blessing. And that if we can shift not the event but our perception of the event maybe it would enhance our experience in a way that could never have happened prior and open us to not get so caught up in the story of this person did this to me and as a result I’m insecure and have a fear of abandonment and rejection.
Maybe perhaps on a soul level, that limited believe of abandonment and rejection is the thing that’s been keeping you from yourself and your spirit. Maybe perhaps what had to be called into your experience was the exact opportunity that was going to hold up a mirror to that limited belief, so that you can heal it. And it’s not something that’s meant to walk around, the only way to surrender to it is to be available to it, so maybe those beings are teachers or angels. And maybe perhaps their wound and your wound came together to do some really interesting and amazing work.
So if that’s the case, maybe we don’t have to give our power away to those experiences, creating more distance and separation. Maybe instead we can realize the opportunity in that relationship, learn, grow, forgive, and then give it back to God. Maybe perhaps that integration in all of our relationships is the thing that heals ourselves, and if we can continue to move forward on a path where we can see through a new lens our own journey, forgive ourselves for our own limited beliefs, forgive others for theirs, understand how trauma often motivates the decisions that we make. Maybe we can then begin to hold sacred all people’s journeys. Knowing that they are doing the best they can with the little that they know. The best they can with the lack of tools they have to support them in their own growth. Recognizing that maybe they are motivated by their own trauma and that their healing is between them and spirit.
Maybe if we can develop that level of empathy for our own journey, we can hold that same level of empathy for someone else. I think perhaps that is how the world begins to heal. Where we hold each other lovingly as we move towards the samadhi. Recognizing that we have karma to burn, lessons to learn, trauma to work through and a level of spiritual development that is very intimate and personal. If we stay on our side of the street and do our work and commit to it, then maybe it will influence the way we raise our children, the way we show up in community, the way that when we get triggered, when someone upsets us and hurts us, instead of being reactive and allowing our body and our anger and our rage, all those shadows to motivate our choices, maybe for just a split second we can stay in our body, stay in our breath, stay in our heart, feel our feelings but not allow those deeper feelings to motivate our choices. Maybe we can remember to love, and perhaps that love will be the thing that heals this planet.
Wow. Thank you Seane.
Middlemarch, Franny and Zoey, Euphoria, Finding the Space to Lead, When Things Fall Apart, Girl on the Train, My Brilliant Friend, When Breath Becomes Air, The Caliph’s House, City on fire, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, Daring greatly, Career of Evil, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Leaving Berlin, Radical Acceptance, The Death of Rex Nhongo, Bluets, Love Warrior, Authentic Leadership, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, The Pursuit of Perfect, Yes Please, True Refuge.
Nice dinners out with Bill. Yoga with friends. Developing my team. Really good tv. Poetry with Dad. Travel. Spending time in nature. Making quilts. Farmer’s markets. Triathlons. Meditation. Cleaning. Friends. Culture shock. Listening to patients. Sat Nam. NPR. Dinner parties. Meaningful work. Visiting Madison. Training for a race. Hot baths in the winter. Massage. Picnics. Cooking. Running. Candles. Campfires. Quiet yoga in my apartment at sunrise. Nephews. Theater. Cool whip. The NY Times. Namaskar. Plants. New books. New clothes. New playlists. Hiking. Promontory Point. Cheese. Writing. Time with family. Making cards with mom. Sewing. Coffee shops with Bill. Reading. Art museums. The Gilmore Girls.
Tonight, simply a shout out to my Bill. You trained so hard. 20 mile runs in the heat. Getting out there when it would have been easier to do anything but. Long runs on the treadmill on rainy days. You put in the hours and the miles. And today you ran that marathon.
When it got really hard with muscle spasms and pain, you walked it out and then kept going. When all you wanted to do was quit, you found something inside of you that moved you that pushed you forward. You can do hard things. I couldn’t be more proud of you.
This morning in yoga at Namaskar, my lovely teacher Joanna shared this quote by Kurt Vonnegut:
“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”
Listening to her read this during savasana (the quiet period of rest at the end of a yoga practice), my tender heart melted. Yes. Be soft.
I used to listen to NPR every morning when I was getting ready for work. Lately, no. I find the incessant hashing and rehashing of election coverage too much at that vulnerable early hour of the day. At the same time, I frequently lay in bed in the morning reading the NY Times on my phone. I’m simultaneously attracted to it and find it draining and demoralizing.
I read this post from Cheryl Strayed (the author of Wild) this week:
“This election hurts my heart so hard my bones ache. In the midst of these times let us not forget the pure joy of dinners with friends, the scent of people who are family (or loved as such), the unimpeachable beauty of the natural world, the astonishment of great art in all of its varied forms, the gorgeousness of fleeting interactions with kind strangers, and the indisputable grandeur of cats. We mustn’t forget, dear hearts: we are stardust.”