When the kids were little, we played a mash-up of “red light, green light” and “freeze dance” with them. My husband or I would sing, “You better go, go, go, go, go. You better go, go, go, go, go. You better go, go, go, go, go. Annnnnnnnddddddd STOP!” As much as the kids loved the craziness of all the going – wild dance moves, running in circles, spinning like tops – they loved stopping the most. They would freeze in hilarious poses that would inevitably fall apart in peals of laughter. As they played, they would quiver with anticipation for both the “STOP” and the resumption of the “Go go going.” The game needed both to be fun. So, I suspect, does each of our lives.
It's taken me years to learn that when creating a garden, what the space needs is way more important than any ideas or opinions I may have of what I want to plant there. In gardens, as in life, you have to work with the hand you’re dealt. You can't always get what you want, but you find that what you need can be even better.
Finish lines are funny. Some, as my brother did in every race he ran, we dash towards with a mind only to get there. Some make us dawdle, pretending they are not looming. I handled all three of my kids' senior years of high school like this. What if we could treat endings as just another step? When we do, we find freedom and an openness to what is next that allows us to savor each step along our way. We find that we are starting to trust that, while not always obvious, all endings - all of them - lead to new beginnings.
When it turned out that skiing for the first time in ten years was not exactly like riding a bike for me I had a little meltdown. And then, thanks to my mindfulness practices, a part of me that was deeper and wiser than my dejected skier-self realized that I had to the power to choose how I would experience the remainder of our vacation. I am so grateful that I was able to let go and thereby free myself to enjoy the gifts we’d given ourselves by taking a family vacation - the rare opportunity to spend time together with all of my grown children and the even rarer chance to play with one another. I am thankful for the reminder that mindfulness really is a superpower.
What are you currently in the middle of? A semester, a process, a disagreement, a marriage, a volunteer commitment, an art project, or something else? Remember, though the middle can feel uncertain, it is heart of every story. The most important thing you can do is show up and participate. And pause every once in awhile to appreciate that the best part of every story lies in between the beginning and the end.
I may be a little more hard-wired than most to cling or grip. After all, one of my most visceral lessons in letting go involved crashing into a cliff wall while rappelling. Letting go can be scary and often less than graceful, but is absolutely necessary to a life well lived. Being stuck – on a cliff or otherwise – is not the way we are meant to live. We can’t grow and change and become the people we yearn to be if we’re clinging to where, and what, and who we already are. While I hope your experience with letting go goes better than mine did on that cliff, I hope you can trust that even the clumsiest attempt to do so is a step away from stuck-ness and a step closer to freedom and fulfillment.
I've written a little fairy tale based on story told to me by a friend. Its moral is that to trust in life is not naive. Spiritual traditions around the world teach that we are part of a continuous, endless, cosmic celebration of life and love. Even in times of pain and struggle, we can join in the celebration. We may not be dancing wildly. We may not be laughing uproariously. But we can allow life and love to brush over us softly with its compassionate, healing touch. All we have to do is say - sometimes quite quietly - "YES."
Can you imagine spending a little time every day in the same position as this cute kitten? Well, take it from a recovering workaholic, we should do just this. It takes real strength in this world of ours to hit the pause button and take a rest. And we don’t need to hit that pause button only when we’re weary to the bone. Wisdom is learning to hit it even when we don’t feel like we need a rest. While it's easy to fall prey to workaholism, we thrive with regular infusions of rest.
Some life lessons must be learned over and over again. One of them is being kind to ourselves. The first time I learned to be kind to my body was the first year of marriage. The second time was a decade later when I found yoga. Suddenly, thanks to getting caught thinking, feeling, and saying really mean things about my body, it's time to learn it again. This is OK! After all, I’ve never been in my mid-fifties before. I’ve never loved a body as it starts to shift and change in ways that I am not able to control or change. This moment is an invitation to advance to “AP level” self-acceptance, nonviolence, and letting go. I'm ready! Are you?