On the first night of our family vacation, I had a moment of perfect contentment. It was late. We were hungry. The restaurant was too loud, too warm, too crowded, too slow. AND I was perfectly happy. Happiness and contentment are not around the corner in some imaginary future. They are right smack in the middle of each messy, hangry, less-than-perfect, hilarious moment along the way. All we have to do is notice.
I love the saying, "No mud? No lotus!" It's helpful when we catch ourselves slipping back into a bad habit we thought we’d broken long ago; or are filled with remorse for saying something we never should have said; or when we let an opportunity to help a friend slip by because we were overwhelmed with our own issues. In "muddy" moments like this, the lotus reminds us that it's only by being aware of our own "muck" that we can rise again to bloom brightly in the world.
Have you ever been at a concert and felt the massive crowd moving, breathing, singing, and bouncing up and down together in synchrony? This is called collective effervescence. It feels amazing. I believe it is also a glimpse that we are all indeed connected. Each one of these experiences helps us understand that we are meant to live keenly aware that are connected to a great whole.
I don't know if I've ever been haunted by a photograph before. It has been weeks since my photographer friend put her phone away after showing me the image and it has popped into my mind almost daily. Though it is a beautiful image, its resonance has felt deeper than that. Last night, as I lay in bed, I realized why the image so captivated me. Somehow, magnificently, in artfully framing what she saw, she also created an image that points to the unseen wonder and mystery of life. Her photo is a perfect visual description of what happens in spiritual direction sessions. I hope you'll read on to share my written experience of her visual image.
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 believe that little worldly happenings are one way that God reaches out to let us know that we are not alone, we do not have to shoulder it all, and we are always being cared for. I recently found a little angel made of construction paper, Elmer's glue and glitter in my attic that I made when I was a little girl. Her reappearance in my life has me thinking about all the angels and tiny miracles that have shown up in my life exactly when I needed them. Keep an eye out as you zip around your own life. Miracles are all around us - especially when we are looking for them!
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."
For years I have taught that a little yoga a lot is better for us in the long run than a lot of yoga a little. A question from a student led me realize that I've embraced this truth more broadly. For me, spending a little time a lot (daily) to nurture my spirituality works better than setting aside a lot of time a little (once or twice a a year) for a retreat. The exact opposite might be true for you! The only rule to creating practices that support and nurture you is that you keep exploring with the freedom to hold on to what works and let go of what doesn't. Developing spiritual practices is the work of a lifetime. Lucky for us, a lifetime is exactly long we have!
Extended family is proof of yoga's truth that each of us is an essential part of a greater whole. As you practice, you begin to recognize that story you are "writing" as you live and love is an essential part of the whole collection of stories that led to your life - and that will lead to the lives of those to come after you. Let’s promise one another to treat our lives like the treasures they are – and, while we’re at it, to share the stories we collect along our way with those who come after us.