As I write, our community is reeling from the tragic loss of a young person. The loss of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare, so it’s not surprising that the news has parents in our area holding their children a little tighter. I’m sure I wasn’t alone when I deliberately gathered my brood around the dinner table with every intention of emphasizing that, no matter how desperate and dark things may seem, there is nothing (NOTHING!) so bad that it could make me love them any less. Nothing that won’t heal with time. Nothing that could ever justify choosing to end their precious existences.
I didn’t even have the chance to get going, however. Thanks to iPhones and social media, my children had not only heard the sad news, but had had time to chat with peers and reflect on their own. While none of us will ever know what was going on in that child’s life, my kids still needed to talk through what had happened. After a somber, “What do you know?” and “Is this true?” discussion, I was surprised when things took a philosophical turn. My son said, “You know, I learned in AP Biology that the chances of any of us even existing are so low that it’s basically a miracle.” He went on to explain that so many tiny things have to be exactly right, so many improbable coincidences have to occur, and so many devastating possibilities must be avoided just in conception that the fact that each of us were born is nearly impossible.
He then pointed, in turn, at himself and each of his sisters, and said, “I am a miracle. You are a miracle. You are a miracle.” This would have been touching enough, but he went on to ask, “We don’t want to mess with a miracle, right?”
While I couldn’t agree more with his understanding of the miraculous nature of each of us, I had no idea that he and I shared this perspective. While he, through some small miracle of its own, gained his perspective from studying Biology, I gained mine from studying yoga. Though our “classrooms” were different, for both of us it is the physical wonder of our existence that feels miraculous. The fact that our wonderful bodies (that walk and talk, run and swim, climb and bungee jump and take yoga postures and …) somehow evolved from single-celled organisms is more than enough to give us pause.
As I developed more and more awareness of my physical self while practicing yoga on my mat – how it worked, how it supported itself, how each part is connected to and is affected by all other parts – I began to view my body as a bit of a miracle. (Although perhaps one that would be found in the scratch and dent section of the miracle warehouse.) Each time I ran into a posture that hurt, I took the opportunity to dig into my growing collection of anatomy books to figure out what was going on. Each time I finally mastered a new posture, I marveled at all the bits and pieces that had come together to contribute to my success – bones that had to line up, muscles that had to learn to fire, balance that had to be learned or re-learned. The more I learned about my body, the more certain I became that these wonderful creations and all they do are, indeed, miraculous.
In addition to our bodies, there is the impossible fact of our minds. Science cannot understand, let alone replicate the delicate wiring and chemistry of the human mind. When you stop to think about it, our astounding capacity for learning, and the remarkable fact that we think and reflect and feel is a staggering reality. Yoga is more than a physical practice. As we move and breathe on our mats, we are learning to develop awareness of and some control over our minds. We begin to notice the effects of our feelings. We begin to notice the wild wanderings of our thoughts. And, as this noticing takes root, we begin to realize that if we can observe the workings of our minds, we must be something greater than our fleeting thoughts and feelings.
Whether you believe that you are specially created and charged by a God-given spirit, or whether you believe you are here through an impossible-to-recreate series of chemical, physical and evolutionary coincidences, or whether your belief is a mix of the two, one thing is sure: it is miraculous that you are here – living, loving and making a difference. You are a miracle. Your body is a wonder – treat it as such. Nurture it. Challenge it. Watch it stretch and change. Your mind is a marvel – treat it as such. Feed it. Take care of it. Watch yourself learn and develop new skills and talents. Pay attention each and every day as you become the person you can be.
In short, treasure your life. Treat yourself as the miracle that you are. And, on the days you don’t feel very miraculous, turn to one of the miracles living alongside you (whether in your house, or down the street, or next to you in your pew, or in a counselor’s office in town) for support. Just as you would never deny that to someone else, they will be there for you. And, with time, you will once again be able to see the miracle that is this life that you’ve been given to live.