I was a little apprehensive when I agreed to teach a fall yoga series outdoors, continuing the summer mornings in the field into the chilly lazy dawn of autumn. Cold is not something I relish, and thoughts of ice-tipped blades of grass pulled me inward to the comfort of the hearth fire. Yet, I have found that agreeing to walk the path of potential discomfort often yields the greatest and most unexpected rewards. As the heart opens to trust, magic unfolds. And so, after a brief interlude of transition, Tuesday morning yoga in the field continued at 8:30am.
The sun crests the canopy of pines ever more slowly as the days shorten in length. Unlike during our summer classes when we nestled into the far corner to avoid the boiling sun, on the first day of our fall session we laid our mats near the parking lot in the hopes of catching the first rays whenever they chose to stretched their languid arms over the tree line. There were just three of us, a trinity of yogis. Where were the others on the list? I wondered until I let worry give way to the flow of the elements and the dance of the body that is yoga took over.
Midway through class, we straightened our spines into balanced as the sun broke the cold of the morning to bring its golden face above our crowning bodies. It was not planned, yet perfectly timed. In these moments, time stills as we open to the embrace that is life. It is beautiful to bear witness, and even more beautiful to take part. One cannot help but breathe more deeply into the space of joy and the knowing that the self has been brought out of the shadows into unity. Separation slips way and division dissolves. In the imperfection of the individual dance, once finds the perfection of Life.
We are now three weeks into our fall session, and each Tuesday I wake to meet the habit of reluctance as I check the weather through the gray light of the waking dawn. Donning the increase of layers on all but my feet, I sink into the knowing that my soles will soon meet the bracing grass. I don’t know what will await me, but so far I have been lucky. Frost has not yet spread ice over the land.
I like to arrive at the field down the road from my house early, allowing for the quiet stillness of solitude as I drink in the morning air. Realizing, as I stand amid a frame of pines and listen to the soft pulse of nature around me, that I would likely not be outside at this hour practicing yoga if I had not said yes to another class in the field. Realizing, that instead I would probably be sitting with my computer on my lap, occasionally looking out at, but not a part of, the natural world surrounding me.
Our yoga classes are full now, after the first week of transitions and coming back to the fall of routine. We form a semicircle of unity, each bringing our individual light to the breaking dawn and finding warmth in companionship as we stretch our bodies into heat. Inevitably, the sun rises over the treetops at the moment when our faces lift to feel its warmth. Nothing is preplanned as destiny takes over. Yesterday, in our moment of raising our eyes toward the blue beyond, a flock of two dozen geese or more flew overhead. They were flying low, having just come from the pond below, bringing the element of water to the sky as we stood upon the earth and and warmed our skins to the sun’s fiery rays. You don’t get moments like this indoors inside four walls with windows and a floor that separates the individual from the pulse of the living planet.
There was lingering yesterday, as we rolled mats and folded blankets. There was reluctance to put on shoes and hoist our belongings back to our cars to resume our separate lives. Pairs formed to talk while the cells on the surface of skin drank in the sun’s warmth. No one was in a hurry to return to the daily actions of the mundane. For a few more moments the living, breathing present was embraced as the gift it is, always open to be received.
I woke with the lyrics of the hymn playing inside of my head in the voice of Judy Collins, even though I grew up listening to Cat Stevens singing “Morning has Broken.” I have not heard the song in years, but there it was, singing inside a mind that refused to fall back to sleep. In my dream, I had been writing this blog post while the beauty of the song played on repeat.
Before I went to sleep last night, I watched most of the U.S. democratic presidential debates. “Are they still on?” my son asked when he came downstairs in preparation for bed. He had suggested we watch them, and together we had for about an hour.
“Yeah, I told him, but they haven’t even gotten to the environment yet.”
“Maybe it’s not on the agenda topics,” my husband replied.
Instead, the focus was on healthcare and gun control. Two topics I will not deny are essential to individual wellbeing. But, if we don’t tend to the home we all share, we won’t have individual selves to care for. Eventually, the morning light will not break into a new day on Earth.
16-yr. old Greta Thunberg is now famous for telling us, “Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people, to give them hope, but I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.”
The truth is, most of us are more concerned with our own houses, than the home we share. Neglecting to realize that our individual houses are irrelevant if we don’t take care of the planet. Simply put, our house will burn if we continue to ignore the fact that our collective home is literally on fire. Immense forests, the lungs of our Earth, are burning because of climate change. While the land burns, the waters are rising. In attempt to shake us awake, our home is self-destructing with our help.
I realized as I was waking this morning that the song playing on repeat through my dreams was not a song, literally, of mourning, but a hymn of praise to the new day. It is also, though, a praise for union and the truth that we are “born of one light.” The song is incredibly beautiful, and it is no wonder it has been sung by various artists throughout the years. It may have originated as a Christian hymn, but it has a universal appeal, as Cat Stevens, also known as Yusuf Islam, has shown us.
Although I don’t adhere to a religion, I believe that we are all birthed from the same light. A light that weaves through all life, including this living planet we call home. We have, collectively, over many years, but more so in the more recent past, worked more to break this light than to honor it and nurture it.
Science says we are creatures of habit. It can take an individual two weeks to a year to break an old habit and form a new one. Sadly, we have made a global habit of looking out more for the individual self than our selves as an integral part of the web-of-light/life that we are all a part of.
The other day, I watched a brief clip of Greta being interviewed by a morning show on a major network here in the U.S. She had just traveled to the states via a zero-emissions boat. As her visibly uncomfortable interviewers also pointed out, she has also walked to their studio.
It takes a fair amount of discomfort to welcome in a “new morning” in favor of the one we are used to greeting. It takes a stretching of the eyes and mind a little wider to really see what exists beyond our myopic field of perception. But, the rewards are infinite. Imagine, for a moment, a new morning breaking into day. Imagine your beautiful light weaving into the light around you. Imagine what you can bring to this new day.
Admittedly, most of us will not change all of our habits, and certainly not at once. I know I am not ready to give up travel by plane to sail across the ocean, but there are choices I can make in each moment to dim the light, or to grow it. Here are a few that we can all consider each morning after we wake:
Skip the K-cups or the Dunkins run and brew a cup of fair trade, organic coffee or tea. (If you really want that Dunkins or Starbucks, bring your own reusable mug.
Gather a full load of laundry before starting the washer, and use warm (not hot) or cold water to wash. The next time you buy detergent, choose one free of harsh chemicals and dyes in the most environmentally friendly packaging you can find. Just say no to those hard plastic containers! If your washer kicks the bucket and can’t be fixed, buy an energy efficient one. When your load is done, hang it outside in the sunshine and save some money by using free, fossil-free energy! If you must dry it in the dryer, use an eco setting and wool dryer balls in favor of toxic non-reusable dryer sheets.
Likewise, run your dishwasher only when it is full on the energy-saver setting with eco-friendly detergent in eco-friendly packaging.
Make the choice to eat low on the food chain, and finish what is on your plate. If you can’t eat it all, save it for another meal. Compost what you must discard. Grow what you can, or buy it locally and organic.
Water the lawn only if you really need to, and tend to it with organic lawn care. Better yet, grow more plants and trees that don’t require maintenance and nourish your body, wildlife, and the lungs of Earth in the process.
Carpool to work or school in the most low-emissions vehicle available. Or, better yet, walk or ride a bike when the weather permits it.
Skip the hair dryer, iron, and curler, even if it’s just only weekends.
Unplug appliances that are not in use.
Turn off lights and heat in unoccupied rooms. (And when they are in use, make sure your using the most eco-friendly options available to you).
Support local business and farmers who are working on, or using, sustainable practices for the planet.
Invest your money in the future rather than the immediate pleasure of instant gratification.
Teach your children that caring for their planet will ensure they have a planet to care for them.
If you want to add a child or a pet to your home, consider rescuing one from a life of poverty and homelessness.
Wear your clothes until you can wear them no more, then use them as rages, make something new out of them, or donate them to someone who can use them.
Buy local. Buy eco-friendly. Buy used. Buy only what you need. Use a reusable bag to put your purchases in.
Support zero-emissions energy sources whenever you are able to.
Turn off the water when you brush your teeth. Turn down the water when you shower.
Skip the plastic whenever possible. Use refillable containers. Buy zero-waste products. Remember most of our waste is no longer recycled, and when it is, it takes large amounts of energy to do so.
And, most of all, breathe in the beauty of each morning. Breathe in joy and gratitude for the new day. Breathe in light and Breathe it back out. Imagine a new day where devastation is replaced with joy. Take at least one action each day to co-create another morning for all.
The air is thick with the dying breath of summer. It is holding on before its final surrender. For several weeks, it seemed as though fall had arrived early. Heralding its victory over the fiery season by banishing the heat in mid August. Today, though, it has made a retreat. Or has it asked summer for one final chance to play the game, knowing that it will soon be declared the victor, once again?
This inevitable dance of the elements cycles with the ever-turning wheel of life. Our bodies spin with the seasons, and we can resist or we can give way to the spiral journey. I am not sure I could live comfortably without the outer world mirroring the inner. My body is used to the seasons. I was birthed in the element of earth, but water is where I find home. Winter always calls me back to the inner, but before it does, I must heed the gifts of the seasons that come before it.
Summer’s abundance can overwhelm those that are comfortable in stillness, yet it can also spur us into action. The embers of stagnation are stirred back to life as new growth moves its tendrils into the light. The kinetic energy is fired up and things get done. This summer, I passed the days carting teenagers around, teaching a couple of yoga classes, and working on our home and gardens. I made eleven photo albums. Memories of every family trip we’ve taken outside of New Hampshire are now nestled into the shelves in our living room. I also painted. And sanded. Ten doorframes and six doors that were once stained a deep brown are now brightly donning one layer of primer and two of paint. There is a palpable shift in the energy of our home. And in me. Darkness has moved out of the comfort of shadows.
My birthday arrives in the final weeks of summer, at the time when school starts up again and there is the return of routine. I don’t actually like my birthday. It’s not the getting older that draws reluctance and melancholy, but rather the memory of rejection. Each year, at this time, I am reminded of my yearning to be beloved.
I felt the pull of fall early this year, around the same time its breath of victory filled the air outside. Before my birthday, I dreamt of levitation. The weightless freedom of no gravity. I lifted my body with ease off the ground, and brought others up with me. One by one, I felt their weight before I urged its release. “See,” I told them, “how easy it is to let go.” Earths, by nature, care for others more than their selves.
When my birthday came and went, I realized I had not let go fully of the weight that would be free. I recalled the frog from the same dream, and how it had clung to my skirt like a parasite. Transformation is often sticky. We must remove the glue from the habits that hold us down before we can lift those wings into a new realm of living. We must understand that only we can choose the release. That we must die to the old to give way to freedom.
The pictures I have from my birthday don’t reflect the day after. The mourning that came after the heavy weight had settled back in. They don’t reflect the struggle with rage and grief as the old pattern tore free in a messy release.
We like to see the beauty of fall, forgetting it is also ugly. Summer’s flames burn the leaves into brilliance before they curl into brittle shades of brown. The last of the ripened fruit that is not consumed for nourishment and more growth, turns mottled and moldy as it slowly decays back into the ground.
The return to Earth to be re-birthed requires a decay. The transformation of what once was must give way to what will be. The seed that comes forth from the decayed body of the fruit does not see the light that it reaches for. It simply trusts that it is there. It knows that one day, as it is feeding and growing, it will break through the darkness to feel it.
Yesterday, I had a woman I barely know over for tea. During our conversation, she told me that when she looked at me she could see the beauty of the work I have done to heal. So I told her about my birthday. Not to refute her, but to show her that I am not done yet. That perhaps I never will be, at least in this life. This is, after all, why each of us are here. To walk the wheel in the spiral inward, back to the light that we are. We might walk it in spurts. We might linger long in the shadows, but the wheel, like the seasons, will keep urging us to turn into the return.
My new friend also told me she could tell that I loved myself, a reflection of this inner work. It is not easy, always, to be our own beloved. To truly love the dark and the light. It is, though, necessary. We can search endlessly for our ideal of the beloved outside of us, and to hope to be beloved by another, but the one true, complete beloved, must always come from within.
“So, when do you think she’ll no longer be a teenager?” my daughter asks me after her 13-month-old cat, Millie, nips her for the tenth time while she tries to pet her.
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe another year, until she’s two,” I tell her, thinking how fortunate it is for her that cat years pass by much more quickly than human years.
Not that I would trade my years with my daughter for anything, but even she is aware that her fire personality combined with her teenage-hood makes parenting a challenge. I find it rather amusing that her cat is now a mirror for her.
Millie spent her first 10 months with us as a lovable, albeit curious, kitten. She adored my daughter’s adoration and returned her doting affections with smiles, purrs and frequent snuggles. If my daughter wanted to cuddle her, she’d pick Millie up and nestle her into her shoulders. Not any more.
These days, Millie-the-teenage-cat, starts the day by positioning herself strategically in front of the fridge. If she was tall enough, the door would knock her over. Instead, she looks up at the first human to draw near and stares him or her down until bits of turkey or chicken are laid at her feet. Her two dog sisters stand back aghast, waiting for their bits to fly through the air.
After Millie has finished her breakfast (the bits of turkey are usually followed by a trip into the basement to gorge on actual cat food), Millie follows the dogs and my husband out the front door for their morning walk. Two houses down, she leaves the pack and settles in for a day at her second home the neighbor’s to chase bees and dragonflies. Some days we don’t see her until dusk, after I meander down the road and call her home. I say some days, because on other days that are not rainy, Millie will completely ignore my calling and stretch the time of her curfew into minutes, or even an hour past. Choosing to return home on her own time.
I like to remind my daughter how alike they are as she bemoans the loss of her loving kitten who has suddenly transformed into a moody, unpredictable, and sometimes down-right mean little cat. “She’s a teenager,” I tell her. “This is what it’s like.”
Sometimes I want to also tell her to cherish the rare moments. Those times when Millie suddenly remembers that she loves her and allows my daughter to scoop her into her arms for a hug and a kiss…the nights when she curls into the covers beside her…but then I stop, because, in truth, no moment with Millie is more precious than another. Just as no moment with my daughter is. Sure, there are days, more than I can count, when I catch myself wondering when this stage in life will be over, but they are fleeting. Eventually I replace them with the knowing that my daughter, like her cat, is living her life as she should be, and teaching her parents, in the process, many things along the way as we each learn to hold on and to let go at the same time. She knows, just as Millie does, that the doorway will always open for her and there will always be arms to enfold, but those same arms and that door will not shut to confine.
It’s not always easy, as my daughter is also learning through Millie, for a parent to embrace the adolescent journey toward the independent self, but through the struggles the love that always remains makes it worth it.
Five days ago my computer died. Like most mornings, I went downstairs, turned on the tea kettle, and opened the lid of my laptop. The screen was blank. I closed the lid and opened it again, because, on occasion, my computer decides not to wake immediately up. Another blank screen greeted me. I hit some keys. Nothing. I held down the power button. No sound. The screen was still blank. I tried it again with the same result. That’s when it occurred to me, my computer had reached the end of its seven year life.
Everything is on my computer. Well, not everything, but there’s more than seven years of photos on it, two complete and at least three partial book manuscripts, countless poems and other writings, and all of my business files. Strangely enough, I didn’t panic when I realized I had a lifeless computer before me. Instead, I went outside and drew in the beauty of the day before me. The sky was blue after the previous evening’s storms, and as my eyes followed the sun streaked trees around my swimming pool, I saw a goldfinch.
I rarely see goldfinches in my yard. We don’t have a feeder, and we get a number of birds, but goldfinches are a rare sight. As I looked at the bird wearing feathers that seemed to mirror the light of the sun, I was filled with a sense that everything would be okay. Soon, one of our resident hummingbirds appeared and she and the goldfinch danced up into the trees. Joy filled my being. How bold this tiny bird was, I thought, chasing after the sun.
Perhaps, I thought, my day would be better spent away from the screen. I also knew nothing, in essence, was really lost. Even if by some strange circumstance the ephemeral “cloud” that stores my computer’s data had also disappeared, and my portable backup was empty, I still had all I needed.
I never bothered to check the cloud, and took two days to check the backup unit. It was oddly and wonderfully freeing, in many ways, not to be tied to the data of this electronic device that was frequently a large part of my daily routine. Sure, I eventually checked my email and social media on my phone. A day or two later, I logged into an even older laptop to start working on some flyers for upcoming yoga classes (since I discovered I had not actually backed up my computer in at least eight months), and wrote a blog post .
Each time I had a fleeting worry that something I needed may have been lost, a solution seemed to rise above it and overpower it with truth. I somehow remembered passwords I hadn’t used in years, and discovered I had written down others. The same day I wrote a blog post, I also decided to change the name of my blog. An idea that I had been contemplating for many months decided to press its way into reality. Instead of contemplating the how, I followed the path of clues before me, and in a matter of minutes I discovered I had, in fact, successfully and nearly effortlessly, changed the name of my blog to one that felt more in resonance with my truth, and, at the same time, affordably upgraded my WordPress plan. My blog, like my computer, had felt near the end of its life. Each time I would upload a new photo I would wonder if it would be the one that would exceed the ever- approaching limit of storage.
Now, in front of me, I had “The Light Behind the Story,” with an enhanced capacity to hold words and images. And, I had somehow accomplished this on a computer that should have been dead by now.
Last night, after we took our daughter out to dinner (my son was at an amusement park with friends), she drove us to the mall so we could browse the selection of computers at the electronics store. By now my husband had drawn the conclusion that my motherboard must be fried. Likely, he thought, due to the storms that occurred during the night of my computer’s demise. I was not wholly convinced that it was my the storm’s fault, even though I had left the laptop on and plugged into the surge protector, which also held my phone and watch. They had faired fine. As had every other electronic still plugged into our home’s energy source. Not even the clocks had flickered. “You’re computer is old, though,” my husband insisted. Seven years didn’t seem that old to me…
So, here we were, browsing the latest and greatest computers with my eager daughter. She has a significant birthday coming up, which happens to be near Christmas, so there has been talk of her getting a laptop as well. A kind and knowledgable tech offered to take us through the basics, and I allowed myself to sweep into the marvels of the technology before me. The displays were impressive, to say the least. The capability of the machines before me much greater than the one that now appeared to be dead.
After perhaps ten minutes, we thanked our gracious host and continued on our way. And, as we did, I found my mind not lingering upon what we had left behind. It didn’t matter if I had one of those new units that day, next week, or years from now. I knew I would enjoy it (although I was sure not to its fullest capacity), but it was not an essential component to my being.
On the ride home, my daughter drove us to one more stop so we could buy two rose bushes, one yellow and one purple, that I had seen earlier in the day. They were half-price and my husband did not want to miss the opportunity. It took mere minutes. The roses, side-by-side, were where I had remembered them, in the midst of hundreds of others. As we continued our drive home, I thought about the roses and not about the computers left behind at the store, or the one dead at home. The vision of my late summer garden filled the canvas of my mind, and I picked through the weeds and looked for open spots where the beauty of new life would enhance the landscape.
When we arrived back home, I lifted the roses out of the car and nestled them in for the night on our front porch beside the mums I had purchased earlier in the day. “Well look at that!” my husband declared as he unlocked the dogs, “All three of them are here to greet us.” Eagerly awaiting our arrival, were our two dogs, Rosy and Zelda, along with Millie, our no-longer-a-kitten-but-still-very-spoiled-cat. I had hesitated making the brief stop for the roses on the ride home, worried that the sky was fast-darkening as I wondered if Millie had made her way indoors yet.
As I got out the sliced turkey to feed the well-trained pets their treat, my husband rushed down to shut the cat door and give Yoda, our 12-year-old cat-who-doesn’t-like-the-dogs-or-turkey, some cat treats. After everyone was settled, I turned on the TV to watch an episode of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” while my husband got out some tools to open the body of my dead laptop.
I barely noticed his tinkering beside me as I watched my show. Glancing, once or twice with indifference at the insides that held the memories of the past seven years and more. A couple of times I heard my husband blow air through puckered lips into the circuits, while fleeting thoughts of snacks consumed as I typed passed through my mind.
I didn’t notice when the insides had been put back inside the shell, or when the lid had been lifted. Instead, I was snuggled into my blanket enjoying the scene playing out on another screen.
My tired eyes moved over to the space beside me where my dead computer was now very much alive upon my husband’s lap. It’s familiar face coming back into focus.
“It was pretty dirty. It must have been all the dust. Maybe something got disconnected…” The moment seemed surreal, and oddly plausible at the same time. I was surprised, but I wasn’t, just like my husband seemed to be, as I realized this problem, that had never in fact really been a problem, was now fixed. The how and why a mystery that really didn’t need to be solved.
And, so here I am the next morning, typing away on my not-dead-computer as I sip the last of my morning’s tea. Halfway through writing this post, my son came downstairs and I paused to talk to him, and, during our conversation, let our excited dogs outside. In my distraction of catching up with my son, I barely noticed the barking, until it grew instead of ceased. Annoyance began to build as I followed my son to the window to see what the fuss was all about.
“It’s a deer!” my son announced in audible awe. There, before us, was a magnificent doe, mere feet from the fence where our two dogs were barking away at it. Completely unfazed as it munched away at the fallen apples below the tree.
Miraculously, the dogs left the deer for the promise of treats, and I closed the door and returned to the window with my son to marvel at the gift before us. The deer stayed for several minutes, looking at us through the window, then back to the apples before her. She was in no rush as she ate her fallen breakfast, unfazed by our presence, just has she had been by our barking dogs. Unfazed by my voice talking through the open window. “Aren’t you beautiful,” I told her. “Go ahead. Eat the apples. Aren’t you beautiful!”
Like the goldfinch, hummingbird, and the roses, the deer now before me was another symbol of life. Real life. An immeasurable gift. Her presence not separate, but a part of the greater dance that joins us all. The dogs, my son, myself, and all that surrounds us. It had been more than worth the pause in the writing of this post on my newly revived computer. This call to pause and engage in the flow of joy that is life.
If you choose to, you can see an outer world filled with terrible things. A world on the brink of, or perhaps even over-flowing, with chaos. A world where fear, and all its ugly faces, rules each action and reaction.
Or, you can see a world whose essence is love. A world that, despite pockets of darkness dominated by fear, has at its core only light. If you breathe into the core of Earth, the mother of your body and your home for this life, deep through the multilayers of soil, stone, and water, you will reach a core of light. If you breathe into the layers of your own body, through the skin that sheaths your essence, through the tissue and the bone, you will reach your core of light. A light that is a seed of the very same light in the core of Earth, and of the very same light that exists in the core of each being. Its essence is love. The energetic vibration of creation.
Yet, the mind and body that would encompass this essence easily traps fear. Fear that nestles into tissues and creates the density of disease, distrust, hatred, and paranoia. Along with the false belief that the “me” is separate from the “all.” A fear that breaks apart the light so that its vast web looks as though it is filled with darkness.
We are each so much more powerful than this fear we like to hold onto. This fear that creates separation in a struggle for self-survival. It is but a mere shadow of our true self. And, like all shadows, it is a mere illusion of the truth. Fear looks for separation, love is defined by union.
Instead of holding onto fear, and losing oneself in the shadow of its darkness, why do we not reach inside to find the light of truth? That pure essence of love that threads through each and every one of our beings? Why do we fear who we are? Why do we fear love itself? Why do we fear the true, vast, and limitless expanse of our being that continues on past the death of the layers that would contain it?
Why do we fear the free, unfettered soul?
Perhaps the why is not as important as the habit it has created. Overtime we develop a pattern of holding onto traits and behaviors whose origins we cannot always fully recover. Instead, we simply adopt without consideration of why we are continuing in a pattern that is destructive of the self and the whole. It becomes comfortable, like a tattered and worn blanket we refuse to give up from our childhood. Or, an old coat we’ve worn for so long, we cannot imagine stepping outside the comfort of our home without it. Even though the coat, like the blanket, is no longer of service to us.
Do you ever dream of being naked? Or of lifting your feet into weightless flight? Do you fear one and not the other? It’s a funny thing, this holding onto what our soul calls us to let go of. This returning to the unfettered essence of love that we are is so simple, yet complex in the unraveling it requires and all the letting go of habitual patterns and behaviors. False beliefs dying to the one truth that is you.
Why am I writing these words, calling for love? For the simple turning inward instead of outward as we try to navigate our way through the layers that appear to trap us in density? Because we are in the midst of an age of upheaval. The repetition of the old patterns of fear have repeated to a level of accumulated density in this world that we choose to share, causing a hold of fear that is seemingly tighter than the love that binds.
The Earth and each one of her children is crying out for reunion. For the return to love and unity. It is not my intention to talk of the ephemeral. Of some ideal that will never be achieved. My words are simple, their truth not complex. Nothing is ever gained by fear and hatred, but more fear and hatred. We can cower and ring our hands in dismay, or we can start turning inward to the truth and allowing that reflection to mirror back to us each time we turn our eyes outward. We can simply be, each day, ever more present to the truth of our essence, or we can move that truth into action, rippling the energy of love through our words and movements. Righteous indignation is still fed by fear, even if the outward display of it is for a greater good. Fear feeds fear. Anger feeds anger. Love feeds love. It’s simple math and physics.
Years ago, I found myself lying on a couch for three hours halfway in another realm as I listened to the words of my essence. We all have this voice within us, and it behooves us to listen to it, at least now and then. The words that stayed with me, that haunt me each day are these: “You can always find the light behind the story. Find the light behind each story.”
As I looked through my lives and the greater life around us and ahead of us, I realized these words were not intended for my survival, but for the survival of each and every one of us. If we choose to hold onto our collective fears and all the trappings that have bound us and harmed us, we will get more of the same. There is always light behind the shadow. There is always that core of essence that is love, waiting to be seen, grown and illuminated.
It kept me up three nights ago. My mind became busy and I got to thinking about mindfulness. I’m sure you’ve all heard the term by now. Mindfulness. “Paying attention to the present moment.” “Living fully in the present moment with awareness.” Sometimes “without judgement” is added. While searching the Internet, I came across this video on the Greater Good Magazine website featuring Jon Kabat-Zinn defining mindfulness in his words.
In the video, Kabat-Zinn talks about living the “story of me” without the realization that there is, in actuality, “no me.” Although I am not a follower of Kabat-Zinn, or any of the many mindfulness gurus out there today, I like what he has to say in this brief video. It’s not a new revelation, in fact it’s very old. His words echo the sages of long ago who carried forth the wisdom that there is, in essence, no “me.”
Three nights ago, I let this mind that inhabits “me” process the concept of mindfulness in terms of “my” perception of the current state of the world. Not so concerned with the “me,” but the “we,” my mind thought about the mindless actions that permeate our collective existence. In particular, I was thinking about the consequences that result from a mindless existence, or, rather, an existence so focused on the “me” of the ego that all else is neglected. The president of the United States is the archetype of this type of existence. The mindless ego unchecked by self awareness.
Last night, I had an hour in the car with my fourteen-year-old son, who initiated a conversation that, in essence, centered around mindfulness. He, like me, is deeply troubled by the world we live in and the mindless movement we have spiraled into, despite the current attempts to make “mindfulness” the “in thing.”
What’s the purpose of mindfulness if we can’t get passed the concept of the self as all important?
Since my eye-opening experience attempting to teach mindfulness to Montessori school teachers, and later yoga to their equally unmindful students, I’ve given a lot of thought to what “I” think mindfulness truly is. Simply stated, a mindful existence includes the realization that there are consequences to our actions, words and thoughts. The law of cause and effect is nothing new, but it’s been essentially forgotten in favor of our “me” obsessed world.
Am “I” breathing properly? Am “I” paying attention to the bird outside my window? Am “I” living in the present moment with full awareness?
This is a start, but not an end. This “I” living in the present moment must, eventually become aware of the “I” that is trying to live. Who am I? The I must eventually ask to fully understand itself. What am I doing? What am I thinking? What are the consequences to these thoughts and actions? How do I effect not only myself, but the world around me?
Until, eventually, the I realizes that there is no I, but a vast, limitless “we.”
The day before my sleepless night, I had been in a waiting room eavesdropping in on a conversation that was occurring at the front desk between two educators. When I over-heard one of them mention teaching in the town I live in, comparing the students to inner-city kids, my interest was piqued.
What I heard, in essence, was the frustration of an educator trying to teach in a classroom without consequences filled with kids living in the myopic world of “me.” And, I thought, it’s not only me, before I thought, how pervasive this disease of “me” really has become.
When I attempted to teach yoga to the Montessori children who exhibited rudely defiant behavior, I inquired about whether there was anything I could do to thwart their disrespect. What I discovered as that we are living in a time when, despite our obsession with “mindfulness,” there are few, if any, consequences to our mindless actions. How can we teach mindfulness behavior if we don’t teach the law of cause and effect?
When trying to discover the root of a group’s behavior, we must always look to the leader. It’s rather obvious that the leader of our “free” nation is living the antithesis of a truly mindful life. Instead, he exhibits all the rude, self-centered, and dangerous behavior of the ego out of control.
While I was not sleeping the other night, I thought about how the majority of the teachers at the conference I was invited to present at where not interested in, and in fact seemed to harbor a severe aversion to, engaging in self-awareness exercises. I realized that there really was no point in me trying to return to teach yoga to their students. Before yoga asana, must come a deep awareness of mindfulness and the laws of cause and effect.
I’ll admit, it’s not a “fun” process to really and truly examine the self and the self as a part of the whole, but it can be a deeply rewarding and enriching process. When one realizes that the self is simply a conglomeration of experiences and reactions to those experiences, folded into a cellular body, a process of detachment and non-judgement can result that leads to fascinating and enlightening discoveries about not only the “self,” but the self as a part of the whole.
The “I” easily forgets the “we,” as exhibited by the pervasive self-obsessed behavior that predominates our world at this time in history. We’re living a time that is artificially sped up and controlled by the false screen of the outer. With the tap of a screen a photo is taken of the “self” and then altered by another tap or two, to be artificially enhanced so that the “self” can appear more outwardly attractive than the “self” really is. Then the self awaits, mere seconds it can take, for the “likes” of the self to pile up. With a few short taps, the self’s words can be tweeted around the world and read by millions of followers. What a heady power trip that can be! Making the “self” feel all-important.
Then there is the flip side of this. The self that arrives at the self-realization that his or her individual self is not good enough. Will never be pretty enough, when compared to the false images of beauty held in front of it, or thin enough, successful enough, etc. And, so the self decides that its life is not worth living.
There is a desperate need in my own self to try, in whatever way my self can, to bring true mindfulness back to a world that appears to me so desperately in need of it. Behind the ego’s need for self dominance is fear. Fear of the self’s discovery of its own imperfections, and the often even greater fear that those imperfections will be seen by others. In the striving for the perfect self, the self fails to realize that perfection of the self will never, and can never be achieved, because the perfect “self” is, in actuality, the no-self.
When we realize we are beautifully imperfect, here to learn and to grow ever closer to love until the self becomes only love, life becomes filled with purpose and infused with the beautiful existence that is Life. We realize that each piece of life, our life, in fact, is a part of an intricate whole. No more than, or less than another, but unique in its conglomeration of parts and experiences. Our essence, in fact, realized, as equally important as our neighbor’s whether that neighbor is a fellow human, an animal, insect, stone, or plant. When a stone is removed from the earth, a hole remains. We are each, individually, part of a vast and intricate web of life beyond the comprehension of our individual minds. Each of us with a role to play, a life to live, that is infinitely more enriching for the self, and the whole, when lived mindfully with an awareness of cause and effect.