Saturday, July 21, 2018

Leaving Our Mark


There was a line in a book I just finished, it was the kind of line that you might easily skim over without really noticing. It wasn’t really relevant to the story directly, but more as part of the arc of the series. It was sort of a side note. It was a reference to two ancestors of the family, two brothers who had hated each other so much that they painted a black line down the middle of the foyer of their ancestral home, so that each would remember to keep to their own wing of the house. They didn’t think of the consequences of the mark they left behind. Generations later, it was a mark that their descendants saw every day. In observing that line years later the young protagonist’s words were, “How sad I thought, their hatred had outlived them.”

A few words simply slipped into the postlude of a story. Yet for me, those were the most powerful words in the whole story. The rest of it fell away and I honestly stopped breathing for moment when I felt the weight of them. It’s not that I feel as though I live a hate filled, nor sadly, a hate free life, but I know that lately I’ve been feeling the weight of all the hatred being tossed around in the world, whether in politics, in the media, or between family, friends and neighbors.

Is that what we collectively want to outlive us? Are we willing to let the hate and animosity be so much louder than the love and kindness? What is the mark we want to leave behind for others who follow us to see? Do we want our descendants to look back at a house divided by the black mark of hatred?

I know there is love in the world, and kindness overflowing. Yet somehow still we are making a choice collectively to focus on the division, the bitterness, and the hatred. I know that to be true because of what I hear and see and read. If we, all of us, demanded a focus on the good, if we only consumed and shared the good, that is what would dominate the airwaves, and the internet, and our hearts. Where we focus our attention is what we will see and create, whether you call it the law of supply and demand, or the law of attraction.

We collectively have chosen to focus elsewhere. I hope that it’s only for a time, a short time in the grand scheme of things, because I, for one, want my love to outlive me. I want my kindness to outlive me. I want my compassion to outlive me. If we each, myself included, could focus even a little more of our attention, and our consumption, and our sharing on love and kindness, rather than fear and division, we could change the world, and change our legacy. We could let the best of us outlive us rather than the worst. Now that’s a mark worth leaving

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Flood


The rains have finally passed! It was amazing to watch Mother River overflow her banks. It’s funny in a river town like ours, how the river touches all our lives. Everyone was out on Sunday evening wandering around in awe of the power of the flooding Rappahannock. We often use the word raging when we see the river so full and moving so swiftly, but that makes her sound so angry. To me she just needs to rise up every now and then and stretch and express her power. It’s a good reminder that we are part of nature, not in control of it. Watching huge trees bobbing along on her surface like insignificant toothpicks was enough to demonstrate that!

Of course, it’s a good reminder in another way too. There are times when our life seems to be overflowing, with joy, sadness, grief, work, stress, celebration, challenges. It’s important to remember to try not to judge and label those moments, like when we say Mother River is “raging.” Right now my life seems to be overflowing with changes. Today is my youngest daughter’s last day of high school! That’s a big change for both of us. What keeps flowing through my mind is David Bowie’s song Changes! There’s a lot of wisdom in that song actually, but the line that I keep coming back to is, “Turn and face the strange, Ch-ch-Changes.” (sorry if this gets the song stuck in your head!) Turn and face the changes. Sigh. That’s something we have a tendency to avoid. We instead prefer to look away, or think we can control the changes, just like we think we can control nature. Until the flood.

It’s those moments of flood when we can learn the most, if only we will turn and face whatever that flood is. I think the key is what we face the flood with. We must begin with awareness. Again, back to the lyrics of Changes, “They’re quite aware what they’re goin’ through.” If we face whatever the flood is with awareness rather than resistance, we can live through the flood of what we’re going through with more grace. We have a better chance of learning the lesson(s), healing the wound, making the connection, etc. with more gentleness. If the flood is too much stress, we can turn and face it with stillness. If it is grief, we can turn and face it with compassion for ourselves. If it is joy, we can turn and face it with presence so that we can truly enjoy those moments of joy!

As I move through the flood of changes that this time in both my daughters’ lives brings to their own lives and to mine, I will try to face that flood with awareness, presence, and with patience with myself. I want to be present in each moment with them. I want to be patient with myself as the tears flow in unexpected moments, like while simply making breakfast with them this past weekend. J I want to be immersed in the joy of celebration as they graduate and plan for their next steps. I want to connect with the stillness within myself, so I can be present with them as they face their fears about the unknowns before them.   

For me it’s the difference between being washed away by the flood, and floating along with ease on the currents like those trees. The thing to remember about floods, is that despite the tearing down that can happen, they also leave behind much that is fertile, allowing for opportunities for rich new growth.

As the waters recede this week, may you find peace in the many lessons of the flood.



Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Unfolding


I was rereading a section from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet the other day. It’s one of my favorite books. There’s so much wisdom within its pages. I went to look for it online and when I did a search I found that so many of the webpages were focused on analyzing the meaning of the passage. For me that seems to defeat the purpose of the passage – self-knowledge. This is what he has to say:

And a man said, Speak to us of Self-Knowledge.
And he answered saying:
Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.
You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.

And it is well you should.
The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;
And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”
Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.”
Say rather, “ I have met the soul walking upon my path.”
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself like a lotus of countless petals.

 
Unfortunately, it’s true though, so often we want someone to explain the meaning to us, rather than explore on our own. We have a tendency to look at self-discovery as a challenge or even a waste of time, rather than look at it as an opportunity with a sense of wonder. We want the questions answered, rather than practicing patience and seeking solitude to listen to the inner well-spring of wisdom and knowing. I love Rainer Maria Rilke’s advice in Letters to a Young Poet: “be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

“And the point is, to live everything.” Or as Rumi says in The Guest House, “Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” There is so much that we can learn about ourselves and the miraculous world around us by simply living into the questions without rushing to find an easy answer handed to us by another. For “the soul unfolds itself like a lotus of countless petals.” Be present and enjoy the unfolding this week.