Recently, I have found myself in life situations whose scenarios are all too familiar and challenging for me. Those encounters where my spirituality as it graces my presence in the here and now, meets an all to familiar pattern of exchange that pulls me backwards, heels dragging, into that place where I am overwhelmed by my emotions. I see it approaching – rushing toward me -and just as it hits me my heart whispers ‘this again’. These are the moments where I connect powerfully with feeling out of control or simply out of sorts. I cannot reconcile what is happening alone.
In the past, my pattern was to verbally process these kinds of encounters. This invariably led to a kind and supportive person seeing my side of the situation and encouraging me to feel right in my emotional response. Such affirmation about my role in my personal patterns no longer works for me as a balm in the aftermath of these encounters.
Now, I find the ability to hold these moments in kindness and compassion toward myself and the other involved through my contemplative practice. It is in my contemplative prayer that I am able to move deeper, beyond the encounter itself and touch a deeper reality. I sense, and come to know, my emotional responses to patterned scenarios of my life as transient and not real. I know in my heart that what is real is coming from within me not outside of me. And, I begin to see that this is true as well, for the other in these challenging moments.
Slowly, over time, I am less shaken by ‘this again’ and more open, more able to accept and attend to my encounters from a place of kindness and compassion. I am not able to prevent or control patterned scenarios though I am able to not allow or permit them to take root in my mind and heart.
Most important of all, I can actually offer a silent prayer of gratitude for these difficult moments. Could it be that I am slowly beginning to really know in my heart that my imperfection and failures are welcome pieces of what is?
I have been away from writing for several weeks as I welcomed extended family for summer visits, participated in co-leading a retreat, and then went on vacation with my family. Each piece of this summertime was full of subtle, ordinary grace. There were deeply touching encounters with loved ones, some welcome relaxation, and fresh experiences with new faces. The thread that runs through it all is the tremendous spirit and beauty of the natural world that held each of these moments. From the lushness of the New Hampshire woods, to the stunning vista of the Acadia seacoast, and the simple ministrations of my lawn and gardens, nature communed with my heart and soul.
I was regularly and wholeheartedly enveloped by awe as I tended plants, established a remembrance garden, collected heart stones, walked the rocky coast on island paths, and swam frigid oceans. The connection was an embodied experience that felt and feels even now, primordial. The sense that I am just a tiny part of all of this and it is in turn, part of me. The heart-centered knowing that spiritual transformation is also happening on the cellular level. There is a deep and lasting joy that accompanies this awareness, this sense of being held by something far greater than I.
Among the fresh faces, I encountered a 94 year-old artist/author and puppet maker who welcomed my family into his studio and revealed his unitive vision of the world arrived at through his art; his art that comes from all that he finds around him in nature and the world. His personal pursuit of developing his unique gifts and graces make this world a better place as his life, his art and his heart have merged in great beauty. He touched each of us profoundly with the truth of his life’s journey.
And so it is that I see anew the truth of spirituality and practice. I understand more closely how both lead us to our most authentic and meaningful existence. As I enliven my spirituality through my practice, I increasingly enter life more fully, more completely human. Then my practice becomes both my spirituality and my life’s most unique purpose.