It’s my birthday month again – seems like only yesterday that I was celebrating turning 50! Yet, here we are again at 51. So many things seem the same, yet so many things really feel different. Last year had more of a catastrophic effect, a “holy s*!t, I’m 50” kind of shock factor – half a century on this earth, what have I done?, am I living the life I wanted?, etc. As I wore the year however, those initial “life crisis” statements began to fade and I found that underneath all that is a more relaxed, pointed, internally motivated, quietly wise, beautifully aware and more accepting of THE me that came to this earth 50 years ago! God is funny – what we wear on the outside all our young years in confidence, coolness and comfort is more of what we naturally wear on the inside in our elder years. Maybe we project on the outside what we will come to own on the inside. Truth is though, it probably was always there anyway, and it just took the “yellow brick road” of life to get us to realize it.
Quite honestly, I credit my yoga over all these years for giving me the ability to “freely” witness my own growth. I say “freely” because it takes a long time to overcome the snags that keep us stuck…that prevent us from “seeing” freely. Without knowing it, we’ve blocked our view with a judgment, expectation, frustration, or “should,” or any other disturbing emotion or belief that eliminates clarity from “above.” My yoga practice over the many years has helped me breathe better so that I might bring prana into my veins for better circulation and prana into my spirit for higher consciousness! Despite the crap you may feel in class, just be glad to be there – over time YOU too will detach from the aches of a whiny mind, complaining body, or scrappy spirit, and little by little strengthen each in a way where they become distinct in you! You are a member of the most complicated species, intending to know yourself more and more with the hopes of rising to a place where in the end, the stuff of life doesn’t really matter – and what does is the space that lies between.
Many years ago, I had the privilege of seeing Deepak Chopra. I say privilege, too, as it was so fantastic held in downtown San Jose talking about his book on God and the death of his father. I recall literally taking 10 or more pages of notes in the dark. I was enthralled. He came at you with such desire to have you know that you are not “0’s” and “1’s” of life but the void in between. When we meditate, we have the best chance to connecting to that void, that space that lies between.
It’s not a new concept. In fact, it’s expressed by many teachers in various fields in their own way: awesome business leader, Michael Gerber, famous for his E-Myth for Entrepreneurs, gives a meditation at the end of his seminars repeating, “you are not your thoughts (said three times); you are not your body (said three times); you are not your work (said three times); you are not your mind (said three times); then he says, “so who are you?” The audience is left to linger…well, in the space that lies between.
Even in advertising, they teach you that the white space plays a more significant role to the eye of the reader than the ad itself. A strange way to look at it BUT, what are we interpreting? The space that lies between.
As per usual, these essays unlock a deeper layer in me and I am always appreciative that I get this platform to play it out – it’s become important to my growth – so thank you. I stress a little each month mulling over what to write, but the part of me that ponders (which is a lot every day) loves the “clay work” it creates in saying what wants to be heard. Because I’ve done this for so long now, that part of me that plays in “the clay” is situated enough to pull up insights not normally seen. Thus…
Carmel Miller, one of our wonderful longtime members, was many months into being pregnant for the first time taking class one afternoon as she did every day, when a student got up to leave the room. Carmel, without hesitation, got up from her practice to go out before any of us to see if that person was okay. I was in the front row watching her natural instinct of now, being a mom, took right over – it was beautiful.
Michelle Moore, our wonderful “stand in” Manager since Chris’s illness has another full time career – yep. At age 33, I watch her multi-task, arranging schedules for hundreds if not thousands of people in her event planning while she takes care of every transaction we do at BYSJ. AND she runs, swims and does yoga. I’m reminded of that season of my life and the innate energy we have to establish our intellectual roots on something meaningful in the world.
Recently, we had the teachers create these amazing vignettes on video about themselves, mostly as it relates to the yoga. But we also added a piece on an outside interest they each have that we may not know about. They turned out so good as you will soon see! I had to hold back tears several times as a larger part of me (not the one assisting in the direction of the shoot) was so taken by lines in between the language spoken: years of trying to find something that provided relief, connection and purpose. Then to be so consumed by its effect to have to change a well-put-together life to one that may makes no sense in life’s script of how things should be, but makes all the sense when looked at from the space that lies between.
What is this space that lies between? Most recently I sat with Chris, BYSJ Manager, suffering from brain cancer. He has entered a different phase withdrawing more and facing end of life stages. It’s that season for him. His realm of thinking is more along the lines of the white space in the ad rather than the literal text selling features and benefits. “Did I add to people’s lives,” “did I do things that made a difference,” “I’m really angry with God but I know there is one, my life was saved.”
As I turn another year, my attention seems more focused not so much of the path I am on, but what I bring to it. We are all born on a path. Even if we don’t do much to make choices about the path we are on or even bring consciousness to it, we WILL move in the direction of a path that life puts us on…we will have energy to root our intellectual lives, we will become nurturing, we will have physical shifts as bone density changes, we will have traumas and life altering events that make us feel broken, we will have joys that keep us hopeful. God is good.
But, what we can do to enhance that path is the things we choose to bring to it: a great attitude, a sense of presence, a sense of service, an awareness to empower, empathize or give compassion. That space that lies between is your spirit signature that you added in that moment – those are collections we want a lot of as they are really the only ones that count in our lives. Consider it your section in that big vibrational library contributing to the evolution of life itself. As I ponder it more through writing this essay in this, my birthday month, I will distill it down to one word – LOVE. That is the space that lies between, and it’s the only space that matters now and eternally. LOVE.
Everyone should read, “The Big Questions” a Buddhist response to Life’s Most Challenging Mysteries, by Lama Surya Das. Over the years of my life, I’ve had many teachers, some of them in the form of a book and many in the form of death itself. The dying process can be the most honorable gift as it profoundly affects how you live. Take a read of these Zen Commandments. This birthday I’m reminded to honor my path that is beautifully changing on its own and what I can bring to it that counts most in the end!
- Take Care. Stay aware. Watch your step. Pay attention. It pays off.
- Awaken your mind, open your heart and energize yourself. Learn to see clearly and love generously.
- Find a way to live your own spiritual practice. Develop an ongoing spiritual life, not just a few spiritual experiences.
- Don’t seek others’ light. Exploit your own innate natural resources for a change. Mine the mind.
- Freedom is a process, not just an idea or ideal outcome. Progress is more important than perfection.
- Learn to accept, to let go and let be. Allow.
- Lighten up while enlightening up. Cultivate joy. Don’t take yourself too seriously, or it won’t be much fun.
- Don’t cling to anything. Recognize everything as impermanent… like a dream, a movie, or a sitcom. Remember the daily mantra: This Too Shall Pass.
- Not too light, and not too loose. Stay attuned to the big picture.
- Be mindful, pay attention. Keep your eyes peeled. Be vigilant and intelligent about your experiments with reality.
- Be here while getting there, every single step of the way.
- Don’t rely on mere words and concepts. Just say “maybe”.
- Don’t be deceived by ideas and opinions, either others’ or your own. You just can’t believe whatever you think.
- Life is precious; handle with prayer. Be good and do good. It’s now or never, as always. Meditate as fast as you can.