Category Archives: Day of Rest

Day of Rest

This poem is on my mind, especially the opening and closing lines.

by Mark Nepo

Everything is beautiful and I am so sad.
This is how the heart makes a duet of
wonder and grief. The light spraying
through the lace of the fern is as delicate
as the fibers of memory forming their web
around the knot in my throat. The breeze
makes the birds move from branch to branch
as this ache makes me look for those I’ve lost
in the next room, in the next song, in the laugh
of the next stranger. In the very center, under
it all, what we have that no one can take
away and all that we’ve lost face each other.
It is there that I’m adrift, feeling punctured
by a holiness that exists inside everything.
I am so sad and everything is beautiful.

Day of Rest

Think of a plum tree. In each plum on the tree there is a pit. That pit contains the plum tree and all previous generations of plum tree. The plum pit contains an infinite number of plum trees. Inside the pit is an intelligence, a wisdom that knows how to become a plum tree, how to produce branches, leaves, flowers, and plums. It cannot do this on its own. It can do this only because it has received the experience and adaptations of so many generations of ancestors. You are the same. ~Thich Nhat Hanh*

I would add three things. One, the trauma and suffering of the trees and fruit that came before are also contained in that pit, so each plum works with that as well.

Also, it not only has the benefit of its lineage, but is helped along by the soil, the rain, the sun, the air, the bees, and the occasional kind and gentle gardener. Similarly, it can be harmed by shifts in the environment, the weather, etc.

And finally, no plum tree ever questions what it has to offer. It doesn’t say, “am I doing this right?” or “should I make apples instead?” but rather trusts that the best it has to offer is exactly what it has to give. It trusts the season and when the fruit is ripe, it lets it go, unconcerned with what happens next.

*Thanks to @thedailytourist for sharing the Thich Nhat Hanh quote.

Day of Rest

I taught a yoga class this morning. Towards the end of savasana, the song that was playing came to a crescendo just as an ambulance drove past with its siren blaring. The contrast between those two external demands, the beauty of the music asking to be noticed and the siren needing people to pay attention, was a reminder that life is both beautiful and brutal, tender and terrible, and that no matter what arises, as practitioners we work to keep our hearts open, to stay with it, to try and work with it with wisdom and compassion.

It reminded me of the quote from Pema Chödrön, the one about tigers above and tigers below.

There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life. ~Pema Chödrön, The Wisdom of No Escape: How to Love Yourself and Your World

This is a good reminder. When the chaos of life seems unmanageable, when so many are suffering and there’s so much confusion, there is also this, “delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”

This absolutely doesn’t mean, “stay positive.” It doesn’t mean we deny the tigers above and below. It doesn’t mean taking no action either, because if you notice the story starts with the woman running from the tigers until she can’t run anymore. Instead, we make space for it all.

We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. ~Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart

Day of (un)Rest

I posted this picture to Instagram yesterday, with the caption “Feeling stuck.” There is so much to do, to say, to consider, to resist. Sometimes I feel completely frozen.

I know that part of it is the overwhelm of our current political situation, and in particular a leader who is amplifying the oppression of anyone who isn’t white, cisgender, or male in a culture that already leaned that way. This past week was especially disturbing — the speech he gave at the Boy Scout Jamboree, inciting violence against people of color during a speech to a group of police, and banning transgender individuals from serving “in any capacity” in the US armed forces for the same sort of reasons that used to be used to keep women out of the military.

And it’s not just that. People I love are suffering. People I hardly know but love anyway are having a tough time. We all suffer, and in our hurt and confusion, we lash out, in ways large and small. We can get so caught up in the confusion of trying to feel okay, clinging to what we want and rejecting what we don’t, that we don’t even see the suffering we are generating all the time.

Yesterday morning, I walked past a women’s clothing store in Old Town Fort Collins with a chalkboard outside that read, “A dress should be tight enough to show you are a woman, loose enough to show you are a lady.” One might think that’s completely innocent or even cute, but if you look at it closely, it’s so harmful, oppressive, and ugly. And this from women trying to sell other women clothing! Internalized oppression is tragic — not only does the harm come from external sources, but lives inside us too.

I tried to start this morning without the noise of the news. I took Austin Kleon and Susannah Conway‘s advice and didn’t check Facebook first thing when I got up. I meditated and wrote instead. It helped a little, but the world manages to creep in anyway.

I tried to determine if I felt depressed or sad, and remembered the quote from Gloria Steinem that Susan Piver has shared before, “When you are depressed, nothing matters. When you are sad, everything does.” So, sad it is. I once heard someone suggest that if you want to know who you are here to serve, just notice what breaks your heart and you will find your purpose — but what if all of it breaks your heart? And what if you want to help everyone, fix all of it, where do you even begin?

Meghan Tonjes posted a picture on Facebook earlier today, and the caption gave me some insight into another approach, “Instead of focusing on the things and people I can’t fix, help, save, love through or give any more to, I’ve filled the entirety of my days with what I can control.” This reframe seems helpful — when I feel stuck, overwhelmed, helpless, I can ask myself “what can I control?” I tend to take too much responsibility for whatever might be happening, even though I know intellectually that there are layers and layers of conditions and circumstances working together in ways that I can’t know, can’t understand, and most certainly can’t control.

And if these strategies fail, I’m going to stare at this picture Janelle Hanchett just posted of George, because George is one of the reasons to never give up.

Day of Rest

These lines of a longer poem from Rumi have been coming up a lot for me. It feels so important, especially now, to take care, to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. And that first line is so essential: sit, be still, and listen. May you find the space to do so today, kind and gentle reader, and may it be useful.

Day of Rest

I posted this picture yesterday on Instagram with the caption, “I’m a mess but I don’t give up.” Then today someone shared this quote from John Welwood, “You are flawed, you are stuck in old patterns, you become carried away with yourself. Indeed you are quite impossible in many ways. And still, you are beautiful beyond measure.” Sounds about right.

Day of Rest

I am craving spring. And it is fast approaching, with the windy days, occasional rain, the tips of iris stalks and new grass poking their way out of the ground, along with crocus and mini iris blooms. Even the “spring forward” of Daylight Savings time is a sign. Soon it will be time to clean up the garden, making space for the return of what is already there and getting the ground ready for the new things we’ll plant.

This particular spring is a mix of hope and anxiety. Yesterday I attended a livestream of the ACLU’s “People Power” Resistance Training, (you can watch it online here — it’s a great watch, inspiring and informative, even if you have no plan to be active in this particular movement). There were 100 other people there with me. I took nine pages of notes, clapped from time to time, and even cried a little. I went in part because it makes me feel better to be doing something, anything, and to be surrounded by people who want the same.

The ACLU describes themselves this way, “For almost 100 years, the ACLU has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” The fact that there are people who disagree with what they do, actively resist and criticize it, and still insist they are active and concerned citizens of the United States baffles me. And yet, in another way, it doesn’t surprise me at all. If we are honest, our Constitution’s preamble begins with the phrase “We the people of the United States of America,” and was written in a time when “we” very clearly meant “white men.” The Constitution as originally written wasn’t intended to apply equally to all people. Women and people of color were not considered “equal,” then or now. In that light, I shouldn’t be surprised that so many are intent on maintaining white supremacy and the patriarchy, and can be so violent and vile in their defense of such ideals.

Faiz Shakir, National Political Director for the ACLU, spoke twice during the event. He is the son of immigrants and a Muslim. Early on the first time he was on stage, he said, “This is not the America we want to live in. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. We cannot be bullied out of our humanity.” One thing he said later that really stuck with to me was, “As Donald Trump is going about his hate agenda, we need to live our love. We need to live our values… Whatever he’s doing, let’s have an equal and opposite reaction.”

On this day of rest, with spring on its way, I find myself doing just this — living my love, not allowing myself to be bullied out of my humanity, making space and getting the ground ready for what’s to come.