Crossing the Aisle

My spouse married a young couple this weekend. In his sermon, he used the metaphor of “crossing the aisle”. Seems this couple had sat on opposite sides of the church until one day, the young man decided to switch sides and move towards the young woman. This crossing led to the eventual commitment of these two people to share their lives together in a profound and intimate way.

The image of “crossing the aisle” has stayed with me as I notice how often I tend to sit in the same chair, on the same side of my life. But to grow, we need to move. We need to cross the aisle into new perspectives, into the unfamiliar, into what seems scary, into what seems too unworthy or too magnificent.

We are beings created with infinite possibilities to explore and expand ourselves. And each effort at expansion begins with a simple crossing of the aisle, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.

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Crossing the Aisle

My spouse married a young couple this weekend. In his sermon, he used the metaphor of “crossing the aisle”. Seems this couple had sat on opposite sides of the church until one day, the young man decided to switch sides and move towards the young woman. This crossing led to the eventual commitment of these two people to share their lives together in a profound and intimate way.

The image of “crossing the aisle” has stayed with me as I notice how often I tend to sit in the same chair, on the same side of my life. But to grow, we need to move. We need to cross the aisle into new perspectives, into the unfamiliar, into what seems scary, into what seems too unworthy or too magnificent.

We are beings created with infinite possibilities to explore and expand ourselves. And each effort at expansion begins with a simple crossing of the aisle, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.

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Guru Purnima

Friday, July 15, is the holy day of Guru Purnima, the day of honoring the Guru. This holiday lands on the 1st full moon in July. Traditionally, in the Guru/Student relationship, the student gathers a bundle of sticks and offers them to the teacher. The sticks represent all the internal obstacles that keep this student lost in the cycle of unhelpful habits and selfishness. In presenting the bundle of sticks to the Guru, the student is acknowledging their own helplessness in clarity and will-power and asking the full-fledged support of the Guru in overcoming these obstacles. If the Guru accepts, the Guru proceeds to burn the sticks, and the process of purifying the student proceeds in full earnestness.

The larger meaning of the word Guru is that which sheds light on our darkness (darkness being our ignorance, confusion, and slothfulness). In all the ways that we are uplifted, have a moment of clarity, care about something more than ourselves – all of this is the work of the guru. These moments can come to us through another person, through a quote in a book, a hike in nature, an inner moment of illumination. However the shedding of light comes to us, the result is always the same. Something expands within us.

Swami Rama says this about Guru Purnima: “This day is considered to be very holy. For on this day students become aware that life is not to be lived only in the external world—that there is something higher, deeper, than what they have been doing……So today is a day when I, when everyone, remembers his teacher, his teachings, and becomes aware of the Reality within.”

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Counting with Chocolate

A “timeless” month was more than I could feel safe in. But I had bounded myself away from calendars, as well as conversation. As fate would have it, I had serendipitously stashed away four dark chocolate bars in my suitcase. I devised a plan whereby I would eat one bar per week, and each week I would divide the bar into seven pieces. A delicious marking of days.

Now I am home and back to my normal calendar. Although it allows me to communicate with others, the marking of each day feels more mechanical and not nearly as delicious. I wonder why no one has invented a chocolate calendar yet? We could eat each day when it was complete and savor both the day’s experiences and its finality.

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Rhythm

I made two daily time commitments for this month of silence. The first was to make the short outdoor hike to the meditation hall for a sunrise fire. The second commitment was to repeat this process at sunset. Morning and evening, sunrise and sunset, fire and meditation; this was the rhythm that contained and created the daily structure of my time in silence.

Out of silence, I now ask, “What frames the rhythm of my day and what possibility does it give rise to?” I could easily begin my day with a cup of coffee and end it with a glass of wine. And although I enjoy both of these drinks, I have to ask what kind of rhythm and mentality does that create for my day?

Here at home I don’t have a meditation hall to hike to and build a fire. What will I choose in its place?

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The Power of the Slowing

I am back from a month of silence and find myself wanting to write something that is profound and inspirational……but I have nothing to say. When people ask me how my time was, all I can muster up is “wonderful” or “exquisite”. It was a month spent in a wordless place and I can’t find words to talk about it.

I thought about writing something like, “If you really want to know about my time, ask me with your soul, and my soul will tell you all about it while we sit together in silence.” But that sounded really corny.

The closest I can come is to borrow Gerald May’s observations in his book The Wisdom of the Wilderness, where he speaks about the Power of the Slowing that he experienced in his solo treks into the woods. That is the truth of my time. I experienced the Power of the Slowing and it was profound. custom essay writing company

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A Month of Silence

For the month of January I will be in silence at a retreat center in Ohio. I’ve been planning this retreat for a year now and watching the hunger and longing of my soul grow within me. I have also been watching the doubts. This is the second time in my life that I have chosen to take a full month to do silence and I remember that at a certain point, when the novelty and joy of the quiet has worn off, I begin to miss the stimulation of my life. I begin to miss sharing the daily trivialities with people I love. I begin to miss daily rituals that wrap my life like a cozy blanket.

I also know that at some point during the month, I will have to sit with the broken pieces of myself. And during those times, I will wonder why I ever brought myself to a whole month of this and I will long to be back home. And then I will laugh at myself because for a whole year I have desired to be here, and now I want to be anyplace but here. Such will be the state of my efforts at silence.

But to experience life as fully as we can, we have to experience ourselves as fully as we can. Life is not for silence, silence is for life. And so I go for a month of silence, not because silence is the ultimate, but because ordinary life is the ultimate and I hope to be more fully present and open to this ordinary life when I return.

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Love or Fear?

When my son practiced as a chiropractor, he had a big bowl of wooden coins that he handed out to his patients. On one side of the coin was written love; on the other fear. The hope was that his patients would carry this coin in their pockets and remember that love or fear was a moment to moment choice.

Fear, my son felt, was the cause of a lot of disease and discomfort in the body. To actually feel the full vitality of health, one had to practice love. But love is a hard practice, one that must be continuously cultivated. In a society as hurried and stimulated as ours, it almost seems unnatural to soften the belly for a deep, full, relaxed breath and to open the heart to uncertainty.

Like food in a freezer, the heart must be taken out of its protection and laid out to slowly thaw. It is a vulnerable and malleable position, but the only one worth cultivating.

Love or fear, perhaps our whole spiritual journey comes down to this moment to moment choice to freeze our hearts in protection or take them out to thaw.

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