Leaning on Rilke; Farewell, Praise & Good Questions

A note from Erin:

Hello friends! I’m sitting here at my desk, reveling in the extra-jubilant bird song that’s happening just outside my window this morning. I think the sparrows, finches, chickadees, and starlings are celebrating the return of the light, as am I, even though it’s a muted gray-sky day. The return of the light… I’m taking it right into my tender heart and into my bones, along with the aspiration to be a beneficial organism while I’m here on Earth. May it be so.

Carl and I are about to embark on a work-date day today, dreaming and scheming and sorting out the details on an exciting new offering we’re hoping to bring forth in the next few months – a way to dive into the wonderful embodiment work we’re blessed to be able to share – from anywhere you are. We can’t wait to share more soon! We’ve also got some inspiring podcast episodes coming soon – with our long-time Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, with mindfulness teacher and love-activist Sharon Shelton, and more.

In the meantime, I’m reading my well-loved copy of A Year With Rilke, a favorite collection of translations. There are two short pieces I’m inspired to share with you.

The first is one I love to read, frequently at the beginning of group courses or retreats I offer. A reminder that even in a new beginning, this time is precious, impermanent, and passing.

“Somewhere, the flower of farewell is blooming.
Endlessly it yields its pollen, which we breathe.
Even in the breeze of this beginning hour, we breathe farewell.” 

Right this moment, at the start of a calendar year, whether it’s a shallow breath or a full one, we are breathing the pollen of the flower of farewell. How bittersweet this is! But to me, it grows sweeter and sweeter. Y’all – We get to be on Earth! Alive! We get to breathe into these humble bodies the exhalations of trees! We get to listen to birdsong if we have the good sense to notice it, and listen to music, and listen to the unique voices of our loved ones! We get to revel in never-to-be-repeated cloudscapes! We get to love never-to-be-repeated human beings! We get to marvel at all the intelligent and mysterious non-human beings! To be alive, even with all the pain, heartbreak, confusion and irritating pain-in-the-assness, is a freaking miracle. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Remembering the flower of farewell sharpens my gratefulness. And I’m always up for that.

And this:
“Praise, my dear one.
Let us disappear into praising.
Nothing belongs to us.” 

So much is hard in the world right now. Sigh. But also, so so so much is beautiful. I keep leaning into these words from one of my hero-writers, Kathleen Dean Moore, who writes: “There is hope in this: An attention that notices and celebrates thriving where it occurs; a conscience that refuses to destroy it.” 

I’m taking “noticing and celebrating thriving where it occurs” as one of my job descriptions. (Join me?)  It IS one of my jobs when I’m working with clients on my Feldenkrais table. Not getting myopically focused on the “problem area” but continuing to recontextualize it in the healthy whole, appreciating thriving where it occurs. Somatically, it’s an ongoing practice I’m so grateful to know how to do. To widen the lens, to take in not just the knee that is hurting, but to notice what I’m doing with my ribs, my feet, my hips, my neck, and how those habits or fresh choices affect my knee when I hike.

I believe this is essential in the wider world as well. Because as Kathleen writes, connected with our praising what we care about is the conscience that refuses to destroy it.

What will you praise, in the inner and outer worlds (which truly are all one world?)
What thriving will you notice, even if it’s not as attention-grabbing as a dramatic headline?
What will you protect; what will you refuse to destroy, or let others destroy? 

I love liberating questions, and one of my all-time faves is this, which I was introduced to as a Jewish proverb:
“Why ruin a good question with an answer?”

Which of course takes me back to my good friend, Rilke, again. He’s a treasure-trove of inspiration, isn’t he?

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now 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.”

Let’s live the questions, shall we? And let’s aspire for the questions we’re living to be damn good ones, dedicated to the well-being of all life. We may not have answers, but living into good questions? That we can do.

As ever, I’m grateful we’re in it together.

With love,

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By training and profession, I am a somatic educator. Over the past 25+ years I have trained in and taught modern dance, tai chi, Indian and Tibetan yoga, yoga therapy (specializing in back pain). I completed a 4-year professional Feldenkrais training in 2007 and a 3-year Embodied Life training in 2014. I also study and work with somatic meditation and the profound practice of embodied inner listening known as Focusing.