A note from Carl:
A very Happy Solstice to you!
Before I begin this week’s writing, we want to wish you the happiest of holidays. We are grateful for your presence in our lives.
We are both so excited for 2019 and have many offerings coming, including Erin’s New Year retreat day, Embodied Listening Course (and she’s considering doing an online version too), plus Women Embodied 2019, and my Embodying Your Soulful Masculine, as well as Foundations for Functional Fitness and Natural Movement Practice are all open for registration.
Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of my dad, John Rabke’s, passing.
We had a candle lit on our ancestor shrine and enjoyed some fish and chips and calamari in his honor for dinner. His dear friend Jim drank a toast of whiskey to him as he does every year on this day, at the beach of Cape Cod Bay, where they fished together for years. My mom walked Cooks Brook beach at the bay, looking out over where we scattered his ashes.
We have often written about how shaman and writer, Martin Prechtel, describes grief and praise as being two sides of the same coin. In grieving the loss of someone, we are expressing our praise and appreciation of how they have touched us. And in praising, and appreciating, there is also the tender, implicit grief in the recognition of the impermanence that is always present.
It was a sweet day of grieving and praising my dad.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have grown up with him as a father.
If I could point to one quality that shined through him most clearly, it was that of acceptance. So often, sons can face the weight of the expectations and disappointments of their fathers. What I felt from my dad was a quality of unconditional acceptance. At times when I struggled in school, or on the court, (as he was my high school basketball coach) there was no diminishment in his warmth. When I moved out West in 1994 and immersed myself in these strange (at the time) Buddhist and embodiment practices, he celebrated the unique path I was walking.
In the latter part of his teaching career, he was the head of the college guidance department of a prep-school in New Jersey, where there is a ton of pressure on kids around where they get into college. His emphasis was always so much less on which schools accepted them, but more on appreciating who they were and helping the students discover their own uniqueness. Several people have reported how life-changing it was to have that kind of acceptance modeled during such a stressful time.
This kind of acceptance is central to so much of what we teach and practice, whether it be around movement, meditation, or working with the inner-life. We often use the Sanskrit word maitri which means a warm welcoming friendliness. Pema Chodron describes maitri as a kind of magic, in that when we bring that quality of warm welcoming to our challenging, contracted states, things tend to soften and become more workable, and when we bring that quality to our states of openness, connection, and appreciation, they tend to deepen and their roots grow.
There is a line we sometimes use in the Focusing and inner-listening practices of greeting what comes up, whether a thought, an inner voice, or a sensation, with something like, “You don’t have to be any different to receive my warmth. ” It can be a radical shift in the internal environment to recognize that no aspect of ourselves needs to be banished or improved. I am so grateful to have had a father who embodied that quality.
This John O’Donohue poem reminded me of him (although my dad’s main form of prayer was expressed in fishing and cooking:)
For A Father
The longer we live,
The more of your presence
We find, laid down,
Weave upon weave
Within our lives.
The quiet constancy of your gentleness
Drew no attention to itself,
Yet filled our home
With a climate of kindness
Where each mind felt free
To seek its own direction.
As the fields of distance
Opened inside childhood,
Your presence was a sheltering tree
Where our fledgling hearts could rest.
The earth seemed to trust your hands
As they tilled the soil, put in the seed,
Gathered together the lonely stones.
Something in you loved to inquire
In the neighborhood of air,
Searching its transparent rooms
For the fallen glances of God.
The warmth and wonder of your prayer
Opened our eyes to glimpse
The subtle ones who
Are eternally there.
Whenever, silently, in off moments
The beauty of the whole thing overcame you,
You would gaze quietly out upon us,
The look from your eyes
Like a kiss alighting on skin.
There are many things
We could have said,
But words never wanted
To name them;
And perhaps a world
That is quietly sensed
Across the air
In another’s heart
Becomes the inner companion
To one’s own unknown.
WIshing you well,