A note from Erin
Today I’m thinking of the stars, the countless stars shining up above my head right this minute, even though I’m sitting at an urban teashop on a bright August afternoon. Thinking of the stars, I sit a little taller and something stirs in my heart. A few weeks ago I sent this quote to my brother, who lives in a prime star-watching territory in southern Utah.
Do you imagine the universe is agitated?
Go into the desert at night and look out at the stars.
This practice should answer the question.
– Lao Tzu
Our little family spent the better part of the past week in the desert, camping, hiking, and enjoying the most amazing stargazing I’ve done in years. A few days past the peak of the Perseid Meteor shower, we still saw at least a dozen shooting stars each night. An impossible number of stars, luminous and bright all the way to the dark horizons in every direction.
And as Lao Tzu intimates, while stargazing I did not find agitation. I found timelessness, spaciousness, wonder and mystery. The moments spent lying on my back stargazing with our son nestled between me and Carl were beyond precious.
We were also blessed to witness the Drepung Loseling monks create an intricate and beautiful sand mandala, and as the tradition goes, to destroy it just after they completed it. We heard the Tibetan rinpoche give teachings outside on the shady green lawn at Hell’s Backbone, and I was delighted when he quoted Albus Dumbledore. (I love me some Harry Potter! I love me some Buddhist wisdom! Put them both together in this gorgeous location? Awesomesauce.) We were one of a few dozen people to witness the monks chanting in a slot canyon – a truly unforgettable experience. Thanks to Jen Castle for taking this wonderful photo of my guys and the monks!
I love to make time for pauses like these in the flow of ordinary life. I find I need to do it a lot. I get something like an inner itch when I haven’t had time away to reflect on my life and my current direction. I need my Vitamin R – Retreat. Reflect. Reroute.
I’ve written before about a story I have loved for years, though I don’t know if it’s true. I heard that the first manned landing on the moon was off-course more than 80% of the time. Whether it’s true or not, I take heart in the image of those movements…. swerving a little too far this way, correcting a little too far to the other side, back again – eventually landing in just the right spot. In that dance is the beauty of a real life. As Siri says when giving directions and you make an unexpected turn, “Rerouting.”
For me, these arts of reflecting and rerouting are keys to a good life. Retreat is a blessed time away that invites both reflecting and rerouting.
And we can’t reroute intelligently without taking the time to reflect. A retreat can be a few hours, a few days, a few weeks…
How do I want to be living?
What am I wanting and willing to change?
What’s in need of a little course correction?
Since it’s really easy to get down on oneself, I find it’s also wonderful to include these too:
What am I celebrating?
I’m really looking forward to delving into these questions at the Dream Yourself Awake Retreat in Santa Fe next month. I still have space if you’d like to join us! Details below.
Your life is your canvas. Your masterpiece. Your creation. You get to make something beautiful with what it is that you’re given.
How do you want it to look? How do you want to feel?
Do you want to paint over the canvas and start fresh? You can.
Want to stargaze more? Ok.
Want to quit your job, start a new practice, take up a meaningful cause, or as Sark writes, “invite someone dangerous to tea?” Go for it.
If you catch yourself using the phrase “I have to….” beware….
When I find myself using this phrase it’s a red flag that I’ve given up my sovereignty.
I actually don’t have to do anything. Neither do you.
You can choose to quit your job. You can choose to pay taxes or not. You can choose to travel the world. You can choose to care for your kids or aging parents, or you can choose otherwise.
We just have to pay the consequences of our choices. But make no mistake, they are our choices.
We have so much more freedom than we know…
As Mary Oliver asks in one of my favorites of her poems,
“And if you have not been enchanted by this adventure—your life—
what would do for you?”
A damn good question to ask, and answer with how we live our days…. rerouting as often as we need.
Wishing you starlight and wonder,
and as Mary Oliver writes, “Congratulations if you have changed.” :)
Here’s the poem in full. It’s from one of my favorite of her books of poems, Evidence.
To Begin With, the Sweet Grass
by Mary Oliver
Will the hungry ox stand in the field and not eat of the sweet grass?
Will the owl bite off its own wings?
Will the lark forget to lift its body in the air or forget to sing?
Will the rivers run upstream?
Behold, I say–behold
the reliability and the finery and the teachings of this gritty earth gift.
Eat bread and understand comfort.
Drink water, and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets are opening their bodies for the hummingbirds
who are drinking the sweetness, who are thrillingly gluttonous.
For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.
Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.
And someone’s face, whom you love, will be as a star
both intimate and ultimate,
and you will be both heart-shaken and respectful.
And you will hear the air itself, like a beloved, whisper:
oh, let me, for a while longer, enter the two
beautiful bodies of your lungs.
The witchery of living
is my whole conversation
with you my darlings.
All I can tell you is what I know.
Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.
It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of the single heart.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life—just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe still another.
Someday I am going to ask my friend Paulus,
the dancer, the potter,
to make me a begging bowl
which I believe
my soul needs.
And if I come to you,
to the door of your comfortable house
with unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,
will you put something into it?
I would like to take this chance.
I would like to give you this chance.
We do one thing or another; we stay the same or we change.
Congratulations if you have changed.
Let me ask you this.
Do you also think that beauty exists for some fabulous reason?
And if you have not been enchanted by this adventure—your life—
what would do for you?
What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly myself.
Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.
That was many years ago.
Since then I have gone out from my confinements, though with difficulty
I mean the ones that are thought to rule my heart.
I cast them out, I put them on the mush pile.
They will be nourishment somehow (everything is nourishment somehow or another).
And I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.
I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.
I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.
And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.
p.s. Carl has two more spots open for the Structural Integration 10 series in the fall. If you’d like to grab one, contact Carl@embodimentmatters.com. Structural Integration work is so deeply powerful – it’s rocking my world. Wow. I wish it for you too.
p.p.s. We still have 3 spaces (including a discounted scholarship spot!) open for our Fall Embodied Life Classwhich begins Sept. 8th. We have an awesome community of excellent human beings in the class already and we’d love to have you join us! Movement, meditation, and more, all in an awesome community this fall. It’s going to rock! See details and registration link below. Payment plan available.