I don’t know Who—or what—put the question, I don’t know when it was put. I don’t even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone—or Something—and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, has a goal.
The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
~Fra Giovanni Giocondo
It’s incredibly touching when someone who seems so hopeless finds a few inches of light
to stand in and makes everything work as well as possible. All of us lurch and fall,
sit in the dirt, are helped to our feet, keep moving, feel like idiots, lose our balance,
gain it, help others get back on their feet, and keep going.
~Anne Lamott, Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith
Most of us have been in this place at one time or another, hopeless and searching desperately for a tiny patch of light, trying our damnedest to pull it all together—or at least not let it fall apart. I’ve been there more than once in recent years.
I do believe that, ultimately, getting through such times comes down to faith. I’m not talking about religious faith. I’m talking about the mundane kind of faith that gets you up in the morning and puts your feet on the ground and points you toward the realization that you are, in fact, still here—that whatever-it-was didn’t kill you while you were sleeping last night, and the world actually continued to turn.
This is kind of a good news/bad news thing to realize. Continue reading
This is an idea that seems difficult for Westerners to accept: when someone harms us, they create the cause of their own suffering. They do this by strengthening habits that imprison them in a cycle of pain and confusion. It’s not that we are responsible for what someone else does, and certainly not that we should feel guilty. But when they harm us, we unintentionally become the means of their undoing. Had they looked on us with loving-kindness, however, we’d be the cause of their gathering virtue.
What I find helpful in this teaching is that what’s true for them is also true for me. The way I regard those who hurt me today will affect how I experience the world in the future. In any encounter, we have a choice: we can strengthen our resentment or our understanding and empathy. We can widen the gap between ourselves and others or lessen it.
~Pema Chodron, No Time To Lose
If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.
And I felt like my heart had been so thoroughly and irreparably broken that there could be no real joy again, that at best there might eventually be a little contentment. Everyone wanted me to get help and rejoin life, pick up the pieces and move on, and I tried to, I wanted to, but I just had to lie in the mud with my arms wrapped around myself, eyes closed, grieving, until I didn’t have to anymore.
~Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year
I’ve been in this place before, and I know exactly what Anne Lamott means when she says “I just had to lie in the mud…grieving, until I didn’t have to anymore.” There were people who wanted me to “get help”—which was code for drugs to dull the pain—and I stood and listened while people tried to tell me that I shouldn’t still be feeling what I was feeling. But I believed then, and I believe now, something that I once heard Oprah express beautifully on one of her shows, “When someone says something to you about how long you’re taking to get over a loss, just remember, it’s different for everybody—tell them it takes as long as it takes.”
I don’t discount the benefits of antidepressants in certain situations, and yes, there are people who wallow in their grief to the point that it takes over their lives and becomes who they are. However, I think we as a society have become increasingly uncomfortable with uncomfortable feelings. We want to “fix” them and make them go away, in spite of the fact that those feelings are often the very means by which we grow and deepen as human beings and by which we become more truly ourselves.
Your way begins at the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.
Wisdom consists in doing the next thing you have to do, doing it with your whole heart, and finding delight in doing it.
Friendship is the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words.
Peace is not a result inside us from everything around us. Peace is not submissive nor passive. On the contrary, peace is an overwhelming force which comes from within us, disrespectful of everything around us, a firm coalition of spirit and soul standing against all the unrest that abounds.
~C. JoyBell C.
Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it…Thus if one keeps on walking, everything will be alright.
Walking is also an ambulation of mind.
Every walker is a guard on patrol to protect the ineffable.
~Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking
The quotes above describe pretty well the way I’ve come to feel about walking lately. I’ve done a lot of walking in the last month, more than usual, primarily because I’ve found a beautiful place to walk that allows me to surround myself with nature, minus the cars and sidewalks of my neighborhood. The trails at the North Carolina Museum of Art (a 10-minute drive from my house) are well-designed and offer both paved and gravel paths that wind through gently rolling hills and woodland glens. They’re varied enough that I can choose a route based on my mood and energy level, as well as how much time I have.
The move back to North Carolina has been a good one, but it has also come with some challenges, and walking the museum trails has become a meditative, centering activity for me. Continue reading