"If all I have is NOW, where will I look for joy?'
-- Mark Nepo, "Book of Awakening"
This year, 2021, I've been rereading Mark Nepo's "Book of Awakening" along with Gay Hendricks' "A Year of Living Consciously." I think 2021 has been tougher than 2020 because we entered the year with great hope that the pandemic would end soon. The vaccine was becoming available. All would be well!
I feel we don't need hope so much as we need encouragement to hang in there. So I will be sharing in this post these two authors who have encouraged me this year. As you read their words, pause when something "strikes" you and think about how it applies to the pandemic's effect on your life. The slower pace many of us have been forced into has given us more time to think about our lives and what changes we may want to make.
"Without hope for the future, without hope that things will change, with no hope of finding what's been lost, and no hope of restoring the past, with only the risk to crack open all that has hardened about me, what will I do with what I have?.....if you are unhappy or in pain, nothing will remove these surfaces. But acceptance and a strong heart will crack them like a shell, exposing a softness that has always been, exposing a soft thing waiting to take form."
Nepo asks us to imagine what we want, then realize what we have. Then reverse this. Realize what you have, then imagine what you want. He says, "Keep doing this until what you want and what you have start to become the same thing."
This ties in so well with what Gay Hendricks had to say the same day:
"It's all a question of perspective, of learning to be able to take a step back from your life and see what is important and what is less so. It can be difficult to do this in the thick of things, but it is a skill well worth cultivating. The essential element in gaining perspective is keeping an eye on yourself, knowing who you are and where you are heading. If you are with yourself, living in a state of integrity----in which you are engaged in an ongoing dialogue with yourself about who you are and what is true for you----perspective will be a natural outgrowth, because things will fall away that do not flow with who you are."
The word integrity came up again the next day in Mark Nepo's reading, so I looked up the meaning: the state of being whole and undivided. Nepo begins with a quote by Rabbi Jonathan Omer-man who goes deeper into the meaning of integrity:
"Integrity is the ability to listen to a place inside oneself that doesn't change, even though the life that carries it may change."
Nepo went on to share this story:
"A troubled man who, exhausted from his suffering and confusion, asked a sage for help. The sage looked deeply into the troubled man and with compassion offered him a choice: 'You may have either a map or a boat.'
After looking at the pilgrims about him, all of whom seemed equally troubled, the confused man said, 'I'll take the boat.'
The sage kissed him on the forehead and said, 'Go then. You are the boat. Life is the sea.'
As we have discovered so many times, we have everything we need with us. This ability to listen inside is our oldest oar. You are the boat.
- Sit quietly and put down all your maps for the moment.
- Let your breath take you safely out to sea.
- Breathe gently and bob there . . . and simply listen . . . . ."