I want to share a portion of Mary Oliver’s poem “Invitation”. These words have been caught in my soul lately, tangled in there like moss in my hair, reminding me of a bigger view of this life. It’s about two birds having a singing contest:
not for your sake
and not for mine
and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude–
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in this broken world.
do not walk by
to attend to this…
It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he said,
You must change your life.
You must change your life? Now that sounds serious! It is the kind of statement my Lama makes during her dharma talks. When I hear this, I cower inside, the shame of my laziness or forgetfulness punching back under the cave of my ribs. I’m sure I’ve been found out, that I did or didn’t do that thing, and this is no longer a secret, to me or anyone else.
For me, changing my life usually means more working, less delighting and probably getting up earlier. But I hear Mary Oliver saying that the change means more delight and gratitude. This is the serious thing, the thing that could mean everything.
We have all had to make changes to meet our covid-centered lives. This has felt like so many losses, some of them permanent. The proposition of more change has been triggering my memory of preparing for loss, frustration and sadness. I get anxious and resistant and I grasp for this comfortable sameness I’ve been cultivating for the past year. I’ve slowed my whole life to a preschooler’s pace and it sounds jarring to leave the sleepy cocoon.
I have learned to live with so much less and I like it! I’ve trained myself away from constant travel planning, arranging dinner parties and assuming any future. It’s been similar to those hostage-like hours, spent on the tarmac, as the voice of the airlines gives extended “We really don’t know” messages. I have learned to sit in this specific discomfort, in the big “We really don’t know”, and to find my gratitude and delight here.
The world will not wait for me, so now is an opportunity to feel for those aspects of cocoon life that will nourish my future moth life. I want to stay slow and small where I can. I need to tether my kite string to my home, my heart, and my place in the global community.
I don’t know quite what this will mean, and I won’t let the future steal this whole moment from me as I look forward. Rather than projecting a big load of losses, I am offering myself some guidelines. Here are my ideas:
- Move in an unhurried way, even when I need to be quick.
- Breathe deeply, even when I am afraid.
- Stop everything to honor nature’s pace. This might be watching birds, young children, or clouds.
- Eat nourishing, home-cooked meals most of the time.
- Sleep as much as possible, letting myself wake up when I do. This one likely means fewer late-night Netflix escapades.
- Go outside as much as possible, even if it’s just for 5 seconds, to take a breath and look at the sky.
- Focus on what brings true delight and gratitude. This could be something different every day, every moment.
I’m curious about how you’re easing into the possibility of more mingling in your world. How will you incorporate more gratitude and delight? I’d love to hear from you and share your inspirations.
Meanwhile, I am offering a hip-opening workshop next Saturday, February 27, 12-2 pm
I will continue to offer new yoga therapy clients a 20% discount. Refer someone to me and receive that same 20% discount for yourself!
My scholarship program is thriving and would love to include you, as a participant or a donor. It’s tax deductible!