Flowers as they are / in the lotus pond: / My offering to the spirits. - Basho Matsuo.
I write, learn, and hopefully grow wiser from what I call "open doorways"—experiences, words, images, or dreams that show up in daily life and give me a glimpse of something that makes me re-imagine or remember what is important. One such doorway appeared two weeks ago when I left on a trip to visit family and friends.
"The roar of the lotus." This is the phrase I suddenly saw in my mind's eye years ago in a meditation. The phrase has come to me often and without warning through the years, and always it sings of a place where a lotus does indeed roar, where seemingly opposite and disparate events, people, and situations co-exist seamlessly as one.
The roots of a lotus are anchored in the mud beneath dark waters, yet it is within that darkness where nutrients for its journey to air and light are gathered. Bursting from the depths, there are no physical traces of its origins yet the silty darkness fuels its beauty and magnificence. Its leaves glisten, the buds burst with vitality, the flowers inspire beyond earthly limits. The lotus shows us life lived to its fullest, sometimes softly, sometimes with its indomitable roar.
While visiting and engaging with twelve family members and seven friends in those fourteen days I heard the roar of the lotus once again. It was a whispered roar this time, speaking of loss, so quiet that while in the presence of family and friends it didn't register—how six people were in the midst of living even as they coped with the the deaths of their loved ones, others sharing about their own or a loved one's illness, a neighbor's passing, the witnessing of the bone-deep weariness of care-taking.
It was only on my return home that the accumulated whispers of the lotus's message cascaded into a deeper rumbling as a friend spoke of the death of his dog and the unanswerable questions tumbling around in his mind, the rumbling growing louder when his wife and I hugged in the middle of the street.
That morning I became exponentially more aware of inevitable loss, the immense and often slumbering reservoir of personal and universal sorrow that lives within us all. The beginnings of an aching acceptance brought about the insight that I had been laughing, conversing, eating, sleeping, hugging, and playing in sorrow's midst for days, unaware. Even as it swirled and mixed together with the beauty and vitality of every breathing minute in mysterious, alchemical ways.
No piece of our selves goes missing without it being felt as a dissonance, an emptiness, a pull of the heart or mind, or both. It is in both the weighty sorrow fed by disbelief and anguish, and the wonders of each day, where hearts can open and we connect once again to what is important—to whisper or roar about the soul-shaping, difficult work of following the conversation to where it leads. To allow others to walk beside us, to ask for their listening. Each of us holding the door open for each other, to remember and love and live with our toes in dark waters, our eyes amazed by glistening leaves.
- Photograph by Gerri Davis
- Gratitude to Nancy Borris for her long-ago gift of the book Lotus, where I found the haiku.
- This blog is dedicated to a much-loved dog and its owners.
• • • • • • • • • •
Calming Practice: Exercise!
Exercise is this month's Calming Practice. It has been a literal life-saver, a counter-balance to hours of inactivity as I write, or while traveling.
I get up for a snack or to fill my water bottle, and do some lunges down the hallway. Or do incline push-ups using my bathroom counter, or calf stretches on the curb while waiting for a rental car. Stretches can be done anywhere. Using my long-ignored elliptical machine at home or in a hotel helps immensely. Walking anywhere keeps me moving, especially walking up stairs. Some days call for more, some for less. I've found appreciating what I do goes a long way toward the enjoyment of healthy movement.
Feeling the results in my body, and being able to quiet that energy-depleting thought of "I should have exercised...I'm such a lazy bum," because I have indeed exercised here and there all through the day, produces a much-welcomed calm and oh-so-much-less brain chatter. Not to mention the oxygenation of the brain, increased stamina and strength, lessened risk for heart disease and dementia (among other debilitating illnesses), and increased cognitive abilities. Plus—it just plain makes a person feel good. And that in itself is reason enough.