Last night, as the sun was setting over the lake, the wind seemed to blow the thoughts from my mind as easily as it blew away bugs and clouds. As the mundane and repetitive thoughts in my mind dissipated, my body grew calm and steady. As the sky turned brilliant pinks and oranges, a quiet peace returned to that place right beneath my breast bone where it lives much of the time. I hadn’t even noticed it had been away. Welcoming that deep inner stillness home, I felt its presence permeate my body and spirit.
Deep sigh…That feels right…
Retracing the last days and weeks, I cannot pinpoint an hour, or even a day, during which my own grounding and grounded inner stillness was replaced with the noisy chatter of contemporary life. But I can see why and how it slipped beneath the surface. Over a series of days with more movement, more people, more obligations, and more schedules, I was being less attentive. Compelled to pay more attention to the needs and demands of the outer world, I had let the care and nourishment of my inner world wane. By contrast, for most of this summer, I had been paying very careful attention to balancing the needs of my spirit with the needs of the world. But I hadn’t even noticed when I had slipped.
Gratefully, I only needed the sunset to bring me back to myself.
Dwelling in the balance between inner and outer, giving and receiving, doing and resting, seems to be at the center of the householder yoga that I have been practicing this summer. Life requires us to navigate practical needs and emotions along the entire arc of a swinging pendulum. Fortunately, the perpetual movement invites us to remain confident that we will always return to center. Even the highest tide will ebb. The setting sun suggests a sunrise is on the way.
Just after the sun rose this morning, I paddled across the lake. I gave thanks as I felt deep into that inner stillness swelling beneath my breastbone. I am grateful for the remembering ushered in by last night’s breezy sunset and for the pendulum that carries me reliably between the work of sustaining my spirit and the work of sustaining my family and community. These two things are not just related, they are aspects of a singular ongoing movement and they nourish each other.
In A Gift From The Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh describes the movement this way, “The only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.”
[I read my grandmother’s old copy of this book each summer. It has pencil notes in the margins and a page of her reflections from the 50s and the 80s. As I read, I feel the pendulum swinging not only in each of our lives, but also between and amongst generations. With my hands holding the same pages that she held and my mind mulling over the same questions, I naturally notice the extension and expansion of attention and care. More on this another day … If you have never read this sweet and potent book, I highly recommend it.]