Inner Strength

At one point in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says, “I am the Self hidden in the heart.” He’s referring to one of the deepest pieces of wisdom in the yoga tradition: the teaching that in our own bodies, in the subtle center called the heart, we can tune in to our true Self, the part of us that isn’t confused about what life is all about. That Presence is the “me”  and the great source of true refuge.

The mystic poet Kabir speaks of this Presence as “the breath inside the breath.” His point is that it’s always closer than you think. Once you’ve learned how to tune in to Presence, you have a refuge that you can turn to at any time, even in the middle of a stressful business meeting or an argument with your spouse. One way to tune in to Presence right now is to focus on the space in and around your body. Inhale and exhale, feeling that. With the inhalation, you breathe that space in through your pores; as you exhale, you breathe it out. After a while, you should become aware of a subtle, delicate energy that is both inside your body and around it. According to the yoga tradition, this is Presence — and it is close to you at all times.

Sally Kempton, How to Find More Calm — Even When Life Feels Craziest

It will never be perfect

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen,  Anthem

In 1992 he commented on the lines: 

We’ve forgotten the central myth of our culture which is the expulsion from the garden of Eden. This situation does not admit of solution of perfection. This is not the place where you make things perfect, neither in your marriage, nor in your work, nor anything, nor your love of God, nor your love of family or country. The thing is imperfect.

There is a crack in everything that you can put together: Physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kindBut that’s where the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation with the broken-ness of things.

Never enough

Everyone wants you to be Atlas,
to shoulder it all. Even the voice in your
head insists you are behind. But I’ve seen
the light in you, the one the gods finger
while we sleep. I’ve seen the blossom open
in your heart, no matter what remains to
be done. There are never enough hours
to satisfy the minions of want. So close
your eyes and lean into the Oneness that
asks nothing of you…. You have never been more
complete than in this incomplete moment.

Mark Nepo, The Myth of Urgency

No solidity

Having an insight into the non-solid and passing nature of most experiences allows us let things pass through,  without making them into the story of our life.

All realities are devoid of an abiding self;

When we see this with insight

we will get space in this life of suffering

Dhammapada, v.279

The story of me, myself and I

What does wakefulness mean? It means resting in a kind of awareness that is so stable that it’s not thrown off by the comings and goings of events within the field of awareness. So that you don’t lose your balance when things go this way and things go that way, but you actually stay grounded when things go your way, as we put it. And when things don’t go your way, it doesn’t mean that you have to rocket yourself or spiral into depression and hopelessness and a sense of despair. But very often if we take it personally and we feel like our successes say that we’re a good person and then, by extrapolation, our failures say that there’s something wrong with me, that I’m no good. And both of those are wrong. What goes up also comes down, whether we’re talking about the stock market or a ball that you throw up in the air. And if you mistake what you think of as the reality for the reality, then you’re going to suffer because you’re attaching the story of me, myself, and my successes and my failures to something that’s actually quite impersonal.

Jon Kabat Zinn, Interview with Krista Tippett, Speaking of Faith

Seeking awe in the ordinary

A dreary rainy day here in Ireland, after weeks of sunshine. The temptation is to keep ones head down, moving quickly from place to place. However,  positive emotions are linked to paying attention and appreciating whatever is around us –  grey or bright – noticing the small details in every moment.

God and the sacred, the enchanted and the luminous, are not “over there” somewhere. They are all right here, where we are.  May we get back to the ordinary, the breath by breath, and the living in each moment fully. Inhabiting each moment and seeking the wonder therein. The refusal to let life descend down to a cycle of the mundane, the insistence of seeking awe in the ordinary  –  this is the beginning of spiritual life.

This is the wisdom of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, among so many others, who said “Indifference to the sublime wonder of living is the root of sin”

Sin, for Heschel, is ultimately not about eating this or not eating that, praying in this temple or that temple, but a losing of that sublime wonder of being truly alive. That is the ultimate sin, the only sin. Yes, there are religious commandments to observe. But the goal of religion remains to cultivate that sense of wonder, awe, and radical amazement.

Omid Safi, The Spirituality of the Ordinary Is Luminous