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“It’s not happiness that makes us grateful but gratefulness that makes us happy.” – Br. David Steindl Rast

Impermanence Strikes Again + Vulnerable, Tender Hearts

Yesterday I received a text from a dear friend telling me she’d rolled her car twice in a freaky-weather accident. Fortunately she and her fiancé are alive, and while banged up, will heal.

I shared this story with my Women Embodied group on Tuesday as my dear friend is one of our circle, and as I did, I remembered that just about three years ago, a beautiful young woman who was taking one of my Empelvised Embellied Empowered courses was killed in a car accident during the 2nd week of class. She had been the midwife for our son’s homebirth. Her death was a tragic loss.

Yesterday I got an email from a dear friend who is an amazing therapist working in the prairies of central Canada. She emailed inquiring if I had a poem in mind which she might share at a service she was doing for a family whose free-spirited and “kind, kind, kind” 26-year old son had just died of an accidental overdose. The family is devastated.

I found a lovely blessing by John O’Donohue and wept as I typed it to her.

Does this seem heavy?

I don’t share this with the intent to depress you.

It brings sadness, of course.

And yet the other side of that coin is poignant appreciation.

“This ain’t gonna last forever. I better show up!!!”

I wonder if we could let the sobering reality of impermanence wake us up to the wonder of life in this moment?

So precarious.

So precious.

We’ve shared before this lovely inquiry from Stephen Levine which has been a powerful guiding light for me for more than 20 years.

“If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, who would you call and what would you say?

And WHY are you waiting?!”

This morning I’m thinking not only about who I would call and what I would say, but how would I live?

So many people, knowing their time in the body is nearing its end, long for such simple moments.

To appreciate the morning light on the mountains one more time.

To be able to witness those first crocuses and buds of Spring just once more.

To appreciate the steam curling up from a simple cup of tea, the warmth in the hands, the smell….

To hear the unique tenor of a loved one’s voice,

to hold a hand just one more time,

one more embrace….

These ordinary-extraordinary moments are happening all the time.

May we awaken to the potential in each of these moments to soften our hearts, to open us to life.

In one of her poems, Mary Oliver asks a potent question:

Have I experienced joy with sufficient gratitude?

I love this question, and so often, the answer for me is “Nope!”

Growing my capacity for gratitude is a central practice for me these days.

I recall a story shared by Jeremy Hayward, an early student of the incredible Tibetan teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Trungpa had asked Jeremy to give a talk about Tibetan Buddhist meditation and spirituality to a group who was gathered. Jeremy went over the notes for his talk with his teacher before going on stage.

He asked, “Do you think anything is missing?”

Trungpa paused for a moment and said,

“Sadness.”

Pema Chodron writes,

“When we wall ourselves off from uncertainty and fear, Trungpa Rinpoche said that we develop an “iron heart.” When someone develops a true friendship with themselves, the iron heart softens into something else. It becomes a vulnerable heart, a tender heart. It becomes a genuine heart of sadness, because it is a heart that is willing to be touched by pain and remain present.”

May we develop true friendship with ourselves.

May our iron hearts soften into true hearts, vulnerable, tender hearts, willing to be touched by real life, in all its pain and all its incredible beauty, in all our ordinary and extraordinary moments.

We are so fortunate to be alive.

In the deserts of the heart

Let the healing fountain start,

In the prison of his days

Teach the free man how to praise.

– an excerpt of a poem by W.H. Auden

With love,

and tenderness,

and praise!!!

Erin

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