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

Is Your Body too Small for You?

Good morning!

I just came downstairs from my meditation cushion with a thought/insight/remembrance that I want to share with you.
My body is too small for me.

And my guess is your body is too small for you too.

Here’s some food for thought from two wonderful teachers:

“In both Western and Tibetan cultures, having a big heart is associated with generosity, kindness, warmth and compassion. In Tibetan culture, a person with a big heart is also someone with the ability and courage to hold even the most painful truths in his or her heart without becoming despondent. During difficult times my mother used to say,
“You need to make your heart big enough to hold a horse race inside.”

– Dzigar Kongtrul from “It’s Up to You.

And from Pema Chodron comes this reminder:

“Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. On the other hand, wretchedness–life’s painful aspect–softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.”

When my identity becomes limited to this body and this identity as “Erin,” when I forget that my heart-mind is big enough to hold a horse race, it’s just too painful to take in the awfulness of something like the bombing in Boston. And I can hardly bear the beauty of the world – of these fleeting moments with my gorgeous and rapidly changing son, (turning three next week!!!) or the miracle of spring blossoming all around me.

Can I share with you an essential practice from our dear friend and teacher Russell Delman? This is one he calls “Ground, Sound, Breath.”

1. Find in this very moment your connection with the ground. Whether this is through your feet if you’re standing, your butt if you’re sitting, or some other part of you if you’re lying down, intimately feel your connection with the ground and consciously allow yourself to be supported. This is not an idea, it’s an invitation to an experience. Can you drop in?

2. Next, while sensing this ground of support beneath you, open to the experience of sound. Here’s something Russell wrote about the experience you can access through sound:

“Pause for a moment and listen to the silence that lives behind and within any sounds that are present. Even amidst great noise, we can intuit the silence that makes the sound possible. Listen softly, diffuse in attention, not in a focused way. We are always in the atmosphere of silence, that great canvas upon which the world of sound paints. The next moment will bring unexpected, unanticipated, uncontrolled sound. This is the infinite potential of the present moment: always fresh, always unique always new.”

3. Finally, adding to your experience of ground and sound, sense your breath. Specifically, be with 3 breaths from the beginning to the little pause that comes at the end of each exhale. In that pause, you’ll find space. Spaciousness. And rest. Just 3 breaths infused with awareness. Being with your own aliveness – right now.

Doing Ground Sound Breath right now, I’m reminded of a line from a Rumi poem Carl shared last week.

This we have now
is not imagination.
This is not grief,
or joy, not a judging state,
or an elation, or a sadness.
Those come and go.
This is the presence
that doesn’t.

When I relax and let myself expand into that vast presence that doesn’t change – there’s enough room for it all.

When I’m just in my body – it’s too small. I can’t take it.

But when I remember I can expand into that openness, I find there really is room for it all…

For Boston – the sick-to-my-stomach feeling mixed with heart-wrenching care for the people whose lives were altered at the marathon in ways I can hardly imagine – limbs or loved ones suddenly lost.

I come back to sensing ground, sound/silence and a deep breath…..

And there’s room for the beauty of the spring blossoms and that singing robin outside my office this morning. And for the bright-eyed face of my sweet little boy who is soon to wake and greet me. When I’m limited to my small self, truly, I can hardly bear his beauty – it’s painful.

That’s what’s here for me this morning.

That, and this glorious poem from Mary Oliver.

Thank you, Mary.

More Honey Locust

Any day now
the branches
of the honey locust
will be filled
with white fountains;
in my hands
I will see
the holy seeds
and a sweetness
will rise up
from those petal-bundles
so heavy
I must close my eyes
to take it in,
to bear
such generosity….
I hope that you too
know the honey locust,
the fragrance
of those fountains;
and I hope that you too will pause
to admire the slender trunk,
the leaves, the holy seeds,
the ground they grow from
year after year
with striving and patience;
and I hope that you too
will say a word of thanks
for such creation out of the wholesome earth,
which would be,
and dearly is it needed,
a prayer for all of us.

Wishing you a wonderful day, with room for it all and abundant words of thanks – prayers for all of us.

~Erin

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