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

The Wonderous Journeys Still to be Ours…

A note from Carl:

Yesterday, I was out in a rainstorm – probably one of the most intense downpours I have ever experienced. As the rain began, I noticed a kind of reflex to to brace, to protect myself, to want to run from the trail we were on to the protection of the car.

There is a wonderful scene from the movie Instinct, where Anthony Hopkins plays a passionate anthropologist who comes to live with a group of apes. In the midst of a rainstorm, Hopkins’ character is huddled in his rain coat and hat, wincing, frowning, bracing against the downpour, and he looks around to the apes with whom he lives and sees them grooming each other, playing, splashing, and smiling with no sense of wincing against the reality of the rain. Slowly, he lets his brow soften, his spine uncurl, and as he opens to the direct experience of rain, he begins to laugh and dance in a kind of ecstatic joy.

I flashed on this scene as the deluge increased and noticed, “Where am I bracing against this experience? How am I making this a problem?”

Here I was on this trail with Mesa and our dear friends Matt, Sorelle and Paprika, and we were under buckets of rain. As I opened to it, the experience shifted from “We should have turned back sooner to get to the car before the rain started,” to this amazing miracle of splashing and soaking and laughing and running.

There are so many things in life that, like the rain, I brace against before I actually experience them. Then what I tend to feel is my bracing more than the thing itself. Rain, felt through my resistance to it, feels very different than simple rain.

Last week, Erin wrote about maitri, this capacity to greet our experience with warmth and welcoming. Is it possible to greet rain, or back pain, or a tantruming four year old, or a challenging relationship dynamic, or whatever is showing up on the radar of our experience with warmth and curiosity? In my experience, anything that I greet in this way becomes much more workable.

Eugene Gendlin, the creator of Focusing, speaks to this:

“What is true is already so.
Owning up to it doesn’t make it worse.
Not being open about it doesn’t make it go away.
And because it’s true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
People can stand what is true, for they are already enduring it.”

– Eugene T. Gendlin, Focusing

We are both looking forward to our upcoming class: Living an Embodied Life: Maitri, Presence & The Power of Pausing, exploring how to bring this quality of welcoming more fully into our lives, into how we move and how we live. There are still a few spaces if you would like to join us.

Here’s a little Mary Oliver take on the rain…

Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying

what joy
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud,
to be happy again

in a new way
on the earth!
That’s what it said
as it dropped,

smelling of iron,
and vanished
like a dream of the ocean
into the branches

and the grass below.
Then it was over.
The sky cleared.
I was standing

under a tree.
The tree was a tree
with happy leaves,
and I was myself,

and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves
at the moment,
at which moment

my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars

and the soft rain-
imagine! imagine!
the long and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.

Mary Oliver, “What Do We Know: Poems and Prose Poems”

Wishing you well,
Carl

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