This quote by Alice Walker reached deeply into my reading, bleeding heart last night. It is stunning in its simplicity and truth.
“To acknowledge our ancestors means we are aware that we did not make ourselves, that the line stretches all the way back, perhaps to God; or to Gods. We remember them because it is an easy thing to forget: that we are not the first to suffer, rebel, fight, love and die. The grace with which we embrace life, in spite of the pain, the sorrow, is always a measure of what has gone before. “
This morning a woman I admire suggested that friends listen to an interview with Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hanh is a gentle spirit with a clear message about living compassionately and mindfully. His words gave me pause as I consider how my days at home are not spent mindfully, but are filled with conversation, laundry and and dust kicked up from a kitchen remodel. One of my challenges is to live in the moment, regardless of whether that moment is a good one. According to Hanh, the moment in which you are actually living right now is the most critical moment, and not a minute earlier or a minute later.
The other thing that struck me about Hanh’s message relates to self-compassion. A few years ago I took a nine-week course on mindfulness meditation. I completed the class at 38 weeks pregnant, and because it also included some gentle yoga and movement, it was quite a wonderful way to experience those otherwise painful and difficult final weeks of my pregnancy.
I remember feeling frustrated by the tremendous pain in my swollen hands that kept me up throughout the night. I was anxious to deliver a healthy baby and grow my little family and fit back into my non-maternity jeans and quite frankly, I was sick of living in the moment. But while I waited for baby boy # 2 to arrive, I practiced some self-care to keep myself from leaping off the ledge.
Reflecting on Walker’s words, it is often unfathomable what happens in a year’s time, or in a lifetime.
I am captivated with this idea that the grace with which we embrace life, in spite of the pain, the sorrow, is always a measure of what has gone before. To me this means that we can live in the moment but do so knowing that what had gone before us will always remain with us.
I took the mindfulness course in an attempt to feel more peaceful and learn about self-care. The women in the class were of all ages, experiences and ethnicities. I remember listening to their stories in a focused way, an approach that Hanh describes as “deep listening”.
During this time in my life, I wasn’t sleeping much, but finding silence at the end of the day was paramount.
I wasn’t blogging, but I did write in a journal.
I wasn’t running, but I chased a two-year-old around when I wasn’t at the office.
I wasn’t drinking, but I discovered how much I like plain sparkling water, and
I wasn’t crying as often as I did during pregnancy # 1, which was truly an experience of both great joy and crushing loss.
Today, no longer weighed down (or lifted up!) by an unborn child, I still appreciate a good reminder of the importance of self-care. I cannot promise not to raise my voice the next time my boys are squabbling, but I will remember to be in the moment, right then, in the there, in the now that is who we are and not necessarily who we will become.
This morning I snapped a photo of a sunflower that is slowly unfurling its petals. Capturing the moment in which a living thing, grown from seed tucked into the earth by my mother in April, and sharing that image with you today, is part of my self-care. I will feed, water, and grow my soul by being kind to those around me and being in the moment more often. At least, I intend to try.
You can watch the final three minutes of the interview with Thich Nhat Hanh by clicking HERE.