My dear friend,
The stage in your life that you are now going through seems wonderful. Despite the unavoidable transition and the sentiments evoked, I sense a return to the basics in you. There is less movement, less noise, and fewer extraneous demands all around. When you bask in the present moment, everything important in life takes on new meaning. Also, when you don’t look for a particular outcome, you can be available for what each day brings. This sounds a bit like what I shared in my previous letter.
Human beings pass through so many stations in the course of their lives. There are moments when we have the impression that an outside force is pushing us to be everywhere at once: providing for the kids, taking care of work, looking after aging parents, helping out a brother or sister with problems, or helping a friend who feels the chaos or emptiness of life. There are so many calls to respond to at once, yet physically we can only be in one place at a time. When these moments arrive, the heart is caught between the desire to help and the weight of reality and its limits. At times we feel guilty or sad. We really want to “do” more. And the funny thing is, the more the pressure we feel the more we try to do. We reorganize our lives so as to fit yet more in, or at least that’s what we think. Often, we take on more responsibilities but leave less life for ourselves.
From where you are, I see that life’s reality is taking you back to the basics. It’s as if human beings, in order to become more humble regarding their place in the universe, require a few lessons. There are small lessons in our daily conflicts: the misunderstandings between colleagues, the unforeseen that jostles our routine professionally or personally, and every so often those little reminders that teach us to let go. Often we are unseeing and pushed forward by our aggressive impulses, captive to our desire to determine life’s course, rather than welcome and listen to what it has to teach us. Then there are those big lessons—disease, the death of a dear one, separation, depression, head-on blows or I should say “blows to the heart”—that throw us to the ground and immobilize us so that at last we are forced to listen to the one who stands on that island within.
Louis, I arranged the space in my home that we talked about. It is intimate and not ostentatious.
I chose a small room. In the middle is a therapeutic bath. I also put in an ergonomic chair. The floor is pine. The walls are ochre. There is a small table with an Italian marble top laced with gold. I draped it with a bit of cream-colored raw silk. And I placed on it two copper candlesticks with beeswax candles and a small carved wooden incense holder. On the wall I hung a reproduction of a beautiful icon painted by Michelangelo. I should mention that women and mothers are sacred to me. This image reminds me who I am.
There is a large window facing east where the sun rises. Everything has its place and its meaning for me. The space is simple and symbolic. Every morning I begin my day in this place. I have created an obligatory ritual for myself. I awake around 5:30 a.m. and sit for ten minutes in my chair facing the window. I take a sun or light bath depending on the day. Then for ten minutes I bathe myself with a combination of chromatherapy and massage. I then move the chair back to my marble table, I light the candles and pure incense, and I lie down for at least fifteen minutes in a state of contemplation. I try to silence the goings-on in my mind. Some mornings I succeed better than others, but I try not to judge myself in terms of performance. I simply desire to be open to my state of mind at that moment. I take notice of all my senses and I thank this body of mine for the experiences it will allow me over the course of the day.
At first this way of doing things seemed so demanding, but now I can’t do without it. If I miss my ritual, then it affects me and my energy immediately and for the rest of the day. After my ritual I feel less scattered. I still do many things but I choose what to do with discernment. Strangely, my feelings of impotence and guilt are greatly diminished. Even if I can’t be everywhere at once, I feel a more intense sense of connection to those who cross my path, as if I continue to give to them, but in a different way. I will talk to you more about this inner change in our next correspondence.
This time I will finish by relating the following story. When I started my rituals the kids laughed at me, of course. They said if I wanted to become a nun I had really missed my calling and that it was too late. But lo and behold my little Rose comes by more and more often to find me in this place. She comes with Jules (her teddy bear), all groggy around 6 a.m., climbs up, and doesn’t say a word. What’s unbelievable is that her behavior is becoming more and more amazing. Sometimes while we are on our way to daycare, she points out things in nature and says, “Mommy, look how beautiful that is!” She never did that before.
Yesterday around 4 p.m. I caught my 16-year-old son sitting in my chair facing the window. I passed by without making noise because I thought he would flee... I can’t wait to see what’s next. I realize this space is increasingly both an invitation and a refuge. I would have wanted to explain to my kids the importance of their inner lives and they would have politely listened while waiting to return to their video games. This place has done something that I could not. Its mere presence, without the need for a stultifying rational explanation, embodies peace. It’s a wonder to behold.
Well enough for now! With love and a promise to reveal more next time, may the joy within me resonate all the way to you!