By Mary Boutieller
The interesting and challenging thing about life is that, like reading a really good mystery novel, we never know what’s going to happen next.
As I sit and wait for something to arise, I find myself staring at a decoupage elephant that hangs on my wall. It was one of my first “big” craft projects, completed when I finally had the confidence to just do something without worrying about the outcome. When it was first done, it was bright and vibrant, with subtle yet significant things purposely placed throughout its colorful body. Now as I look at it, it has faded in so many places from hanging in a particularly sunny spot. Oddly though, much like the Velveteen Rabbit, it feels old and wise and loved just the same, as if time has only made it more worthy of being there.
Much in life is like that. Maybe it’s a beloved and threadbare shirt that should have been tossed years ago, or an old treasure or a remembered place. Maybe it’s us. We start out shiny and new, full of energy and life and potential and possibility, and then we get a bit older. Maybe we lose some of our external allure, get a little wrinkly. Our outer skin softens and burrows with lines of wisdom and, hopefully, laughter, as our internal world gets deeper, wiser, more real. The expansion and contraction of our lives happens on purpose and doesn’t usually stop, unless we allow it.
Rumi wrote about it beautifully when he said, “Your hand opens and closes, and opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding—the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as a bird’s wings.”
Lately, I’ve been feeling this more as I tend to a loved one who is ill. There are times when I feel such sadness and grace and opening, yet there are other times when I want to ignore it all and move about my life as if nothing is happening. It’s a tricky thing, knowing that life moves along no matter what is happening in our individual lives. And like a safety valve that lets off steam so that it doesn’t explode, I find myself looking for ways to let go of some of the self-imposed pressure—walking, yoga, friends, dinner out…ordinary things…so that I might find the necessary balance between two seemingly opposite realities.
Life is truly an amazing gift. And the interesting and challenging thing about life is that, like reading a really good mystery novel, we never know what’s going to happen next. Unexpected things, both good and bad (if we were to judge them as such) can occur when we least expect them. And as Rumi seems to allude to, we can take this knowledge and contract fully, living frightened, postage-stamp sized lives, or we can allow our breath to take us ever so willingly into the up and down, in and out, contracting and expanding flow of life.
Artist Ann Hamilton said, “Not knowing is a permissive and rigorous willingness to trust, leaving knowing in suspension, trusting in possibility without result, regarding as possible all manner of response.”
Scary stuff, not knowing—yet we continue on hoping we know enough to find our way through the not knowing. And as we tend to those who need our care, we gain so much more. We gain resonance and compassion and an understanding of what is truly important in life—that of loving another and being willing to go with them on their journey. We get to face our own fears and questions and inadequacies. And, if we are wise, we tend to ourselves as well. We find others who are willing to help if we would only allow it. We find a depth of experience and wisdom already in place. We allow a friend’s deep and intentional hug, another’s phone call, a simple smile or email or card. We allow love.
Alan Cohen said, “The deepest purpose of our life is to rip the mask off of fear to reveal the love it hides.”
And as a lighted sign on a fence in my neighborhood announces:
“Love is Everything.”
What more do we really need to know?
Mary Boutieller is a Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance. She has been teaching yoga since 2005. Her work experience includes 22 years as a firefighter/paramedic and 10 years as a Licensed Massage Therapist. Mary’s knowledge and experience give her a well-rounded understanding of anatomy, alignment, health and movement in the body. She is passionate about the benefits of yoga and the ability to heal at all levels through awareness, compassion, and a willingness to explore. She can be reached at: SimplyogaOm@gmail.com.