“Be strong then, and enter into your own body;
there you have a solid place for your feet.
Think about it carefully!
Don’t go off somewhere else!
… just throw away all thoughts of
and stand firm in that which you are.”-Kabir
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is stand firm. This has been a challenge for me recently. I have been learning how to listen to my heart instead of simply my head, learning how to accept and honor my own needs without feeling obligated to explain or justify them to anyone else, learning to say “no” to stepping off center because of “shoulds” or guilt, and to stand firm in my own sense of integrity.
I had a real physical sense of how this feels in a yoga class the other day. We were doing “chair” pose – which involves bending your knees with your weight on your heels and sitting back as if in a chair, with your thighs as parallel to the floor as possible and your arms stretched out. The only way to maintain balance in that pose is to keep your weight centered and to stand firm – even though you are “sitting.” I used to hate that pose but as I came to understand it as a practice for standing firm and being grounded in my own sense of self, I have come to love it.
Are you standing firm in your own integrity or are you allowing yourself to step off center?
Within seven weeks almost to the day that my father passed away last November, my mother followed. In some ways it was a surprise, and in other ways, it made complete sense. They were both 91 years old and had been married 62 years. An image that remains ingrained in my mind is a time after I had taken them to dinner and was driving them home. The weather was nice, so instead of dropping them in front of their house, they asked to be let out at the corner to walk the rest of the way home. They exited the car and I watched as my father gently took my mother’s hand and they walked slowly together up the slight incline of the block to their house; she walking with the aid of a cane and he, always a fast walker, slowing down to keep pace with her.
For the past two months, I have been going through their belongings and papers and yesterday, my brother and I, with significant help, emptied much of their home to get it ready to go on the market. Today is probably the first day that the grief hit me hard. There has been so much to do since they each passed, there has been barely any time to be and to feel and to reflect. Now that my parents have made their transition, I am left face-to-face with my own mortality and a realization that there are certain questions that will now remain forever unanswered because there is no one alive who can answer them. I keep finding myself thinking of asking one of them something only to realize, yet again, that neither of them is there to answer my question.
Nonetheless, my parents left a clear legacy. They left a legacy in the way they lived their lives; from the community activities, organizing, and demonstrating they engaged in (my mother was involved in Women’s Strike for Peace, an organization created in the 60’s in opposition to nuclear weapons and war, and both were involved in early work with the NAACP, the Vietnam Anti-War movement and other political activism), to the books they read, to the friends they had (their friends included a man who was a member of the Lincoln Brigade who went to Spain in the 1930’s to fight fascism), to the values they held and passed on to us (most importantly, the responsibility to leave the world a better place).
They left a clear legacy in other ways as well. My mother, whom everyone at their joint memorial described as “stylish,” and who was a gifted artist, left her sense of style and artistic talent to my daughter. My father had served in the Army Infantry in WW II. I was delighted and proud to give the medals he earned to my son who recently joined the Army Reserves.
It’s daunting to realize that my brother and I are now the repository of the family history and it is up to us to leave a legacy. What legacy do you want to leave?
Barn’s burnt down
Barn’s burnt down –
I can see the moon.
- Mizuta Masahide
The end of the year is a great time to take stock of all there is to be grateful for – the people in our lives, the experiences we have had, the learning we have gained, and the times we have laughed. Even if it’s been a challenging year, we can be grateful that we can now see the moon. What is the new moon that is now in your sight?
Wishing you joy, peace and blessings for the New Year.
“Your mind is like water.
In whatever cup you put water,
that water assumes the shape of that cup.
In the same way, in whatever thought you engage your mind.
your mind becomes like that.”
-His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
What are the thoughts in which you are engaging your mind? Are they limiting and narrow or expansive and open? Allow your thoughts to focus on your dreams rather than your fears and you will be amazed at the opportunities that open for you.
A few years ago, I told myself that I wanted to do international consulting. I went further and told myself, “I am an international consultant.” Within months, opportunities to work abroad came in front of me and since that time I have co-facilitated workshops on Creative Approaches to Leadership in both India and Singapore and am in the stages of planning regular trips to Singapore to co-present this and other workshops.
Open your mind and the opportunities will flow in. If you feel you are not living into your full potential and would like coaching on how to live a fuller, more expansive life, click here.
I Would Not Be Remembered to the Sun
“I would with memory in befriending lips,
Fond lips that loved with love to speak my name.
May they speak pledge to immortality,
May they speak quietly my name to fame.”
- Kenneth Benne
My 91 year-old father passed away in his sleep last week. He had been battling cancer and was ready, in fact anxious, to leave this world. Even though his passing was expected, it nonetheless had a great impact on me. Having sat vigil by his bedside for almost a week and watching his body deteriorate was in itself exhausting, challenging and enormously painful. Becoming the caretaker of my father as he became unable to take care of himself was a life-changing experience. It was painful to watch him struggle and to know how difficult it was for him to allow others to take care of him. And, it brought me face-to-face with the inevitability of my own physical decline and mortality. I am comforted knowing that as long as my father’s memory rests with my family and me, he remains immortal.