This is the last page from my day planner thing, inviting me to reflect on the last year and reset for the coming year. You can see I wrote in big letters WAITING & Advent on the top. This is the season of the church year that we are in currently; advent. Advent is about waiting for Jesus to be born, the light to shine in the darkness, the world to change. You count the days until it comes. I don’t have the greatest memory. It is really tough for me to peel back through memories of the past year and reflect on what it has been for me. Advent makes more sense, regardless of the season because I tend to be thinking about what is to come and not so much what has been. If you ask me what happened last week, it is really a mental challenge for me to remember anything. I like to joke that my horrible memory is from living So Fully In the Present! moment, but I don’t think that is true.
When I do take time to reflect back the things closest to the surface are regrets, heartache, questions, loose ends. A couple months ago we – I – adopted a dog from the local shelter. I have wanted to get another dog for quite a while. My beloved dog, Rita, died last January, and when I started to feel ready to have another dog, I wanted it to happen immediately. I knew my husband wasn’t ready. He wanted to wait until he had time to fix the backyard fence, be part of choosing the dog and I wasn’t willing to wait. I wore him down with conversation about getting a dog, sprinkled with laser focused words about how long he has been working on this @#!$% house. I knew just the button to push. It took me approximately 3 nanoseconds to get online & find what seemed a perfect dog for our family.
I’m going to cut to the chase here and tell you that this dog was not the perfect dog for our family. It was a perfect opportunity to get eyeball to eyeball with all that is vulnerable and on the edge of imploding in my mental health. So, the reality of this not being the right dog for us got all wound up in barbed wire feelings of shame for disregarding my husband, my impatience and lack of impulse control, and insecurities about taking care of a living thing, in general. I felt so much complicated grief & guilt for adopting a dog and then having to give him back. I wondered what I could have done differently to make it work. Maybe if I didn’t have such a trigger-happy temper? Maybe if our kids weren’t so rambunctious?
When we first got the dog I posted a picture on Facebook, bursting with enthusiasm, joy, and the blind assumption that this was going to be The Best Thing Ever. This post right here is the first I am talking about what happened in the end. I don’t want to post a picture of all the dog stuff I purchased, sitting in a huge pile in the corner of our basement, but it feels like it would be a whole lot more honest than the very intentional silence I have kept.
I know there are other stories/moments/days/weeks of the last year that would bubble to the surface of my mind if I tried a little harder. I’m sure some of them would be wonderful & full of gratitude, love, and laughter. And then there are others that you just don’t even want to remember enough to write it down. This page staring at me to reflect back on the last year & reset for the year to come, oooof; don’t want to do it.
I’m reading a book right now called “Writing Hard Stories; Celebrated Memoirists Who Shaped Art From Trauma” by Melanie Brooks. The author interviews 18 writers who wrote their hard story down. The chapters read like eavesdropping on an intimate conversation about the unique work of telling That Story; reflecting back on a hard, confusing, and maybe forever-painful time in life. I checked it out from the library and am really struggling to not fold over every page, underline, circle, and draw hearts all over. It is beautiful and comforting and so dang ummmmmm – what is the word – connecting? I feel connected to these writers through the authentic expression of grief, regret, shame, uncertainty, love, newness, heartache — the human experience. In one chapter the writer Mark Doty is talking about the hundreds of letters he received in response to his book about his partners death, who had AIDS. But people wrote about the death of loved ones that were in no way like the death he wrote about. But, they felt that common humanity, solidarity, companionship. And Doty’s feeling about those letters he’s received;
“This is heaven in a way, because it’s an antidote to isolation.”
I’m not sure that we are all called to write a memoir and have it published, but reading about their faithful work of honest reflection has been inspiring to me to take some time with myself. I at least want to feel connected with myself and recognize the unexpected, unpredictable journey that has been.
What does this all have to do with yoga?
Namaste is the Meditation Mantra of the Month. I think most people associate the word Namaste with yoga but in weird images of young women in poses of extreme flexibility and always yoga pants that are painted-on-tight (on a mountain top or a deserted island). Namaste is a greeting, recognizing the sacred mystery in the other and yourself. You are a sacred mystery. I am a sacred mystery. Sacred. Mystery. All of life is a Sacred Mystery. (So, what are some other images of namaste?)
It is nearing the end of the year and it is a really natural time to reflect back. It is almost the start of the new year and is a really natural time to look ahead. What if we muttered “namaste” to ourselves while doing the good work of reflecting on the past and resetting for the future. What if our mind was tethered to the recognition of life as a Sacred Mystery? Who knows.
And of course the next Daily Bread Yoga Saturday Morning Retreat is a perfect opportunity to do that! What luck?! What fortune?! The theme is “The Yoga of Decisions and Unanswered Questions”. I make no promises that you will make any decisions or answer any questions, okay? It’s all practice, right? It is Saturday, Dec. 29th, 9a.m.-noon at Philo Presbyterian Church. The cost is $30 if that works for you. Beginners are always welcome. Retreats are most appropriate for people who can get up and down from the floor with relative ease. Please let me know you are coming (and how many friends you are bringing!) by emailing me at email@example.com. And tell me sooner than later, eh?
Peace on your sacred mystery of a noggin,