Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Weeks 39 & 40 and beyond - A Little Help

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love." ~Mother Theresa

One morning last week as Terry, Trooper and I were sitting next to the rain garden, I saw a small, pale green creature struggling to make its way across the grass by our feet. Upon closer examination, I noticed it was a freshly hatched cicada -- its wings weren't even fully unfurled, and seemed to be efforting greatly to find a place to rest. The blades of grass were unyielding until the cicada had climbed up to the very tip, at which point the blade would fold and extend to the next unyielding blades.

"Look how hard he's working," I remarked to Terry. "He looks like he's climbing mountains." I crouched down next to the cicada and extended a tiny stick, which he grasped immediately. The stick provided a bit of a bridge through the grass, aiding its way to where it finally reached its destination -- the leg of Terry's chair.

"You know, they've been doing this for hundreds, possibly thousands of years without our help," Terry said. "It'll be fine."

Indeed it would, and they have, and yet I couldn't help lending a hand -- or more accurately, a stick -- anyway.

In the month or so that has passed since my meditation project officially ended on July 5th, I've been contemplating what the experience has meant for me. Forty weeks of daily meditation. Has my life been transformed, as I had wondered when I began my journey nine months ago?

Perhaps not transformed, but certainly altered. "Transformed" seems so big a word, so full of expectation, so grandiose. Having used that word when I began these forty weeks, I realize I moved into this project with much more expectation than I had originally realized. Maybe it was more a hope I had than an expectation, but it put demands on the outcome just the same. I certainly felt the resistance of those unspoken expectations as I went along. It seems what I'm left with after nine months of daily meditation isn't earth-shattering by any means. And to my surprise, I'm finding this is more than OK. In fact, it's a relief.

I admit to having lived the better part of my forty years putting an extensive amount of pressure on myself for how I should live my life and what I should be when I grow up. Is what I'm doing with my life enough? Big enough, important enough? I'm not a mother or a veterinarian or a business owner or a published novelist or a teacher -- these all feel like appropriately Big Things and I've done none of them. Whatever I'm here to do with my life, shouldn't it be big? Shouldn't everything I do be above and beyond? What am I waiting for?

If my journey with meditation thus far has granted me anything, it is humility. And trust. Suddenly, where I am and who I am is enough. However I choose to live my life, whatever I am moved to do is perfect as it is. After years of feeling I needed to be more or do more, I'm relieved to trust that everything in my life is right on time. Being in the present moment and seeking to savor every little experience isn't necessarily easy, but it's satisfying. I'm content now knowing that a life well-lived doesn't have to be about doing or having everything grand -- small matters. Watching the hummingbirds and chickadees go about their daily tasks outside my window while I write on this endlessly sunny afternoon has me full to brimming. Embracing this moment, I trust that a life well-lived is about loving the life we live and living a life we love.

Assisting a cicada on its journey to someplace dry and stable enough to complete its metamorphosis is a small gesture. As is a pat on the back, a smile or a kind word to a friend in need or the man or woman on the street. It's an acknowledgement of our common source, of what is essential and real, when what is changeable and impermanent falls away. We're all here together as manifestations of this common source on this earthly journey doing the best we can. And sometimes we all could use a little help.

Perhaps meditation is the little stick that has aided me to a safe haven to continue my metamorphosis. It's another tool in my toolbox -- a way to center, to ground, to unwind and certainly to connect. I have come to love how it bookmarks my day as I continue to sit every morning when I wake up and every night before I go to bed. Over the months, my practice has simply evolved into a morning and evening touch point, sitting for 15 minutes or more depending on how I feel and it works for me.

I imagine my practice will continue to grow and change just as I will, little by little, bit by bit, depending on what's required in the moment. It is what it is, as am I, and it appears to be just the help I need.//