We can live any way we want. People take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience – even of silence – by choice. The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse. This is yielding, not fighting.
~ Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk
The gap between compassion and surrender is love’s darkest, deepest region.
~ Orhan Pamuk, The Museum of Innocence
Opening Our Heart
The true meaning of opening our heart is that we no longer have fear of losing anything. It is a form of surrender, yet such surrender has no object. It is not like we are surrendering to something. What we surrender are our hopes and fears, and an investment in our misery. When we have reached the final point of that surrender there is nothing that we want to hold on to.
~ Anam Thubten, The Magic of Awareness
I keep trying to find words about words. That seems silly, doesn’t it? What I’m really searching for are words about one word: my word for this year. Surrender. The act of yielding. To give back, render again, restore. To give up the ego’s insistence on control and let go, give over, offer up.
I keep coming back to the Serenity Prayer. Most of us are familiar with the short version, but it was originally longer. People tend to change it around to suit their own beliefs. This is one version of it:
Grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace,
Taking this world as it is,
Not as I would have it.
Trusting that Spirit will make all things right
If I surrender to Spirit’s will
That I may be reasonably happy in this life.
You can find the original here, if you’re interested. The version above takes out the words for God and Jesus, who were originally part of the prayer.
I keep a little journal of quotes and such that apply to my word/theme for the year. It’s no surprise to find that most of what I collected over this past year are prayers. Prayer, I think, might be one form of surrender. Prayer as offering, not prayer as bargaining. Although, I suppose it could be said that prayer as bargaining might be a type of surrender, too. A giving up of something for something in exchange. Quid pro quo.
For most of my life I was uncomfortable with prayers and even the very word “prayer.” Baggage from childhood, dragged around throughout life, went mostly unexamined until recently. Perhaps that was part of what the word surrender did for me (to me). It allowed me to see what it was I lugging around with me.
that gives me breath,
that pumps my blood,
that spins these stars,
that dreams this dream,
that sings this love,
may thy will be done —
may thine and mine be one.
And still, I want to use the words of others. I find it nearly impossible to wrap up this word in a neat package and say, “This. This is what surrender meant to me.” An attempt looks like this: Surrender was a falling down, an expression of deep grief. Surrender was a rising up, an expression of deep joy. Surrender was a leaning in and a feeling of something leaning back. Surrender was a willingness to listen, a willingness to be, a willingness to let go of the wheel when it needed to be let go of, or a willingness to hold on when I needed to hold on and trust I was steering in the right direction. Surrender, in short, was willingness. It was trust, faith, and sometimes, it was all I had in the sense that there was nothing else left to do.
Surrender was an extension of previous words from the past four years. Those words were Lovingkindness, Love, Faith, and Listening. Surrender was, like it or not (and believe me, there were times I didn’t like it), probably the best word for me during this pandemic year.
I don’t yet know what my word for next year will be. I still have a little over a week to work it out or figure it out or let it find me. The word Bones keeps coming up. What an odd word, don’t you think? And yet, it keeps appearing in stories or while I’m out hiking. The last couple of times I’ve been hiking in the backcountry of Assateague, I have come across bones. Just yesterday, while following a horse or deer trail in an area I’ve never explored before, I found the skeleton of a deer surprisingly intact. I find bones here, in our woods or on the meadow paths. Sitting on the dock the other day, I spotted bones on the shoreline at low tide.
This is the time of year in which the trees, bared of their leaves, show their bones. There are also the bones of the dead and dying trees, particularly the loblolly pines that are under attack by insects. In our woods, out on Assateague Island, and all around this area, more of the trees stand stripped of their life, girdled by pine bark beetles. Those that can no longer stand eventually fall after first dropping all of their branches and most of their bark.
I find myself thinking about the story of La Loba Singing Over the Bones, from Clarissa Pinkola Estes book Women Who Run With the Wolves. I read it (book and story) so long ago that it feels like another lifetime. In this current lifetime of viruses and insane politics, I came across the story online and once again read about the woman who has many names, who lives in hidden places, who collects bones, particularly the bones of things in danger of being lost to the world.
I wonder if the story comes to mind because of all the singing and chanting I’ve been doing lately as part of what we’re learning in Gita/Yoga class. When I walk and hike, I practice. I sing the snippet of a hymn my teacher gave me (“All I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you”). I sing it to the trees, to the wind, to the sun. Sometimes, after I sing it, the trees, the wind, the sun, or something within me, sings it back to me. I sing the chants we’re learning, chants to the light as something big and abstract, to the light within our own hearts, to the light out in the world in the faces of children or activists or or pets or nature or slipping below the horizon in the evening.
I think that’s about enough from me on this rather cloudy Saturday. The sun peeks out every now and then, but there is a chance of rain this evening. Let’s see how it goes. If it looks good, I’ll meet you at the Point. Sunset is scheduled for 4:43 PM. (Doesn’t it seem as if it’s been stuck at 4:43 PM for the past few days?) It’s relatively warm (60’s). A light jacket, sweater, or sweatshirt ought to suffice.
Please be safe, be well, and be kind. ♥♥♥
A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy: 1,641) Shapes in the clouds. 1,642) Foam that looks like icebergs floating on the surface of the water. 1,643) Doodling. I received a Zentangle book for my birthday and I’ve been playing around with Zentangling. I specifically asked for this book so that I could learn a bit more about shading and filling in the mandalas I draw. 1,644) Spending the day hiking around in the backcountry on Assateague yesterday. The horses didn’t show up out there, but I did see them near the kayak and canoe rental place by the bay on my way out. 1,645) The cleaning and decluttering for the Holy project that Kathy inspired me to join. It feels good to be letting go of some things, organizing other things, and getting the house cleaned up.