The Mystery of Life

Easter is upon us.  Also Passover, Norwuz (Persian New Year),  and the Pagan celebration of Ostara.  And there is the Vernal Equinox and May Day and numerous other ancient traditions for recognizing the end to the dormancy of winter and the renewal of Spring.  The days are longer.  Even in the harshest of climates the temperatures begin to moderate.  New life emerges from the ground.  In this time of changing climate when daily weather details are particularly uncertain, Spring still comes.  The sun descends from our sky every evening and rises above whatever horizon we are able to view every morning.  This is the cycle:  life appears and disappears from our limited view.  We don’t know where life comes from or where it goes.  But we do know that it arises and passes beyond our control.  As George Harrison sang, “Life goes on within you and without you.”  Try as we may to effect the outcome, life does what it wants to do.

Certainly we as a species have improved the human condition.  We have recognized some causes of some diseases and found ways for some of us to survive them.   But new ones arise.  And even though people through the ages have hoped to claim otherwise, we still have no cure for death.  It faces every living creature on earth.  We don’t know why or what it means.  But we do know for sure that it will happen to all of us.  None of us know when or how.  This can be a source of great anxiety.  Or it can be a reminder that the life we are given through no merit or fault of our own is precious.

This past week a dear friend left this life.  He was a large strapping man who seemed to exude life.  Perpetually cheerful and generous he spread joy to all those he encountered.  No one who knew him could imagine him being sick.  Yet his illness came on suddenly and overwhelmed his human body in a very short period of time.  As some of you know I spent last year in treatment for cancer yet, for now at least, I have recovered.  So how does this happen?  Why does one life dissipate when another continues?  It’s not attributable to anything we understand.  Not talent, not genes, not strength or skill or pleading.  I refuse to use the war metaphors of “battle” and “fighting”.  It’s not about that either.  It just happens.   Accidents happen.  Illness happens.  Some bodies succumb; others survive.  Paraphrasing Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Ours not to reason why; ours but to do and die.”

Of course I’m sad for those of us who remain here on earth having to continue to move through our lives without the physical presence of the friend and family member who is no longer with us.  Still I am so grateful to have been a part of his life and to have had him in mine.  At times it can be so difficult to remember to value those around us.  Everyone on this planet is just muddling through.  None of us knows what we’re doing here.  And that goes for every human being of every race, religion, gender or political persuasion in every corner of the earth where we exist.  It never ceases to amaze me how life in general, and people in particular can be found all over the planet in the most astounding circumstances. Once life appears, the instinct to survive is paramount and universal.

There are forces in the universe that we may never understand.  Yet somehow we need to find a way to accept and coexist with these forces as well as with each other.  Even if we somehow manage to tame some of these elements, we can’t make them go away.  We’ve all experienced losses of many types.  We fear disease, disaster and more loss.   The fear drives us to be suspicious of each other in the name of finding safety.  This is an illusion.  We all face the same challenges and mysteries.  But we are also resilient creatures who keep striving to find a way to make what we can work for us.  Maybe we can begin to recognize that same instinct in everyone around us even when the methods look different.  As humans we have an amazing capacity for cooperation.  Times of loss are an especially good time to remember cooperation works so much better than alienation.  Fear won’t save us.  But love can help ease the transitions.  My friend loved and was loved.  A noble legacy.

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Right Now is the Best Time Ever!

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Photo Credit: Foundry Company

If you’re still waiting for that perfect time to start coming to classes, here’s a news flash:  there is no more perfect time than right now.  Many of us keep waiting for changes but do nothing to make that change happen.  For example, if you’re waiting until you are in better shape, but do nothing to improve the shape you’re in then waiting serves no purpose. It just makes time tick past us. Most of us do not have any kind of magic wand that will suddenly endow us with traits we haven’t got.  Also, we cannot go back to a past that might have looked different.  A quote that is often attributed to Albert Einstein goes something like “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting different results”.  Until you take a different approach, nothing is going to change.  Or change may happen but it may not be what you want.  For example, when it comes to movement, the less you move the more difficult movement becomes.  Then all of the consequences of not moving (muscle atrophy, listlessness, difficulty in accomplishing simple tasks) can begin to become evident or, worse, increase.  So the less you move the harder it becomes to move and the more likely you are to suffer associated health consequences.

Overscheduling can also be an impediment.  You think “after this or that event I’ll have more time”.  This, too, is an illusion. It’s easy to fall prey to the perception that you are just too busy to take the time for a class or other exercise.  Among the flaws in that line of thinking is that somehow we forget that each of us only has so much energy to expend in any given day.  Many of us are guilty of expending all of that energy in the service of others.  This is noble, but when we act as if this energy supply is endless we can become depleted, exhausted and maybe even a bit resentful.  We all need to take time to replenish our energy supplies.  As I’ve said in other blog posts, taking time for yourself is equally – if not more! – important than the time you devote to others.  You can’t give what you haven’t got.  Try thinking of your “me” time as a gift you give to those around you.

At some point we all need to face the reality of where we are right now.  This day, this moment.  It may not be ideal, but there is probably more good than bad if you really take the time to think about it.  Maybe a perception adjustment is required. Whatever your current physical condition, if you can move and breathe you may have more capacity than you think you do. Perhaps you will never again ski in the Alps, run a marathon or compete in a gymnastics competition.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t find some kind of exercise that works for you.  Get creative!  Explore some new ideas.  Find out what your friends are doing.  Sometimes we can be so busy focussing on something we think we want that we ignore some of the other ideas that are right in front of us.  And if you’re still worrying that you’ll look funny trying to do something new or different here’s something to consider:  you will probably be anxious if you do nothing so if doing something also makes you anxious then either way you are going to experience anxiety.  Might as well choose the active path.  If you hate it, you can always go back to doing nothing.

And perhaps in the end that’s the most important truth.  Nothing is permanent.  No matter what you choose to do there is no rule that says you have to keep doing it.  You can change at any time.  Trying something doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it forever.  But you will never know your true ability if you don’t try.  With classes I always suggest that you try a few times before you give up.  Practice always makes things more accessible.  But there really are no hard and fast rules.  Just the rules each of us establishes for ourselves.  It helps to remember that those rules are of our own making and we can unmake them any time we want.  We all have the ability to make choices.  It may not always be easy, but it can be done.