Some of the yoga traditions that include a guru lineage believe that a guru can transmit grace (whatever that might mean) through their presence or touch. Back in the days when I was doing my first yoga teacher training, a fellow student asked me whether I had ever received shaktipat? My answer was yes–when I’d had the opportunity to shake hands with William Brennan. He’s not a guru, my fellow student objected. But he is a being of extraordinary grace, power, and intelligence who has devoted himself to the service of our collective well-being and my being in his presence inspires me to show my best light; isn’t that what’s supposed to happen with shaktipat? I don’t think she was ever fully persuaded by my unorthodox reading, but I had no need to persuade.
I found myself thinking about that discussion today, having gotten to shake John Lewis’s hand when he walked through the crowd to speak at day 2 of the people’s filibuster for health care. In the presence of his inspiration, I am compelled to figure out what more can I be doing.
I was busy enough with work today, that I was able to just concentrate. Later, when I had a chance to read the latest political news and to take a walk in the May-like day with flowers blooming as if it were weeks later in the year and the ground dry from lack of rain while others are being flooded, I found myself anxious and a welter of other emotions besides. I reminded myself to enjoy the beautiful day for what it was and asked myself what more now ought I to do?
On my way home from work, I heard the sounds of a crowd at the Capitol. I joined in to listen (Elizabeth Warren spoke shortly after I arrived) and chanted with my fellow citizens–the chant not “om mani pedme hung” nor “om mane padme hum,” but on this particular night, with this particular crowd, addressing this particular issue, “one more vote.”
Being out here over and over again regardless of hope of the immediate outcome being effectively influenced is a variation on tapas, on sadhana, on seva, on faith put into practice.
It seems that this monk and I are being drawn to the same places this week, though I am guessing our days are pretty different.
I was volunteering today at William Penn House, which was providing a comfort station for marchers during the day, as well as being full to capacity with guests.
I was doing some work in the office when a woman who looked about my age came who was in town with a group of women from Long Island for the March.
She came in to William Penn House for a bathroom, not because of any connection to Quakers or the house. But while she was waiting in line for the bathroom she ended up in conversation with the executive director, who said that the board member volunteering downstairs was also from Long Island–perhaps she knew me. It turns out that we went to the same elementary school and lived near enough to each other that we rode the same school bus.
It is just one of the reminders I’ve had this weekend of how connected we are.
These workers were caulking the fifth floor windows of my building today. It was snowing. (the flakes were too fine to show up in the photograph.) I wish them (and will donate money and sign petitions, write letters, etc to back up my wishes for all workers) health care, child care, retirement benefits, and a safe (as it can be) job free from discrimination, harassment, and wage theft.
Yesterday, the first of the year, I pulled off the shelf and opened at random Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird.” I’d found it used some time ago and was interested, but other things got ahead of it on my reading pile. The page to which I opened seems highly topical for what is coming this year:
For instance, I used to think that paired opposites were a given, that love was the opposite of hate, right the opposite of wrong. But now I think we sometimes buy into these concepts because it is so much easier to embrace absolutes than to suffer reality. I don’t think anything is the opposite of love. Reality is unforgivingly complex.
May we find enough love to suffer well the complexities to come this year. For me, I know that deepening and recommitting to my practice will help me find what more I can offer.