We keep getting blasted!
The sun is shining; the sky is blue as ever, but a life-storm keeps knocking my little family around.
Car breaks down!
Insurance rate triples!
Freelance work slows!
It reminds me of that classic board game, Payday, where game pieces move around a calendar month and players keep drawing mail cards. Some are bills, some are postcards and some are checks. I keep waiting for our windfall, but it feel like we’re stuck in a bad luck rut.
Yet the world outside is stunningly beautiful, and despite these massive hard-knocks, the world inside my heart is stunningly beautiful too. I’m not sad. I’m not terribly worried. I’m not seething with anger.
Honestly, that’s how I feel. I am biding my time for the storm to clear. I am awaiting tremendous good fortune. I am confident that somehow it will arrive. It feels like its on the way. It will be such a wonderful surprise to see how everything works out in the end.
I’m an eternal optimist.
In college I had a friend who labeled herself an optimistic pessimist.
“What’s does that mean,” I asked.
“I always hope things will get better,” she said, then added with a sly grin, “But I know they won’t.”
I laughed and furrowed my brow. I was going through what I now refer to as My Dark Time.
“I guess I’m a pessimistic optimist,” I hypothesized. “I know things will be great in the future, but it totally sucks right now.”
Twelve years later I’ve become something I never knew I could be: a genuine eternal, internal optimist.
It’s such a revelation to know that all happiness is a choice. Joy is constantly available from the universe, and I finally learned how to access it on a daily basis. Circumstances are truly irrelevant.
As I read these sentences, they sound so authoritative and confident. Please know that they are a complete surprise to me. I’m a bit shocked and dazed over my ability to be happy with so much stress and pain surrounding me. The hits are real. The problems I face loom large, but somehow a part of me remains unscathed and completely open and available to everyday joy.
Many years ago a deacon at church spoke about parents who had lost their young child to a drunk driver. At his funeral, they insisted on the playing How Can I Keep from Singing? If you don’t know the hymn, it goes like this:
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I’m clinging.
Since love is the Lord of Heaven and Earth
How can I keep from singing?
Tears welled in my eyes as I sat on the hard wooden pew: for those parents, and in astonishment of their faith. I admired them, but couldn’t comprehend how to have such strength of heart. My own heart was wild, passionate and tumultuous. Only my head could ever remain calm, and that was useless when emotions took over.
And so, I planted a seed.
The first time my fingertips ever rose to greet the sun in salutation, I planted a seed. As I stretched with every fiber of my being towards a light I could never touch, I thought I was exercising my body. Unbeknownst to me, as I physically reached outward, I reached inward spiritually. I planted a seed deep in the middle of my heart, or maybe I just brought the first rays of light to a seed that was already there.
Yes, I believe that seed was already present. It was that distant optimist inside me during My Dark Time. That person moved by faith. That desire to have a strong, connected heart. As I delved deeper into yoga, I learned what that seed was: the lotus of the heart.
The lotus of the heart is central in the yogic world view. Here is a description from Chandogya Upanishad:
Within the city of Brahman, which is the body, there is the heart, and within the heart there is a little house. This house has the shape of a lotus, and within it dwells that which is to be sought after, inquired about, and realized. Even so large as the universe outside is the universe within the lotus of the heart. Within it are heaven and earth, the sun, moon, the lightening and all the stars. Whatever is in the macrocosm is in the microcosm also.
This sweet little story, with it’s miniature imagery, expresses a profound truth about the human heart and divine love.
Everything dwells within us.
You know how wonderful a cup of tea is on a brisk autumn morning? Or how lucious an ice-cream is on a blistering summer day? Or how stunning moonlight is reflected on snow? Or the uplifting joy at seeing tulips open from just thawed ground in spring?
Each one of those experiences seems so whole, complete and perfect that we don’t want the moment to end. But life is tranistory. After a while, we get sick of snow. We even get sick of months and months of sunshine. We constantly crave change and long to linger at the same time.
The lotus of the heart contains all those moments and everything else we hold dear. The entire universe is inside of us, which means we are never abandoned. We are never lost or forsaken, even when it can feel that way when we look at the outside world. Inside of us, we have the sun and the moon. The snow and sunshine. The bud of spring and the glorious death in fall. It’s all there. It’s all inside of us.
Strength of heart lies in the fact that love is present within us at all times, and so happiness is too. That’s the song those parents were singing.
The song they couldn’t help but sing.
The voice inside of me isn’t saying that everything will be OK. It’s saying that everything is already OK.
The entire universe resides within me, including happiness, love and light.
How can I keep from singing?