Living a Life of Widening Circles
“I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?”
Rainier Maria Rilke – Book of Hours, I 2
Translator: Joanna Macy
Yesterday I reached the limits of my capacity to hold all together and had to leave work early and ask for an “emergency” Reiki intervention…I was rewarded not only with a last-minute cancellation (which opened up an otherwise difficult to find spot for me) but also, right during the session the sun broke through the rainy Vancouver skies and shone over its sidewalks covered by blossoming cherry trees! I found myself smiling to crows and seagulls, dogs walking their humans and buses…
I had been accumulating frustration, boredom and lack of motivation and purpose at work, the daily struggle of 4-hour public transit commute with people pushing, intruding with cell phones, smells and bellies on the top of the book I’m reading…(Joanna Macy’s “Widening circles: a memoir”), the never-ending meetings at work and the lost into worthless minutiae, having to stay inside, facing a screen even when the work is done, even when the world outside is calling, dealing with household challenges and frustrations, the never-ending burden in the shoulders that is barely shared by others. Missing my tribe and the moments of engagement, pain about what the world has become and about not having the freedom to go to a march, a protest, a meeting. It had become increasingly difficult to apply compassion and insight (the two “weapons” of bodhisattvas) when you are being ignored, pushed around, disrespected, or are just exhausted, in physical pain and seeing how the so oh many projects and interests you want to take in pass you and you just can’t catch up with emails, requests, training, work and family requirements and your own body pleading for a long and big BREAK from all and from everyone.
Today, a nice and smart young man, a Syrian refugee, came to my office and became my client…like the sun shining over Vancouver streets yesterday after days of rain, like the cherry trees’ blossoming, I saw it: beyond the horrid chemical attack on unarmed women and children in this young man’s country early this week, beyond the stupidly short-sighted US response and the even stupid-er global support for it, beyond the groups appearing in my Facebook’s feed and the daily newspaper “supporting BC development projects” and “speaking on behalf of the majority in BC” (and, obviously, against the protesters and campaigns to stop fossil fuel and non-renewable sectors “development” and asking for a transition into more sustainable and ethical ways to be and let be in this planet), beyond all the frustrations and pain from my own small life, my own pain and my own discomfort, there is hope…
If I wanted a sign to decide, this serendipity in the form of a new client may be just it.
My Reiki practitioner yesterday said it clear: “Silvia, you have two paths in front of you: if you continue like this, all the reasons why you keep working will eventually backfire. You’ll be so sick and suddenly unable to work that you won’t be able to sustain yourself or support your family, you may even need the money to support expensive treatments, help and caregivers and you won’t be able to commit to any of the other side projects you love so much”; “he body doesn’t lie”, J. said, “it doesn’t understand all your rationalizations about why you need to keep working, the body only expresses the frustration, boredom, anger and pain of not being doing what your soul asks to be doing”. “So the paths are clear”, he continued: “Either you quit or reduce your workload now and take care of yourself, or you assume you’ll need to invest time and $$$ to make yourself stronger (physically and emotionally) to stay where you are…”
My paths, however, are still unclear: I want the freedom to work with young people (at heart, no matter their ages) and support their own flexible, holistic, self-reliant, ethical and sustainable “life designs”. I want to engage with people who want to heal, regenerate and improve this world and instill the importance of creating a new story, a story of interconnectedness and humbleness but also of power and commitment so the horrors, the circus, the unethical and stupid ways we are living and allowing today end and give place to a new, truly interdependent, ethical and sustainable world…
I also want to explore all the things I didn’t explore because since I can recall, I always had to work, had responsibilities and this sense of being strong and reliable for all around me. I want to learn how to play guitar, I want to experience camping alone and with family and friends more often, I want to spend silly hours with my dog and my cats for no other reason than because I love them dearly, I want to spend time with my sons cooking, travelling, chatting, exchanging whatever they want to share; I want to invite people to my house and just relax with conversation, music and home-made food; I want to travel to my home country and spend time with my aging mom and my siblings; and I want (deeply want) to live in a supportive and engaged community I can feel great to get back to after every journey.
My 21-year-old son doesn’t want to work himself to death and I agree with him. I am allowing him to discover how he wants to live, but struggle with the societal pressures that he should be studying or working…my 14-year-old son left for school today with this gem: “Mom, I was thinking about life, and I though how horrible it is to have to go to work eight hours each day and not having spring, summer or winter breaks or time for anything else”…
We have to be able to design another type of story for ourselves and our children, for the sake of all the creatures and elements and not only for us humans: another type of life, a widening and inclusive one…and live our lives in widening circles, instead entrapping, shrinking ones…
“Does Time, as it passes, really destroy?
It may rip the fortress from its rock;
but can this heart, that belongs to God,
be torn from Him by circumstance?
Are we as fearfully fragile
as fate would have us believe?
Can we ever be severed
from childhood’s deep promise?
Ah, the knowledge of impermanence
that haunts our days
is their very fragrance.
We in our striving think we should last forever,
but could we be used by the Divine
if we were not ephemeral?”
Part Two, Sonnet XXVII – Rainier maria Rilke, translated by Joanna Macy