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Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reberb10, Day 21: Taking advantage of the lunar eclipse

Prompt: Future self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?)

The author of this prompt is Jenny Blake:
Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want


Today is the shortest day of the year. Light is not the only thing I am experiencing a lack of today. I spent half an hour this morning arguing with a student loan company representative. There are few things that get me as riled up as someone telling me that I owe them money when I know that I requested, and was granted, a forbearance on repaying my student loans until I find full time work again. There is not a day that goes by since graduating that I do not kick myself for ever applying for student loans in the United States. Whereas in many countries these loans are managed by the government, in the US they are farmed off to private companies whose goal is to make as much of a profit as they can off of the ignorance of the student population. It makes me want to roar! :-)

There has been a theme weaving through my life over the last few weeks: Learning to see things that are potentially present, but not always visible yet. Last night I took a blanket out in the back yard and curled up in a damp lawn chair to watch the lunar eclipse. When I first went out the sky was clear and the air crisp. I saw constellations that I have not seen so clearly since leaving Canada. The earth's shadow rotated a ghostlike, rusty mask over the moon's surface, reducing the full-faced moon to a sharp sickle of light, and then just a pale suggestion of its luminous self. The image reminded me of a poem written by David Moody, a poet I met recently, in which he describes the phases of the moon as resembling the view from beneath a manhole looking up as the cover slides closed, and is opened again. Rippling silver clouds slid rapidly across the sky last night just as the eclipse became full, and so I sat patiently, waiting for breaks in the clouds so that I could catch brief glimpses of the darkened face before it disappeared behind another blanket of cloud, listening to the wind blow through the oaks around me. It has been a long time since I have been outside at night listening to the wind. Being outside at night on a windy night is a powerful experience. In Canada is was almost unavoidable, but being out last night made me realize how easy it is to almost never hear the wind here if I am not seeking it out. Sitting outside alone last night also brought me face to face with fears that I did not experience often in Canada. A few weeks ago a helicopter flew over our neighbourhood late at night announcing over a loud speaker that a fugitive was loose in the area. I grew up on an island, where you would have to be a real idiot to commit a crime, because where are you going to go after you commit it? In other words, my tolerance threshold for violence and crime is non-existent. I had already been feeling apprehensive about being outside here at night, but since that episode, I have noticed that I have been choosing to stay inside a lot more at night. Sitting out there last night alone, I felt a part of me that had grown stronger on Prince Edward Island, wake back up.

 As I watched the moon last night, my first thought was: that is us. That is earth. Proof that we exist. I wondered what people thought lunar eclipses were back when people believed that the earth was flat. Then I thought about how we are constantly in motion, and how easy it is to forget this because most of us are not conscious of the physical experience of motion as we move through our day and night. I also thought about a quote from the Baha'i writings that I have taped to the mirror on my dresser. It is extracted from a talk given by Abdu'l-Baha in London. He says that "the meditative faculty is akin to the mirror; if you put it before earthly objects, it will reflect them. Therefore if the spirit of man is contemplating earthly subjects he will be informed of these. But if you turn the mirror of your spirits heavenwards...the rays of the sun of Reality will be reflected in your hearts, and the virtues of the Kingdom will be obtained." Looking at the darkened moon last night made me think about the qualities that I reflect when I turn away from the source of my own light. It also made me think that being in shadow or turning away from a source of light does not mean the light is not there. It just means that a change of position is required if the object or person in shadow is to receive its rays. To watch a beautiful video of the lunar eclipse, click here

This idea that the potential for something may be present long before this potential is realized keeps coming up. I read two stories in the last few weeks about this. One of these I mention in my blog entry Standing on the shoulders of giants. In it, Ken Robinson tells the story of the year that Death Valley received seven inches of rain instead of its average two inches. The result was that Death Valley came alive, becoming a sea of wildflowers. As Ken says, the rains proved that "Death Valley wasn't dead at all. It was asleep. It was simply waiting for the conditions of growth. When the conditions came, life returned..." to Death Valley. The other story that reflects this idea is a story that Rachel Naomi Remen tells in her book My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging. The story is about an acorn. Rachel explains that we are all more than we seem. She uses an acorn as an example. She says that what we can see and touch about an acorn does not hint at the secret of its potential. She explains that the secret "is not directly measurable, but given the proper conditions over time it may become visible." She goes on to say that "an acorn makes no sense unless we know that woven into the way it is made, there is something waiting to unfold that knows how to become an oak tree. An acorn is defined by this capacity. Something can be the size, shape, weight, texture and colour of an acorn, but without this hidden power to become an oak tree, it is not an acorn." (p.82). Both of these stories illustrate the idea that the potential to fully express our nature is present within all things, but sometimes it is not obvious what this is, or how it will become visible.

This morning my yoga class was all about recognizing and tapping into that inner strength that is there, even when it may not be immediately obvious to us. It was a very physically demanding class, and I finished it with shaky, tired limbs, but pushing on through and trusting that I did have hidden reserves, in places that I was not conscious of, radiated a certain powerful certainty that extended beyond the end of my practice and out into the rest of my morning (which, in retrospect, is probably why I visualized a lioness and almost roared at the unsuspecting student loan officer that I spoke to on the phone!)

So if I envision myself five years from now, and try to imagine what advice this woman would give me for the year ahead, I think it would look something like this:

Dear Ariana,

Sometimes in life we can see our strengths and capacities, but how we are supposed to use them to serve is not as clear. You have the capacity to contribute great things to the world as a writer, a farmer, a researcher, a daughter, a lover and a mother. As long as you consciously choose to turn towards the source of your light every day, you should not doubt that you will make a valuable contribution to your family, your community, and the world. You may not be able to see how you will pay off your student loans right now, but the answer is already inside of you. Remember to have a confident heart, to be steadfast in your beliefs, and to be faithful to yourself. Keep dreaming. Keep believing. Be courageous. Take risks. Be curious. And when you are feeling shaky, pray, ask for guidance, and then trust that you will be able to receive the answer when it arrives. Be patient. Know that the universe is abundant. Oh, and don't forget to play and laugh and be silly. A light heart is a joyful heart. Remember: Anything is possible!


Your wiser, more compassionate self!

Interestingly, when I contemplate writing a similar note to myself ten years ago, I would say all the same things. The only difference is that I would use stronger language and be more specific, in the hope that my younger self might actually listen to some of this advice!

Someone asked me once what my eight year old self would think of who I am now, if she were to have lunch with me today. Personally, I think she would be mightily pleased that I still have the dream of owning a giant trampoline some day!! And I know that she would have been hunkered down out there under the oaks with with me last night, watching the moon wade her way back out into the sunlight. What would your younger self have to say? If you would like to share what she tells you, I would love to hear her thoughts!

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