“The salmon offer us a way to face truth without shutting down. They show us how leaning into our experience, though we don’t like the hit, moves us on. Time and again, though we’d rather turn away, it is the impact of being revealed, through our willingness to be vulnerable, that enables us to experience both mystery and grace.”
From The Art of Facing Things in The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo
Mark Neop describes how salmon turn their underside – from center to tail – into the powerful current of the water coming at them, how the force hits them squarely and the impact launches them further up the waterfall. They do this over and over again, moving upstream. By leaning into what they face, they move further along their journey.
He left me wondering, what might be possible if we are brave enough to turn our soft bellies of vulnerability toward what was coming at us?
Each of Mr. Nepo’s daily inspirational readings includes a meditation that I wanted to offer you today.
- Sit quietly and meditate on the last time you opened yourself to the life coming at you.
- In recalling this, try to focus on three things:
- the way that opening yourself caused you to unfold
- the way that being hit squarely changed your life position
- where leaping like a salmon landed you
- Breath steadily, and invite the lessons of opening, being changed, and landing into your heart.
- Breathe slowly, and realize that you are in this process now.
- Relax and turn the belly of your heart toward the day.
I have been reading a chapter or two or three a week of The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World with his holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams, which was given to me earlier this year as a birthday gift by a dear friend. I love what they say on pages 274 and 275 about a generous spirit and generosity, which I’ve excerpt below:
“When we have a generous spirit, we are easy to be with and fun to be with. We radiate happiness, and our very company can bring joy to others. This no doubt goes hand in hand with the ability…to be less self-centered, less self-regarding, and more self-forgetful. Then we are less burdened by our self agenda: We do not have anything to prove. We do not need to be seen in a particular way. We can have less pretension and more openness, more honesty. This naturally brings ease to those around us, too; as we have accepted ourselves, our vulnerabilities, and our humanity, we can accept the humanity of others. We can have compassion for our faults and have compassion for those of others. We can be generous and give out joy to others.”
“In generosity, there is a wider perspective, in which we see our connection to all others. There is a humility that recognizes our place in the world and acknowledges that at another time we could be the one in need, whether that need is material, emotional, or spiritual. There is a sense of humor and an ability to laugh at ourselves so that we do not take ourselves so seriously. There is an acceptance of lie, in which we do not force life to be other than what it is. There is a forgiveness of others and a release of what might otherwise have been. There is a gratitude for all that we have been given. Finally, we see others with a deep compassion and a desire to help those who are in need. And from this comes a generosity that is ‘wise-selfish’, a generosity that recognizes helping others as helping ourselves.”
I want to be a generous spirit, to be what the Archbishop describes as “becoming an oasis of peace, a pool of serenity that ripples out to all of those around us.”. And, I want to contribute to creating a more generous world. Where I am now, I see opportunity for growth in expanding my self-compassion and enhancing my ability to laugh at myself.
* I took this photo in Istanbul Turkey in 2010. I picked a photo from this lovely country because in my experience there, I felt a the people’s generosity of spirit, kindness and hospitality very strongly. I especially liked photo because it captures the simple joy that kids spread.
I wrote this poem several years ago for a breast cancer survivor friend battling cancer. She needed help and was having trouble asking for it.
I picked it for this week’s post because I needed its reminder.
Filling Petals with Sunshine
Each person you touch
in whatever way
You grace others’ lives
in ways that may be
Like God’s little secret,
the meaning in our lives
is sometimes hidden
below the surface –
or maybe high above
and out of reach,
Each time you ask for help,
each time you let someone give,
each time you open yourself,
you exercise your power
to create meaning.
Each time you lean into
your purpose unfolds,
like a rosebud
hungry to fill its petals
* I took this photo on the beach in San Agustinillo, in the garden outside of El Pescador.