I hope you are well and have found a place of peace amidst the bustle and shadows of winter’s pale light. I apologize for my silence over the last few months and am committed once again to writing twice a month. The publication and subsequent launch of “The Woman in the Photograph” started on the summer solstice and absorbed all of me through the winter solstice, and then I needed to go into my cave and reflect. I hope this blog in the coming year will be a vehicle for you to reflect on your own life, and the choices you make that form your pathway through through challenges and opportunities. I would appreciate even a short response from you through the Comments option at the bottom of the blog or with an email to let me know you got the blog post announcement. My computer has mysteriously lost its subscription list and I need to know if you are still there, or need to sign up again to get new posts.
To honor the transition to a new year, I have chosen as my theme today a return to innocence. The innocence I am referring to is not ignorance. It is the capacity to see life with fresh eyes, even in the face of harsh experiences. It in an invitation to experience what is offered rather than contracting our experience to a picture or label that draws from our memory storage bank from past experience. This may sound natural, to see what is before us–the flower, the laughing child, the elderly man bending over to pet a dog. But oddly enough, the evolutionary mechanics of our minds tend toward translating experience through an old lens fraught with disappointments or judgments, and in so doing, missing the innocence that comes with truly savoring the moment.
One of the books I read over the holidays was “The Roundhouse” by Louise Erdrich. It is the story of a young Native American boy who has that quality of innocence–curiosity, the ability to observe what is around him, a zest for the life he shares with his friends, flavored with the stories of elders and the traditions of his family. Then a crime against his mother takes him on a journey that I would describe as a loss of innocence. In his attempt to regain control and balance in his world, he shoulders the burdens that come with knowing too much and thinking you must fix your world.
“I’ve read that certain memories put down in agitation at a vulnerable age do not extinguish with time, but engrave ever deeper a they return and return,” says the author through the voice of her thirteen-year-old narrator. And so the reader sees how it is not the poverty, or the hardships that impact Joe’s trust in life, but the view of the world forever seen through his disillusionment and the assuming of a responsibility for making the world right again. Which is impossible. The world isn’t right, or as we believe it should be. So that puts our young character, like ourselves, forever feeling in opposition to the world as it is.
So what choice do we have? Our choice is to know the wholeness of the world beyond what we see. Yet sometimes we can only taste that wholeness through it’s small parts. I was very affected by NBC journalist Ann Curry’s suggestion that we do 26 acts of random kindness in honor of those who lost their lives in Connecticut. Of course, many others have also lost their lives so there is no limit to how many kindnesses we may do. I remember when “Commit Random Acts of Kindness” first appeared on bumper stickers so it is not something new. But I noticed this time that it took some creativity to offer kindness because many of us have been trained in separateness not in connection, told to mind our own business and not intrude on others. I was at the supermarket and there was a woman trying to write a check for a very small purchase. She graciously received my offer of a few dollars. Another time it didn’t work out as well, and the man who was a dollar short seemed embarrassed and refused my offer. Sometimes it’s just a tone of voice, a kind word when you are really impatient, a kind thought when someone else is impatient. What I realized is that each of these acts weaves a thin thread of connection to the people around us and that changes our own state. Technically, any sense of isolation depletes the warm and comforting chemicals in our bodies, any act that makes us feel connected increases oxytosin and endorphins that make us feel part of something bigger than ourselves, less isolated. We are part of something bigger than ourselves but our neurotransmitters don’t really have the capacity to tell us that. Perhaps that is where faith enters in–to trust that fleeting feeling of wholeness and connectedness even if it only last for seconds or a moment. To know that this is closer to the truth than many of the self-centered fear of survival thoughts that flood our brains.
I would like to invite you to explore your own return innocence in the new year. Sometimes it comes in breath, or the scent of a lemon tree, or the quietness of a look. I would love to hear from you about your own discoveries. I wish you many blessings for the new year.
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