February is always a little tricky for scheduling events — there’s always the chance, no matter how slight, of snow. Last year I awoke to snow on the day my writing and meditation workshop was scheduled and I deliberated for a couple of hours whether to cancel it. Ultimately I went forward as the temperatures warmed up just in time to melt the snow. This Friday on the eve of my workshop, the Weather Channel predicted an 80% chance of snow with a 1″ accumulation for Saturday morning. I went to bed unsure whether the workshop would happen. Thankfully, though, the snow passed us by again here in Nashville. We may be one of only a few southern cities to have avoided snow this year – so far.
During the workshop everyone had a chance to read their writing in small, intimate groups or at the end of the day, to everyone there. Andrea Hewitt read a beautiful and inspiring essay she wrote that morning and I want to share it with you here:
When It’s Time to Fly
What touched me today was reading about the actress Ellen Page’s coming out and particularly watching the video on the Human Rights Campaign website. Here was this accomplished young actress speaking in front of a crowd–something I’m sure she has done many times before. You could hear the nervousness in her voice–the wavering and uncertainty.
But what I was most transfixed by were her hands. They were shaking so much that she had to hold them cupped together for almost the entire time. At one point, she let them go to make a point, and they were like tiny birds released, but still unsure of how high to fly.
About halfway through her speech when she finally said the words, “I’m gay,” and the audience stood and cheered for her, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be marvelous if everyone upon coming out had a cheering audience swelling with whoops of joy, mirroring back to you the terrifyingly awesome feeling of finally releasing your authentic self out of your mouth and into the world?”
It’s like watching a birth: the long wait and gestation before, the agonizing pains of labor, but then the deep knowing that there is no going backwards–in fact, what’s back no longer exists even–and you are propelled into a shiny, brand new, sparkling world that blinds you with its rightness. And you wonder how you ever lived in the dull past with you old, small, tightly-reined-in self.
Letting it all go–the expectations, the dreams of someone else for you, your own dreams that never quite fit no matter how you cut and sewed and re-sewed them–it’s the scariest thing ever. It’s tough enough to do that for yourself and your family & close friends privately, let alone on a widely-broadcast YouTube video.
But to live every day as authentically as you can–what a gift to yourself and the world! I could see the relief on her face when the words came out of her mouth. Naming ourselves, saying the words, and believing that you can say them and there will be a bridge to carry you to the other side requires such a leap of faith.
I remember testing out the words myself before I dared to speak them aloud to anyone. It felt like I had a tiny baby bird inside me–me, its nest–and it was time to push her out. Keeping her in the once-safe nest was no longer an option for that would only stunt her growth. I had to have faith that her wings were ready and strong enough to take on the world. It was her time to fly.
This dharma talk was recorded at InsightLA on October 13, 2013. It was part of a daylong retreat I taught about how to work with our questions in a way that can help us live from our truest intentions. You can listen here:
I was interviewed recently by Vincent Horn, founder of Buddhist Geeks, and we talked about how to work with questions in your practice. Unanswered questions, intractable situations often appear to stand in the way of living from our deepest intentions. We might feel blocked even from knowing what our true priorities are. But if we take time to turn inward with a spirit of patience and inquiry, instead of requiring the dilemmas to go away, or insisting on immediate resolutions, we can discover the resources that we need. Internal dilemmas contain a rich source of insight; learning to live with them brings about a radical shift that opens the door to clarity and equanimity.
You can click on the image below to access the podcast. I hope you enjoy it!
Please join us for a day of sitting and walking meditation at a beautiful, wooded site in rural West Nashville. True refuge is turning toward our experience and finding freedom in the way things are. This silent retreat will focus on cultivating a quality of compassionate presence that embraces our experience with kindness and insight.
Led by meditation teacher Lisa Ernst, the retreat is suitable for both beginning and experienced meditators; it will include sitting and walking meditation, practice instructions, and a dharma talk.
Cost: $50, plus dana (donation) to the teacher. A deposit of $50 will reserve your space and is due by Friday, March 7. Paypal is available here. If paying by check, please make it out to One Dharma Nashville and send to: 12South Dharma Center c/o One Dharma Nashville, 2301 12th Ave. South, Suite 202, Nashville, TN 37204. Please include your email address. Directions and additional information will be emailed prior to the retreat.