I am a light-seeker. If you’re taking the time to read this, you probably are too. Actually, I’m convinced we are all on a quest to awaken, we just take different paths. While I’m sure that many roads can lead to enlightenment, lately I’ve felt like I keep running into dead ends. In an effort to attain clarity and because I tend to get nostalgic and reflective this time of year, I made a “year in review” list of my personal peaks and valleys of 2016.
While recollecting the important events it occurred to me what counts as a Big Wow has totally shifted. In my teens and early twenties, I sought enlightenment through a range of consciousness-altering approaches: drugs, drinking, and yes, yoga—catching glimpses of illumination, but also a whole lot of fuzzy memories. The next years were filled with the kind of momentus occasions that mark the passage into adulthood: marriage, moving away from family of origin, losing loved ones, having babies.
Now at thirty-six with two kids, a dog, a husband whom I’ve loved for exactly half of my life, the Big Wows are no longer the result of a mind-altering substance, a major milestone or an epic event, but are rather epiphanic moments of realization in the most ordinary instances. Enlightenment is no longer about getting high and escaping reality. It’s about getting fully immersed in it.
Big Wows occur when we are attuned to what is happening right NOW. When I look out my window and notice the sun highlighting the last of the red leaves on a tree across the lake. When my daughter comes into our bed in the early morning and the three of us lie still, breathing together. When my son is about to cause mischief, and I catch that twinkle in his eye before he launches the pasta across the table. When I place my hand on a woman’s back as she rests in downward dog, and we both exhale completely, hearts softening simultaneously. Big Wows are moments of conscious connection and resonant awareness. Big Wows allow for openings to new possibilities for being in and relating to ourselves, each other, and our world.
And as such, Big Wows are not always happy moments. Some of my most significant Big Wows have literally brought me to my knees. And isn’t that how we pray, how we show reverence? By resting our bodies on our great Mother Earth and surrendering wholeheartedly? It was in such a moment a couple months ago, after I’d exhausted myself with a cathartic cry on the laundry room floor, that I asked for the courage and discipline to shift destructive patterns of thought and behavior that have been plaguing me for what feels like always. In the silence, I heard my own inner voice speak with such sweet conviction that I knew my call had been answered.
In these moments of awakening, I often remember these lines from “Variation on a Theme by Rilke” by Denise Levertov:
The day’s blow
rang out, metallic—or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.
In that moment, surrounded by piles of clothes worn by the people I love to the moon and back, the doubt about my own capacity began to slowly dissipate, replaced with a resolve to speak the truth. Starting with myself. Recently, it’s meant when asked, even casually, “how are you?” sometimes remembering to pause to check in with myself and reporting what is actually within. Today, it means sharing with you my Big Wows of the past year. It’s a small step, but a significant step nonetheless down a path that I have tread only trepidatiously for fear of being rejected, judged, excluded, or admonished. But now, the weight of being out of integrity weighs heavier than any momentary heartache that being vulnerable might provoke.
So, I’m sharing my list of the past year’s Big Wows—moments of recognition and reckoning—as a way to let go, lean in, and lighten up.
Listening to the sounds of an Indian morning during meditation with my teacher
Betraying a good friend and losing her friendship
Isla losing her first tooth on our first night of holiday in Sweden with her grandparents
Moving to a home my family loves
Empowering 8 amazing Wellness Warriors and myself to evolve
A weekend of learning from a masterful teacher and laughing with soul sisters
Spending my birthday with women I love, doing nothing
Snuggling with my boy as he slept on the beach
Surfing with my Pal, just like old times
Vacationing with friends who feel like family
Grandma in the hospital and feeling disconnected, isolated, helpless
The day I played hooky on my paddle board
Time with my boy while my girl visited her grandparents
Discovering Desire Mapping and identifying my core desired feelings
Three days in Copenhagen with my honey
Hearing Isla say “I hate you”
A summer day with my parents and children that ended with eating ice cream
A day of wandering Zurich with a dear friend
Realizing how much my husband helps after he injured his hand, having to pick up the slack and feeling ungenerous and unkind for resenting him for it
Watching Robb teach Isla how to ride a bike
Yelling at Maverick for the first time
Maintaining a regular meditation practice
Sobbing on the laundry room floor
Celebrating a stress-free Thanksgiving with old and new friends
Arguing with my mom and feeling the divide between us expand in spite of our wanting it to be otherwise
Finding myself stuck in old patterns (again and again and again) and also recognizing tiny shifts
In the time between writing this and coming back to edit, another Big Wow happened. Following a brutal showdown at lunch with my daughter triggered by her disappointment at not being the recipient of the sole purple spoon at Ikea, and my ineptitude at guiding her towards a resolution, I dropped her and her friend back at school and abandoned the ubiquitous to-do list for a walk in the woods. Finding myself at the clearing, I did the best thing I know to do when in emotional crisis: put my hands on the earth, breathe, and do yoga. Sun on my face, tears in my eyes, I held Warrior II, Triangle, and Downward dog until my arms trembled and the tightness in my chest subsided. As everything does, the feelings of despair, self-loathing, and frustration passed. Left alone, I thanked Grace and turned back home to finish writing.
On the one hand, I wanted so much to write this from a place of power, looking back at the past as though I’ve moved through and moved on and am on to the next great awakening. On the other hand, that’s not how it is. The reality is that I’m constantly seeking, finding, losing, and regaining my balance. Confronting the same challenges over and over again until the lesson is (or is not) learned. Or, as Yoga Amrit Desai explains: “Habitual ways of reacting and reliving the same event perpetuate unconsciousness. All lessons will be repeated until they are learned. The debt of karma is paved in consciousness.” Reviewing the list of lessons aka Big Wows of the past year I’ve learned one thing:
So here I am, trying something new. Satya. Usually defined as “truthfulness,” it has as its root sat, “to be” or “to exist.” Georg Feurstein defines satya as “that which is real.” Being real. Being honest. Being myself. In my writing and in my relationships. On my yoga mat and yes, even on social media! For sure, it’s going to take me awhile to get the hang of it. Considering that I’ve spent the better part of my life carefully crafting a veneer of false perfection to conceal and protect myself, it could take the rest of the time I’ve got here. It could take longer than that. No matter. That voice within which I hear as my Beloved Guide and yet know is my own soul beckons me down this path of small steps towards The Big Wow.