To heal ourselves we must heal our planet, and to heal our planet we must heal ourselves. Bobby McLeod
What is easy is sustainable. Birds coast when they can. Adrienne Maree Brown
In the photo, our son is three-and-a-half, and the year is 1986, and the grass is greening and he is wearing a short-sleeved shirt and cobalt-blue Oshkosh overalls printed with chipper crayon-colored sailboats and he is smiling into the camera as he clutches, in one hand, a yellow balloon and, in the other, a placard on a stick. It is mid-May, Mother’s Day, and he, along with his family, is about to begin moving down the main street of our town in a march for peace. The sign he carries was given to him by a grown-up friend at the rally and he carries it proudly, holds the message as high as his arm can reach “No more guns. No more bombs. I just want peace in my life.” He is sincere as he looks at the camera and at me, his mother, behind the lens. And I smile now as I look back at this photo.
It is true. I am sure that he and his older brother, at the deepest level of their being, did crave a peaceful world, a welcoming home life, that the message rang true as he held it up for all to see on that sunny Sunday afternoon thirty-one years ago. And yet, there was the stick, the stick that held up the sign. In a red hot minute, that stick could have become something quite different, a perfect weapon for a pre-school member of the neighborhood superhero power team, something to thrash about in the ferns and threaten imaginary foes. And the “No more guns” part of the message — I’m not sure he would have given it his one-hundred-percent okay. If his father and I had allowed toy guns in the house, I am sure our two boys would have been thrilled. We are rich and complex creatures, we human beings.
The next year, in late June, I said good-bye to the two boys and my husband, and traveled to Nicaragua for three weeks with a Witness for Peace group from my home state of Maine. It was a calling for sure, something I needed to do, to stand up to our government’s policies in this way, to open myself to a different culture and a people who were fighting for their empowerment. And, indeed, it was a beautiful and heart-opening experience and I was forever changed. It felt like a cause bigger than myself, and, also, if I was honest, something selfish as well. It was a three week adventure for a gal who was just discovering how much she loved adventure, a time-off from mothering, a journey in which I found a piece of my own empowerment. And when I returned home, I needed to soak it all in. I remember feeling happiest that summer, not when I was donning an activist role and showing my slides or writing letters to the editor, but when I was walking along the lake or hanging clothes on the line.
In yoga, we unfurl both of our palms, and, in one palm, we place a piece of ourselves, perhaps, the “sun” part that is active and thrives on movement in the outer world, and, in the other, we place another part of ourselves, perhaps the more introspective “moon” that dreams in still-waters and intuitive power. Or, in another moment, we might place the part of ourselves that holds up a placard and believes fervently in its message as we march forward at a rally for peace and inclusivity and for the health of our beloved planet, and, in the other, the fun of a stick to thrash at ferns. I am finding this helpful now, this unfurling of my palms. I feel it again, my activist who fervently wants to hold my arm up high with a message like my son held up all those years ago. I am called to letter-writing and petition-signing and to rallies with placards. And, I also am deeply and forever in love with my handcrafted life, the day to day precious activities of care-taking home and relationship, the writing of poems and essays, the adventuring in nature, the chunks of time for travel, the delights that offer themselves in every moment when we pay attention.
So how do we reconcile it, how big we are as humans, how much we carry inside, how conflicted it sometimes all can seem? In the ancient language of Sanskrit, yoga means union, to yoke together, to bring together. So, that’s what we do in yoga, we place both of our palms at our heart center, at the center of our body, at the center of love where all things are possible. And that’s what I am doing now, holding it all in my heart, the fire and passion that is rising to speak out for this beloved planet and its inhabitants, to envision a world of inclusivity and civility and kindness in the present moment and for my grandchildren and for their grandchildren. I guess I could call this the activist part of me. And here it sits in my heart of hearts along with the other palm’s contents — the absolute preciousness and joy and fun of the ordinary/extra-ordinary moments in my everyday life. And here I stand, on my own two feet, with all of it, the magnitude and magnificence of a life that is big enough to hold what seems like paradox after paradox. Just as you stand, just as we all do. And, if we allow our greatest journey to be one that is inward, one where we pause now and then and really listen, we’ll hear it, our own heart’s beat, our own drum’s calling like the calling of no one else’s, and we’ll know, we’ll just know, what we stand for, what we move for, what is calling to us, what is bringing us into alignment, what is making us happy and fulfilled, precious moment after precious moment.
What do I stand for? What do you stand for? And with whom do we stand?
(A superhero on an advertisement in the Minneapolis airport, and my two grandkids.)
I embrace my inner superhero and I stand with these beloved grandkids!!!!!!