I can only add my voice to the chorus – the more eloquent and beautifully-expressed chorus – celebrating Karen Maezen Miller and her Mother’s Plunge in Boston on Saturday. It was a lovely day, one that I know will continue to seep into my spirit over time. I won’t forget Karen’s animated face, her contagious bursts of laughter, and the simple but powerful message that she conveyed with her words and, even more compellingly, with her very spirit.
I struggle, actually, to really put into words what Karen shared. Her message is as essential as air and as ineffable as the meaning of life. How is it that something so very simple – how to exist peacefully in the world, how to love others and ourselves – is so complicated? This paradox is at the heart of everything I wrestle with. And, I suspect, that’s true of all of us.
So, what did I learn from Karen? In fact, I think what Karen does is to remind us – lovingly, inescapably, life-changingly – of those fundamental truths we already know.
What we pay attention to flourishes. Attention is love. It is, after all, the only true thing of value we have. This is, in my opinion, another way to say that the way we spend our hours is how we spend our lives. Instinctively, we turn the radiance of our attention, the laser beam of our gaze, both spiritual and literal, onto that which we love.
Love = compassion = non-judgment. The moment we start judging, or investing our energies into what we expect or want from a situation or a person is the moment we stop loving. And yet we all do this – at least I do – a hundred times a day. A critical task of our lives is to truly see those we love for who they are, even when that means accepting that there are mysteries inside of them that we will never understand. To release them from the cage of what we so desperately want them to be, so that they may flourish into who they are.
Karen herself is a joy – somehow calm and enthusiastic at the same time, radiating both an infectious joy at the basic fact of life and a palpable calm. She set an atmosphere of acceptance and warmth, and I felt hugely relaxed in the room and in the sunlight at the Charlestown seaport. Surely the attendance of so many kindred spirits helped – I was honored and thrilled to meet such kindred spirits as Jena and Katrina, and to see again new-but-feel-like-old friends like Denise, Corinne, and Tracy. The biggest disappointment of the day? That I did not realize that Meg – whose words I adore, quote often, and hear in my own head – was in the room. I’m sure her presence contributed to what a marvelous day it was for me, but I wish I’d met her face to face and hugged her in person.
We were all immensely fortunate to have Katrina Kenison with us too. Katrina sat in front of us, in a space that felt nothing short of holy, and read from her most recent writing about sharing her dear friend’s journey towards the end of life (the quote that inspired yesterday’s post was from this reading). Katrina’s presence is a balm and she has already become a very important person in my life. Having her there was a gift.
Thank you, Karen, for such a moving and thought-provoking day. I can feel your words and your example sinking into some deep place inside me. Your words had already had a profound effect on me, and meeting you in person was even more than I imagined it would be.