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Hard Times and Daily Delights

It’s been a difficult beginning of the year for my family and me. Heartaches, illness, and disappointments continue to challenge us. I’m finding it easy to be discouraged by the smallest things.

In response, I’ve added something new to my self-care—a practice of noticing a “daily delight”. Notice, I say “practice”. I don’t get it “right” every single day. Nevertheless, I hold the intention with me and do my best to notice something each day which delights me. I also make an attempt to write a few words about what I’ve noticed, which invites me to pay even closer attention.

I’m discovering that every day brings me something to lighten my heart, if I will allow myself to be present to it.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were on our way to help a loved one in a crisis situation. We had chosen the quickest route possible to get to our destination, only to encounter traffic backed up along a major highway due to an accident, and no way to turn around. As we moved along ever so slowly, our loved one’s need for immediate assistance very much at the front of our minds, I glanced off toward the horizon to my left … then looked again.

Brilliant colours of a sun dog stretched from the horizon and up into the sky. These rainbow-like bands bracketing the sun on very cold days are not uncommon, but I’ve never seen any as intensely coloured or as long as these. They were breathtaking … and utterly uncapturable with my phone camera.

In those moments, I felt the polarities of wonder and anxiety, beauty and distress.

One of the foundational teachings of contemplative spirituality is the importance of holding the tension between opposites. When faced with two ideas or two feelings which are contradictory, our very normal human response is to embrace one and reject the other. Put another way, we label one “good” and the other “bad”. We focus on one side, and push the other away. Contemplative spirituality invites us to be present to both.

The presence includes acknowledging any resistance we feel toward one side, as well as the pull we feel toward the other. We’re not trying to eliminate resistance or discomfort. We just want to soften our stance so that we can be present to both.

That day on the highway, I consciously let myself relax into the beauty of the sun dogs alongside my deep concern for my loved one. I felt a loosening of the frustration over the traffic situation, a kind of opening in my solar plexus.

As we do the difficult work of holding that tension, we put ourselves in a position to receive something new, a gift from Spirit that honours both sides of the tension. For me, it was the softening in my centre which allowed me to breathe a little more deeply. I felt reconnected to my inner wisdom, the place that reminds me that no matter what happens, I can meet my circumstances and will be helped in ways I can’t foresee.

We did find an alternate route. The rest of the day was not easy … and … I felt myself bouyed by the wonder that had met me.

What polarities are you struggling with? Just naming them often helps us soften toward them. How can you cultivate more gentle presence toward what feels like contradiction?

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