Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dealing with Life’s Transitions

Last Sunday, I attended a Unitarian Universalist (UU) service. Although I do not attend as often as I would like, when I do attend I always find that a veil is lifted on some issue that I have unconsciously buried deep within myself. 

In the UU congregation of Oxford, Mississippi, there is no “preacher” who expounds for an hour on some moral or social issue and expects no exchange of ideas. The Oxford congregation leaders usually find someone who has something meaningful to share. This Sunday did not dissappoint. The speaker was a recent Ph.D graduate and long time UU member who took a position at a University in South Africa. Accordingly, his talk was about transitions. He spoke eloquently about his long fear of change and how his coming major life transition is probably similar to many of the member's experiences, and after his talk he opened up the floor for others to offer words of wisdom. Many hands went up and there were great thoughts, and moving experiences that ranged from death of a loved one to job change to people who love change. I left with a flood of life affirming thoughts. 

Later that day, I reflected on the suggestions and realized that many people suggested that having some kind of an anchor was extremely beneficial to ease the discomfort of entering a new stage of life. At the time the anchor wasn’t the one that stood out, but as I ruminated the idea of an anchor started to resonate more and more. Then I realized that I indeed have an anchor myself and didn’t even realize it. 

My anchor is a sacred space. Since I was young and being bullied at school (sorry for the cliche but it is the truth) I started taking karate and I found this outdoor space to practice. It had a concrete bench with a tree attached and if you looked at it in the right light you could transport yourself to a tranquil asian garden. I would come home after school, run and change my clothes and start training. That was one of the few places I felt safe! 

Many years later as an adult, I moved to Mississippi, which was pretty hard on me, not because I was being bullied but because it is just about as different a place as an Italian-American from Brooklyn could live. So when visiting my wife’s family I felt really alone and separate. Something inside me beckoned me in to the woods. I instinctively found a spot and began to practice Tai chi. Over time, I changed the landscape a bit to facilitate my practice, and voila, a sacred space was born. 

Then Hurricane Katrina wiped it out and I thought it was lost and my practice was scattered throughout other parts of the land but settling no where. During Easter weekend I cut a path deep into the pine forest and found the spot where my wife’s great grandparents built their first house (pictured). I was going to do an archaeological dig to find farm tools from the 1800s. 

After clearing a 20’ x 30’ patch of land and prepping for the dig I realized that there was something deeper than archaeology calling me. I dropped my tools and started doing Tai chi. Instantly, I felt at home. I returned at 6 am to celebrate Easter sunrise to consecrate the new space. Now that I had a sacred space again, I realized that it is not just about the space but it is actually a vessel that allows me to fill it with sacred movements. Those ancient footsteps that were passed down from generation to generation of scared and vulnerable people, who knew how to adapt to scary places. Thousands of years later their calming messages still soothe my soul wherever I go.

The funny thing is that I never really acknowledged that my sacred space was an anchor, or more accurately, a coping mechanism for stressful places and times. I always knew I loved the woods and doing Tai chi in the woods was for me its highest expression and I even considered my practice sacred but I never completed the circle until those wise people at the UU congregation led me there.

1 comment:

  1. Very inspiring! Happy you found your sacred space again :)