Stretched by Joy and Sorrow

The beauty of this time of year dazzles me, throughly delights me, fills me with exquisite joy.  The birds singing at dawn enchant me out of bed.  The early sunlight shimmering on dew on leaves and grass sparkles in me as well as on the splashes of green.  The fragrance of lilac, lily of the valley, and honey locus blossoms on the breeze invites me into even deeper en-joy-ment of the moment. Bare feet and limbs shuck of restricting winter wear delight in the freedom of the season.  My family is well, I love my work and my friends, my life is full of ease and grace.  I am filled to the brim with gratitude and joy.

At the very same time I ache with the pain of loss for two missing young women from my community – one now known dead, one vanished completely a world away.  I cry warm tears for them and their families.  I ache for the water and animals and people drenched in unimaginably huge amounts of oil.  As I witness my brave and beloved friend help her son heal from a drug overdose, as I support my awesome clients – many of whom are facing enormous personal and professional challenges, as I walk with so very many loved ones who are experiencing their own bone deep sorrow my heart seeks to entrain with theirs.

How do I hold such joy and sorrow at the same time?

It seems like the intensity of both of these feelings has increased in me over time, perhaps in sync with my personal and spiritual growth.  It is my intention to be aware of the wonder of the world as well as the suffering within it.  It is my desire to be with what is, not to flinch or deny or run away.  Being with the wonder comes pretty easily.  Being with the pain at first is not so difficult because we are an empathic people.  Being with  suffering and not having any ability to end it is almost unbearable.

Once in meditation I got that to surrender without my will is to be a martyr or a door mat.  And to hold on to the full force of my will without surrender is to be brittle, to need to control or forcefully exert power-over.  To fluidly and deeply live my personal power I need to hold will and surrender simultaneously.  I need to stand straight and clear, sure of my intention and desire without hesitation or doubt and at the very same time to dissolve into surrendering to the moment, being open to what is unfolding around me. With my thinking mind this is almost impossible to understand, just as it is almost, but not quite, impossible for my heart to hold so much joy and sorrow at the same time.

I’ve found that to really know the truth of something we need to be able to hold the polarities of it.  We need to be able to stand in the apparent paradoxes, the wide poles of the situation.  We have to be able to live in both/and rather than either/or – because we live in a both/and universe.  Light is wave and particle.  There is always life and death, joy and sorrow, endings and beginnings.  We are loved exactly as we are and at the same time we are evolving.  We can be in absolute gratitude for our many blessings and still want something more or different.  We can be giddy with delight and desperate with sorrow.  And maybe the agony of the stretch of mind and heart are part of our becoming even more than we thought possible.

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