At the end of yoga a week ago, I jokingly commented to our teacher about how hard she had worked us. She asked if it was too hard and I said no. Then she added something like, “It’s important not to hold back—we never know if it will be our last time to practice together.” I have thought of those words all week, and not just regarding my yoga practice. On Tuesday morning as I was getting into my car to drive to school, her words came up again. In a moment of complete openness to possibility, I caught a glimpse of the day ahead as a big adventure and wondered what it would bring. I felt a whole-heartedness about my life that let in gratitude and appreciation. I would have liked that experience to last longer. As with everything else, though, it was a fleeting awareness, subject to to change, that was carried along with the flow of life.
It’s so easy to get distracted by to-do lists, lesson plans and piles of stuff needing to be sorted and passed along. Thinking ahead to vacation time and the coming school year has been filling up a lot of my recent mental real estate. Plus, I find that being anywhere but in the present moment frequently breeds impatience and non-productivity. I notice it also keeps me from living whole-heartedly without holding back.
As I ruminated on this topic, I found these lines from the poem “When Death Comes” by Mary Oliver:
“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement…
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
Living whole-heartedly is on the other end of the spectrum from “visiting the world.” Being around children each day offers so many opportunities for this kind of living. After lunch today, three hot and sweaty first grade girls came from the playground into Bill’s office. They were there to report a small bunny they named Nibbles who crawled into a drain pipe. They were concerned he might get stuck and not be able to get out. They were worried that a hawk might get him and, in the same breath, wondered what he might eat because they noticed he was a picky eater. Bill fully engaged with them, didn’t sugarcoat anything about the hawks, and assured them that Nibbles made a great choice using the pipe for a hideout. As quickly as they descended on his office, they were drawn back to the fullness of the rest of their day, holding back not an ounce of passion or enthusiasm for the world around them. I’m lucky to have such gifted teachers to keep me whole-heartedly in the moment.