The weight on my shoulders

The first week free of work would be my last week at home. The days where I could flitter about like a bat, taking care of whatever I could at any moment, have drawn to a close.

With several hours left before my flight and a bag yet to be packed, I have to make definitive choices about my time, and what to bring along with me to San Diego.
This is less than easy for me. I challenge myself to resist getting impulsive, drastically jettisoning important things in an anxious effort to lighten my load. Also challenged is my desire to make the ‘right’ decision, to act appropriately. The zen quote comes to mind now: “if you’ll sit, then sit; if you’ll stand, then stand. But never wobble.” Midway through, having repacked for the third time, my moral is nearly gone. Past midnight, I am an exhausted wobbling.

In the midst of it, I get words of encouragement from my loved ones. I take them in with a bowl of Matcha, and get to work with a new vigor.

As I tie up my last loose ends, I take some time to finally peer into the book made for me to commemorate my career at MRC. It’s one of the most magnificent and potent doses of thoughtfulness I have ever received. Note after note of well wishes from so many people that mean much to me; a stream of reminders that I am connected with others, that we affect each other, and that love is the ultimate vehicle of meaningful change within. Put another way that sounds even less wishy washy, the impediments to love within oneself are one’s very work in this life. Everything else is peripheral in the grandest scheme. After this moment of gratitude, I am able to set aside what cyclically doesn’t serve me, and take care of my goal.

The nature of this recharge of my spirit compelled me to share a practice of mine I adapted from a monk’s advice during a retreat last year:
At the end of the day, reflect on 3 signs of greatness in other people that you noticed today; reflect then on 3 ways you have been helped by others; then, reflect on 3 signs of greatness in yourself.

I’m filled with gratitude and bewilderment as I head off to the first leg of my trip, a meditation retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh and nearly a thousand others at deer park monastery in Escondido, California.

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ichi go ichi e — my last day at work and first day of something new.

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Today was an unwrapping of gifts. Toward the end of my last day at work at MRC, I stumble into the performance space to see dim lights, balloons, tables and chairs, and, standing all around, faces of so many family and friends who came to see me off.

I see students, past and present, parents, coworkers, volunteers, supporters, mentors, and creative “partners in crime”. Hearing  my students perform one song after the next, and hearing them express their sentiments to knowing me, I melted into reverence for each moment I’d shared with them, that would inevitably, unbeknownst to any of us, lead us to this pivotal moment of the here and now. A moment that overflowed with loving spirit, of thankfulness and joy. Filled with warm wishes for me, and gratitude for how I’d touched others.

My heart continued to break open until I was surprised by a goodbye video, consisting of these warm wishes by many a student, strung together along with photos of yesteryear, when I was freshly back in Cincinnati. When I was planted back at home while yet to feel at home inside myself. My heart raced as my body appeared ready to shut down—I felt my rib cage ready to collapse, to make way for my soul to leap out from inside me.

When I finally took the microphone, I was unable to speak. It was at this moment I had fully touched the brevity of how much my work had affected me, and how much I had affected others. The stories could all be strung together in my mind, as they had been up til now. The stories of who I came to know, how our interactions touched us, and what I’ve come to learn and take away from dedicating myself to this place for the last 5 years.

But, standing shoulder-to-shoulder before me as one group, I had seen the bigger story of my life wholly embodied in a spirited presence. My mind unwound time to help me realize just what the place meant to me.

I looked to and addressed my father, who was my first supporter in my creative music endeavors. I opened myself to once again being grateful for his openness, his friendly support of my pursuing a passion. A passion that would lead me to the East Coast for college and work, where I would eventually burn out and return home from with complete surrender.

“You wouldn’t have known,” I told my students, “that when I returned home to Cincinnati, Ohio, I thought my days doing anything with music were over.” But soon after, I would find a mentor and business owner who would show me hospitality and an open door, subtly encouraging me to revisit my interest in music. Sure enough, he was standing before me in the congregation, now a volunteer at my work. Added to his gifts were the gifts my boss, Karen, would provide me with over the next 5 years.

As I would tell her later, she met me at a time when my vision was dim, my take on myself limited, and my belief in music, much less what my role with it, yet to be discovered. Yet, in devoting myself to this work, I came to find inner strength, a life purpose, and an ability to touch lives. Thus sparked a “new take” on myself.

Karen gave me the chance to recognize and use my gifts; to learn about others; to appreciate what I have, and to learn not to put limits on what I can achieve. I will forever be grateful for what she’d made possible.

Gazing into the eyes of those around me, I’d seen all the characters in what would become an immense chapter in my life, all gazing right back at me. The moment was so rich, so full, words could never aptly take one there. It was a junction of meaning, resolution, and understanding. There was a deep, deep acknowledgment of what this period in my life would actually come to mean, and what it was for me in totality right this instant.

It all made me contemplate my should, how I ended up here. What I unknowingly came to learn at MRC . . . that we are all good, that there is only healing; that we need to help each other water the seeds of kindness in one other; and that I can live my life, my every waking moment, with purpose, integrity, and belief in the goodness of all. That I can serve, bring joy to others; that I can be a light that I would hope helps you see your light too.

The heart that I wish to grow is not anything waiting for me overseas. It is what I discovered by watering seeds at this sacred workplace with these incredible individuals. This love and light I hope to nurture in my journey are merely the fruits of my path as a steward at MRC.

At the end of my acknowledgment, I shared the quote used in Japanese tea ceremonies,

ichi go ichi e. — one meeting, one opportunity.

With our arms around each other, we acknowledged that the moment before us would likely be the only time we would all be together in one room, in this exact combination. That whatever spirit can come about from this combination could only be found in the here and now, should we be open enough to one another to share it.

To all I came across, thank you for sharing a million meaningful moments with me, for all the many gifts each one would place on my heart for ever and ever. May we become evermore awake to ourselves and each other so that we can own the precious gifts this being alive has to offer.

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