IMG_6611I wrote this note to myself last May.

It reappeared in my life last week.

I’m not sure if I knew exactly what these words meant to me when I wrote them in this note recently returned to me, nor if I’ve quite yet figured that out five months later.

Nonetheless, I’m quite certain they fit somewhere special in the current leg of my healing and wellness journey.

The leg that kicked off the weekend I wrote this note.

On a Sunday morning in a yoga studio filled with new friends about to bring our Kripalu yoga retreat to a close.

The invitation was simple. Write yourself a letter. Seal it in a self-addressed envelope. Trust that it will be mailed to you sometime over the next six months.

“Paint the ceiling with the stars you didn’t see last night.”

The sentence had been reverberating through me since the instructor of our morning yoga class spoke it as he guided us through a posture that had us reaching our arms and gazes up to the white ceiling above us.

When the retreat leader invited me to write myself a note, the words to include in it were instantly clear to me.

The night before we had gathered around a camp fire. Connected through songs and stories while leaning into the smokey warmth of blazing firewood and each other’s company. At some point I had looked up expecting to see the beautiful blanket of stars only visible to city dwellers like me when we step away from urban lights. “There’s no stars!” I exclaimed, disappointed when my gaze was instead met with a cloudy, starless sky.

“Paint the ceiling with the stars you didn’t see last night.”

A casual remark entirely in context given the previous evening’s happenings . . . and yet, somehow magical to me.

Following the retreat my life quickly filled with ideas, people and experiences that took me away from pondering this sentence much further. I had my bike accident, began seeing my naturopath with whom I’ve been exploring my wellness from a holistic perspective, and had a series of incredibly influential books enter my life.

It started with my good friend SA, who, upon reading my blog post inspired by the retreat, emailed me and recommended a book by the Director of the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living. I tweeted excerpts from it as I began reading it, prompting my dear friend LB to tweet that she, too, was reading Stephen Cope’s latest, “The Great Work of Your Life.” During a chat about this book while I was in Ottawa in June, LB recommended I check out Anthony de Mello’s “The Way to Love.

Both books propelled me into an incredibly satisfying investigation of concepts such as grasping vs. aspiring, my purpose in life or dharma, and letting go of attachments.

I wrote about this investigation to my new friend GM, with whom I’ve been corresponding by letter since we met at the retreat (in fact, he’s the instructor who spoke the words I wrote myself on that May weekend). In one of his letters to me he told me about a book he had just finished reading called “Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi” by Brian Leaf.

Not only was this book hilarious (seriously, it’s laugh out loud funny and I highly recommend you give it a try whether you’re into yoga or not) it came to me at precisely the moment I was looking for more practical guidance on how to integrate some of the new concepts I was exploring into my life without jumping to the extreme of some poorly hatched scheme to go live on an ashram in India.

(Not saying that might not still happen one day, FTR, just not quite just yet!)

In “Misadventures” Brian Leaf shares a healing and wellness journey that starts with a elective yoga class during his first year of university in the 1980s and goes onto to include an epic road trip across America, numerous retreats and therapies and a connecting with what is “Most Real” that left me feeling both excited and anxious about the journey I’m now on. (“Am I close? I think I’m close! I thought I was close a year ago too though . . .” – Me while reading this book).

According to Brian Leaf, being “Most Real” means being aware of what you are doing and feeling in each moment. Not what you should be feeling. What you are actually experiencing. From that awareness comes understanding. And, as Anthony De Mello writes in another of his books I just finished reading called “Awareness,” understanding is the gateway to change.

“Paint the ceiling with the stars you didn’t see last night.”

I’m still investigating the feelings this sentence gave rise to.

My disappointment with the absence of stars the night of the camp fire.

The pleasure at being invited to create my own the next morning.

The insecurity upon realizing that five months and several brilliant books later I still can’t quite pin point why I thought these words were special enough to be written down.

In “How to Love,” Anthony De Mello tells readers to “just enjoy things . . . refusing to hold the false belief that you will not be happy without them.” He then goes onto explain how the programming we receive growing up in a society obsessed with achievement, possession and acceptance conditions us to constantly chase an ego-based, temporary happiness that comes from various external attachments that are by their very nature fleeting.

Perhaps that’s the significance of these words to me.

That they need not reveal a deep truth for me to love them.

For me to have delighted in them the first time they lit me up, as I turned my gaze upon a plain white ceiling in a room filled with lovely new friends I was about to say farewell to.

To again have a smile spread quickly across my lips as I was reunited with them by post this past week.

In both instances accepting that while the words and the feelings they evoked in me may not remain in my life past the moments in which I experienced them, they brought me joy in those moments. Just as other words, and other stars (whether real or imagined) will bring me joy in the future. Until they too slip away from my consciousness. Leaving me no more or less whole than I was before I encountered them.

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