I turned 70 yesterday. For a while, that number felt alarming. Now, it’s mostly an invitation to re-orient toward fullness of life, to remember what’s important, to re-visit my commitments. And, while there are many commitments in my life, two have recently come to the foreground: Care for this being, called James, and transparency to the Flow of Love.
I grew up with the notion that self-neglect is a virtue, that self-disparagement is humility, and that self-sacrifice is the highest Christian path. I honor my tradition’s teaching to care for others and move away from self-absorption. And I continue to work at releasing old, internalized invitations to disrespect, distrust and devalue my personhood.
When I care for myself in a grown-up way, there is no disregard for others. There is, however, a claiming of responsibility for the life entrusted to me. I don’t ask others to assume that responsibility – it’s mine.
Each day, I affirm self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, trust in, and love for, this being – with no claim of greater or lesser worth than anyone else. I care for my physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual health. I nourish myself in each of those areas – as best I can – treating myself to good things and opening to the beauty around me.
I listen to myself, attending mindfully to the various voices in my inner conversation – fear, shame, anger, yearning, desire, hope, love, thoughts, stories, values, commitments and consecrations. I honor the little kid inside, the grown-up realist, the wise and loving inner guide. In giving every part of me a voice, I do my best not to let the youngest and loudest voices dominate the conversation or control the decisions. I pay special attention to the older, quieter voices deeper down. As I listen in the quiet, agitation settles and muddy waters clarify. Wisdom speaks. Integrity unfolds. And I am graced.
The second commitment, transparency to Love, involves a softening and an opening to the Flow of the Universe. I lighten and let go. I release any resistance to the Flow of Love – any resistance to receiving and radiating, freely and abundantly. I regularly re-mind myself and renew my commitment to transparency. I remember that, in this Flow, separation dissolves. Warfare within ceases. I am peacefully present. Right action naturally emerges.
Breathing helps us open to Flow. Here are some practices I’ve been using.
Connecting Heaven and Earth. Inhale up from Earth through the soles of the feet into the heart; then exhale from the heart up through the top of the head into the heavens. Or, reversing the process, inhale down from the heavens through the top of the head into the heart; then exhale from the heart down through the soles into Earth. (If seated, you can substitute the base of the torso for the soles of the feet.)
Whole Body Breathing. Inhale light/love through every pore, into every cell of the body. Exhale, sending light/love from every cell out through every pore.
Shambhala Warrior Breathing. Inhale deeply. Gently extend the exhalation. Follow and join the molecules of exhaled air as they dissolve into space. Let yourself also dissolve – into the spaciousness of the Universe, into Oneness.
Breathing Love. Inhale Universal Love into the heart and exhale Love back to the Universe. Love in. Love out. Let your heart unite with the One Heart that embraces all.
Transparency opens us to partnership with the Universe. Love flow through us during meditation and quiet times. It flows through us at work, at play and in all our interactions. It flows when we’re awake and when we’re asleep. With transparency, each of us becomes a Love radiator, a healing presence wherever we go.
So, two commitments: to self and to Self. The self that I care for on this planet dances with, and dissolves into, a larger Self, a Flow of Love. Identity expands, softens, and, at times, appears to disappear.
I can think of no better way to contribute to the well being of All – including the well being of 70-year-old James.