Stitching Together A Year

As I write this final post of 2018, I am thinking back to the ways this year has been stitched together. Recently, as a guest on a podcast, I was asked to consider how I work to inspire a sense of community. I answered that I believe it’s mostly just by showing up. My teacher, Kim Manfredi, described this idea of showing up for the daily rituals of life with a Buddhist expression: “Chop wood. Carry water.” When I’d get tangled in what the next step for the business or teaching might possibly be, she’d repeat this saying. The expression is a reminder that through it all–the bright moments and the dark, wretched ones–we must keep showing up for the daily work of life. It’s the daily showing up with consistency for our life that creates order, and order creates meaning. I love most the way Anne Lamott describes this idea in her book, Stitches, which was written in her heartbreak after the New Hope, Connecticut shootings in 2012. She writes, “Here’s the true secret of life: We mostly do everything over and over. In the morning, we let the dogs out, make coffee, read the paper, help whoever is around get ready for the day. We do our work. In the afternoon, if we have left, we come home, put down our keys and satchels, let the dogs out, take off constrictive clothing, make a drink or put water on for tea, toast the leftover bit of scone…Beauty is a miracle of things going together imperfectly…You have to keep taking the next necessary stitch, and the next one, and the next. Without stitches, you just have rags. And we are not rags.” In looking back, this past year very much resembles a patched together work of art, that, albeit crudely stitched, came together in the consistent showing up that each of us continued to do day after day. Being able to see the year, the work of art as a whole, rather than the individual stitches and pieces, allows me to see and appreciate the meaning in the every day.

As 2018 unfolded in ways that often seemed meant to unravel us as human beings, I made a promise to myself to continue on with each of my intentions–to continue to learn, to listen, and to teach when appropriate. Each of these intentions unfolded throughout the year into an organic mission to continue to hold space for a community of practitioners and teachers to be able to come home to their self; to find a way to continue stitching even when the fabric seemed weak, frayed, or just plain old ugly. I felt all of those things at varying degrees and times through the year–about myself, my work, and the world at large. But the discipline of coming back, and knowing that there was a community stitching along with me, created some semblance of order that feels akin to peace. Lamott wrote, “The search is the meaning, the search for beauty, love, kindness and restoration in this difficult, wired and often alien modern world. The miracle is that we are here, that no matter how undone we’ve been the night before, we wake up every morning and are still here. It is phenomenal just to be.”

I am grateful to be stitching together meaning with you all–with the teachers who keep showing up to do their work of learning, growing, and offering even when they feel broken and depleted; with the students who keep showing up to do their work of learning, growing, supporting each other, inspiring us teachers with their commitment, even when you feel broken and depleted. Here we are, ending a year together, and what I see is a piece of art that has come from the fabric of each of us; each of us being stitched together into a community that is showing up on our mats, doing our work, greeting each other, making connections. The stitches of this work holding us all through the frayed edges of existence. There have been both public and private moments that have threatened to pull the whole thing apart–for each of us, I have no doubt. Yet, here we are, not rags at all. “When we agree to (or get tricked into) being part of something bigger than our own wired, fixated minds, we are saved. When we search for something larger than our own selves to hook into, we can come through whatever life throws at us,” says Lamott. “You start wherever you can. You see a great need, so you thread a needle, you tie a knot in your thread. You find one place in the cloth through which to take one stitch, one simple stitch, nothing fancy, just one that’s strong and true.” I have taken up my needle and thread in the form of this business, the teaching, my writing. I continue to stitch, day after day, something together that I hope will hold beauty, joy, peace, comfort, strength, and I do so because I have a whole lot of other sewers along with me. So thank you, beautiful community. I hope for more patchwork stitching of beautiful, meaning-filled work with you all in 2019. May you be well, may you be held, may you be loved, and safe, and know that you are valued.