I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Jessica Curtis' reflection on the breath prayer of presence – acceptance – love.
Recently, while leading a workshop on creating a fulfilling life, I shared the very fulfilling experience I had last year of walking with my mother-in-law through the last days of her life. I hadn’t questioned how fulfilling this experience had been, yet I looked out at many puzzled faces trying to connect their idea of fulfillment with loss and death.
It’s no surprise – we often associate fulfillment with happiness and contentment, joy and celebration. But in this case, fulfillment came from an experience of loss and grieving.
Fulfillment comes when we are walking in alignment with our values. It comes when we experience a sense of congruence between our experience and what we hold most dear. In this case, I was honoring my core values of depth, witness and authenticity as I sat with my husband and his family at my mother-in-law’s bedside.
The trappings and stressors of material living melted away, as we sat together in the quiet. This is what matters, I thought.
There wasn’t much to say or much to offer except my presence, acceptance and love – just as she offered them to me. And those were the mantras of her bedside.
“I love you.”
Embodying the qualities of presence, acceptance and love in those precious moments required no special effort. They were simply there, and I felt those muscles grow as I continued to sit with her in her final hours.
Months have passed now. I feel her significant loss. I also feel immensely grateful for the experience itself, for the very real practice it offered me of being present, accepting the inevitable and expressing my love.
Since that time, I find myself thinking about how to bring this fulfillment into the day-to-day, into moments I might otherwise describe as mundane. Not just moments of prayer or meditation, but moments of car troubles, never-ending laundry, bickering children and fatigue.
It often feels like an uphill battle. No matter that I consciously try to under-schedule my family, limit the time we spend in front of screens, and sit at the table together for dinner most every night. It is not enough.
Recently, I have become intentional about cultivating presence, acceptance and love amidst the very alive and turbulent world of my everyday experience.
I have taken up a practice of breathing, as a way to nurture these qualities in all moments of my life. Whether I’m in the car, writing at the computer or helping with homework, I can manage to breathe. I can pause in whatever I’m doing and simply breathe.
I breathe in Presence. And I breathe out Presence.
I breathe in Acceptance. And I breathe out Acceptance.
I breathe in Love. And I breathe out Love.
As I breathe, I see each word – Presence – Acceptance – Love – in my mind’s eye, and after a few rounds of breathing, they unite into a single sensation.
I flood my lungs with oxygen and flood my heart with presence, acceptance and love. This in-breath heals the inner wounds of shame and judgment. It is a gift that returns me to my wholeness. As I breathe out, I can share this gift with the world around me, just as my mother-in-law did for me.
Breathing brings me back to center. Instead of seeing the dirty dishes and crumbs on the table, I can see my children’s faces, engaged in conversation and sharing an afternoon snack. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the phone call relaying information about a family member’s difficult diagnosis, I can feel grateful for the connections of family. I am reminded of the beauty of this chaotic and sometimes overwhelming period of my life, and I can feel myself come back to center.
Breathing in this way softens my experience of the world. As my experience is softened, so am I. There is so much to notice when I am present to it. There is so much that simply falls away when I can accept what is. There is so much love to receive when I open my heart.
I am flooded with compassion and gratitude for all that lives within me, for all I have to offer to the world. I am flooded with compassion and gratitude for all that lives within you, for all you have to offer the world. I am overcome by the sense that there is no separation between inner and outer, me and other. It is a moment of fulfillment, of healing, of God. "
Jessica Curtis, M.Ed., CPCC, ACC, works with people seeking growth and fulfillment in their lives. A certified, professional coach, Jessica also holds an M.Ed. in Counseling. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, three children and a flock of chickens. You can learn more about Jessica and her work at: www.jscurtiscoaching.com