Today is my birthday. Sometimes that means it’s a happy day, other times it’s a little sad. But today, a fairly normal day where I’ll do some homework, teach a yoga class, hang out with my daughter, I feel connected with small moments of joy in my life.
I meditated for ten minutes, and as I did, I gazed upon my altar with gratitude. I am grateful, first of all, to have my beautiful house and a room where I can meditate and do yoga. It’s a peaceful room, simple with its bare wood floors, the altar, a few lamps and pillow, and a basket of colorful yoga mats in one corner. Banners on the wall say Namaste and Peace. On the altar is a scattering of items I consider sacred; keepsakes of my travels. One set of prayer beads was given to me in Thailand by our tour guide, Thai (yes that was his name!) The other I bought in Seattle on a weekend away with my lover John. Memories of times with him are always bittersweet – five years together that ended on a sad note: the realization that I loved him more than he would ever love me (which finally gave me the strength to walk away.)
I began then to travel in earnest, and more memories are represented here on my altar: a dried leaf that fell at my feet while I meditated at Machu Pichu in Peru. A carved wooden elephant I bought at a Christmas market on the trip to Germany with my mother. A blessed statue of Ganesha that I purchased at the first Wanderlust yoga festival in Copper Mountain. Crystals that were gifts from dear friends. Pomegranate “seeds” from the great Stupa where the beautiful Golden Buddha reigns majestically over Shambhala Mountain Center. Also from Shambhala, a vial that held water from the Ganges, a gift from the writing teacher at a recent retreat that symbolizes my upcoming trip to India.
Breathing in, I take in the blessings of my life, breathing out I radiate gratitude. There is so much joy among the painful moments. Life can be stripped down to just this – breathing and accepting what is.
And yet, the things I listed are only artifacts. They are, indeed, things. They represent memories, but they are not the memories themselves. The important memories are experiences, people, moments fully lived. And yes, travel quenches something vital in my soul, but I also know that the things I really love and appreciate are not “things”. They are the people near and dear. My family. My dogs (yes, dogs ARE people!) Especially my children, the very blood of my life.
On this day that commemorates my birth, I am most grateful for these people who bring me the greatest joy.