Discover the Art of Renewal
with Amy Edelstein
Do you ache to relax? Do you find when you do make time for renewal you instead start looking around for ways to fill that time? Are you having troubling connecting to friends and to yourself? Do you sometimes feel like a walk-in in your own life? You aren’t alone.
From Arianna Huffington to Mika Brzezinski to Alanis Morrisette meditation, de-stressing, taking a technology break in order to thrive is on the top of their agendas. What’s key to thriving? Learning how to renew.
In our increasingly hectic world, where all the chaos-management apps and gadgets often make us feel more disorganized, stressed, and fragmented, learning how to renew is more than a luxury. It’s an essential art and practice of an integrated and purposeful life.
These ten big ideas on renewal are deceptively simple. You can engage with them just enough to tip out of your rat’s nest of stress. Or you can engage with them in pursuit of the depth of illumination that lured spiritual mystics throughout the ages.
1. Move Inward
Settle into yourself. Take a deep breath and let the surface issues roll off your back. Sink back. Really. Stop skimming this blog and for a few seconds, let yourself hover over the abyss to your inner self. Hold yourself gently, like a hummingbird balanced between blossoms. Pause, suspended between your thoughts and your feelings. Between your ideas and your fears. Between your worries and your dreams. Move inward.
2. Let Go of the Surface
When we let go, in a small way we die to the known. Even if it’s only for a micro-fraction of a second, we train ourselves to be at ease with endings. Endings enable new beginnings. Little deaths enable new births. In our culture we try to live forever, not recognizing that growth requires endings. Learning how to let go, we let things be, we create space. Space for pausing, space for being.
“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions,” proclaimed Ralph Waldo Emerson 150 years ago. See what you discover in this space.
3. Journey to the Source
We can’t possibly renew ourselves by filling our right hand with what’s in our left. We need to find access to a source whose nature is inherently refreshing. Through suspending our attachment to our ideas and becoming aware of the space that opens up inbetween our thoughts and feelings, we can dive straight into the pause between each in-breath and out-breath. That pause is like swimming into a sea cavern that takes us into the heart of the universe. As we journey into our own interiors, we journey into the interior of the universe. How? Consciousness is singular. Access from any point connects us with the depth of All that is.
4. Support Your Self
“How can I support myself?” you might ask. “I’m the one who needs to be supported,” we may be found muttering to ourselves. Step to the side just an inch, and see if you can’t take a fresh look. Supporting and renewing ourselves occurs when we extend honor, respect, and wonder at the nature of the Self. We may think we’re not familiar with this deeper dimension of ourselves, yet if it is indeed ourselves, it has been with us—and us with it—ever since we came into this world. How could it be otherwise? This isn’t just nondual jargon. Look deeply into your own experience, from the perspective of renewal and see what you find. Extending our care towards Self, we renew at the core of our being. Putting attention on the sacred center of ourselves, we create some pliability in our brittle frontal selves. Give, not rigidity, supports us especially in our most contracted times.
5. Open Your Inner Ear
Renewal involves listening. We can—almost literally—open up our inner ears. We are usually so attuned to our thoughts, to messages from the outside pushing our attention here and there, distracting us from a softer call within. Renewal comes not from doing, but from listening, from opening the pores of our souls so that we can hear the whisper of grace flowing through us. Turn your ear inside. Hold your attention loose and at ease. See what you discover. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the insightful contemporary psychologist and specialist on flow states instructucted, “It is not the hearing that improves life, but the listening.”
6. Be Brave
Renewal takes courage. Hardly a passive stance, breathing in joy and grace takes a brave commitment to that which we cannot see. It takes strength to pursue something we can’t measure and that is far less validated by our culture. Pulling our attention away from the magnetism of the superficial we turn, posed as if over a cliff edge, and we hover there, with a little vertigo, before we begin to experience the support of a very different updraft. Become an intrepid explorer of the Self and Spirit. You may find you are more brave than you might have thought.
7. Breathe into the New Space
Often times it seems that we can’t quite catch our own breath. That there’s not room enough in our fear-bound lungs to inhale. Now that you’ve created space and pliability—breathe. Allow your inhalation—of breath and of heart—to expand the center of yourself. Experience the room you’ve created. Invite a summer’s breeze into that space and fill the corners of the universe with one breath. As Self knows no limits, one gentle extension of our attention can reach the corners of the infinite. Boundless and close, safe and vast, easeful and unexpected, you can now explore the space within. Breathe into the new space, hang out here for awhile.
Benedictine monk Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968) pointed to a similar place, experience the space, “Contemplation does not arrive at reality after a process of deduction, but by an intuitive awakening in which our free and personal reality becomes fully alive to its own existential depths, which open out into the mystery of God.”
8. Be Happy
Did you find a gentle smile play across your lips as you move, unencumbered through the space within? Balance there, without effort. See if there’s a quiet happiness rising in your chest. Experience this emotion/sensation/intimation almost physically from the heart. It’s mysterious how something as vast as the universe can feel nearer than near. Be still as your feelings move and change. Allow the upwelling of excitement to die down. Be content and at peace, knowing that that which was unbidden and unexpected still appeared. Be happy, for that mystery exists whether we happen to feel it at any particular moment.
9. Respect Grace
When we experience a spontaneous arising of joy, we often want to dissect it. How did it come? What did I do to make the joy appear? What are its component parts? Like bright-colored lilies that live only for a day and then fade, respect the presence of grace as it appears in its natural element. Let it emerge and die back in its own rhythm, love its presence, respect its timing, and trust its existence. Renewal involves ease and faith. Faith is its own type of respect, we cultivate it as we learn to listen for signs of emergence in our inner world. It doesn’t take a huge part of ourselves, but it does take at least one part of ourselves, to stand sentinel, patiently alert, extending our gratitude for the intimations of grace.
The Indian social activist who spoke with the roar of Silence Vimala Thakar (1921 – 2009) described the posture of the seeker, “Let me begin by saying, ‘I do not know what God is, what reality is, what death is, what freedom is. Let me find out.’ In that state of humility in that openness to learning, I become a disciple–not to an authority but to life, to universal, cosmic life which is the ancient master and teacher.”
When we are thirsty, we drink, and our cells rehydrate. The process of inner rejuvenation is similar. We drink by opening our inner being to the grace we discover in the Self. We rejuvenate by pausing long enough to allow ourselves to absorb the grace that we dip into. Through practice, we can renew ourselves, and by withdrawing from the surface of life, and turning our attention to the inner world of Spirit. The rest will happen by itself. Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s (1749 – 1832) declared, “We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.”
The more we practice renewal, the more new life we can extend into our surroundings. As we each cultivate a different relationship to our interior world, the more fully we meet each other, connect, and create a very different currency of relatedness between us.