January smiles and softly asks that I open up to new ways of being. I listen and want to heed her gentle call. Although I feel ever open to new experiences, there is a part of me that often prefers what is already known, the more familiar walks and pathways. I often fly through my days, racing from dawn to dusk only to find myself back where I began—and, sadly, sometimes remembering far too little of the essence of where I had been. A voice inside me chides, “Keep going! There is so much to do, to learn, and to accomplish!” My parents taught me that it is wise to be very busy and outwardly productive. I learned that to slow down–to be still–is an act of laziness. My parents taught me so much that I value, yet the message of stillness being wasteful is one that I would like to release. So, when the first days of January whisper to me to slow down, to cherish the moments, I turn my ear and listen. An intention forms and I feel a shift within me. I can—I desire to—learn to reduce my pace.
This January morning is brisk, clear, and full of promise. The sun shines through the icy blue sky; its sparkling rays are too cool to warm me on this wintery day. There is little birdsong, so it is the sharp tap-tap-tap of my heels that fills my ears as I cross the parking lot. I made a special effort to clear time for my second morning meditation group, and I smile at myself for this small accomplishment. I hear what my new mentor might say if she were with me, “It is the mind that tells us we cannot make space for meditation. The mind wants us to believe that we have more important things to do than make time for what is vital.” I know this mantra all too well. I laugh at myself and smile broadly into the heavens. My toe hits the curb with a slight jolt, calling my attention back to the earth. I pause to catch my balance and, in that moment, notice a statue that waits before me.
The stunning statue, brilliantly illuminated by the morning sunlight, seems both familiar and unfamiliar. Though I must have walked this area before, it is only this morning that I pause to actually see—to appreciate—the statue. Although it is an unpretentious statue that rests atop the circular pedestal, I feel humbled by its immense power and grace. The sunlight spills over the figure and into my eyes. Averting my gaze from the bright sunlight, I am astonished to notice that the statue’s arms–stretched downward in a gesture of welcome and support–are handless. The mysterious absence of hands draws me in for closer inspection. The simple text carved into the pedestal offers, “We are his hands.” I raise my head to scrutinize the figure itself. A smile lights my face as I realize it is a statue of Jesus I behold. A shiver comes from deep within, and I pull my coat tighter. I am taken aback by the figure’s magnificent simplicity. At this moment I feel so very small, so very insignificant, and, yet, so very powerful. I want to reach up to touch the handless arms. The statue’s message reminds me of the importance of each action I take. The truth of this thought hits me particularly hard today. I whisper to the statue, “I strive to live in love, gratitude, and kindness. Is that enough?” I pause to reflect, knowing that the answer is within me. It is my responsibility to act out of love even in the simplest of ways. It is my humanity—my very imperfection–that allows me this responsibility and privilege. Though I am not defined by any particular religion, my deeply spiritual nature is a core aspect of my being. I realize that it is the pull of spirituality that beckons me ever closer. With my hands tucked in my pockets, I pause in humble gratitude. I want to linger, yet the call of meditation returns to my thoughts. I move away slowly, my heels tap-tapping on the sidewalk, and the swish of my skirt making a gentle music of its own. I try not to hurry in an effort to make up for “lost time.” I laugh at the thought. It was not “lost time”; it is cherished time.
Moments later, I arrive as the group is still assembling. A lovely hodgepodge of personalities, we prepare to sit in our meditation circle. I feel at peace with this group already; there is a sense of ease here that one might expect only after years together. Much is stripped away; I am held by the simple depths of our group and of our time together. A soothing, warming hymn opens the practice. Our guide, her voice a tender plea to the heavens, begins to sing and our voices join in. I enjoy the vibrations, the tones that range from strong, gravely depths to sweet soprano highs. After a simple, grounding invitation to begin our meditation, we find ourselves breathing, focusing, and allowing. There are no expectations, and there are no demands. Judgment is absent. We are alone, each steeped within the essence of our beings, yet we are together as one. We are still. I like this.
My mind wanders briefly; I resist the urge to fidget. This new style meditation is unfamiliar to me. I am accustomed to moving meditations; I crave that the fluidity that brings my body and spirit into union. I have led many moving meditations, and I have enjoyed thousands on my own. My energetic disposition begs for movement to quiet my mind. Yoga, with its focus on equanimity through breath and body, suits me. Walking along the ocean, the roar of the surf juxtaposed against the stillness within, draws me into unity with the Divine. The simplicity of a hike, a backdrop of mountains and clouds to elevate the spirit, allows for transcendence. I giggle to myself, “Yes, you also like that your moving mediations allow you to exercise and meditate; you are always so efficient and practical.” I smile at my thoughts. Without judgment, I return to a gentle focus on the union of my breath and spirit. I hear our leader’s soothing voice remind us that our breath flows through us and through all that is life. Our breath connects us. We are distinct, and we are one.
The image of the handless statue arises within me. We are his hands. I am filled with the awareness that I am, indeed, an infinitesimal—yet vital and significant—aspect of the Divine. Yes, I am his hands. The word “love” arises and reaches deep into my being. I feel it holding me, haunting me, and compelling me. I sit with the feelings. I allow them to saturate me and unfold within me. Thoughts of devotion, faith, and dedication float in. I voice within me rises, “These are facets of profound love; they put love into action. Devotion, faith, and dedication allow the seeds of love to be shared.” I feel heaviness set in, a sense of work to be done, and I allow the heaviness to fill me. I return my focus to my breath and to the icon of love. Breathe in love. Breathe out love. Breathe. I sit with myself. I sit with my breath. I sit with the others who are immersed in their own experiences. I sit. I am full. I am still.
A reflective, gentle sharing of experiences concludes our practice. I find, as I often do, that we are not so dissimilar from each other as we might secretly believe. I listen. I feel. I learn. I share my encounter with the statue and the images that arose during my meditation. With a joyful smile, our beautiful leader relays the story of the handless statue, “The statue’s hands were cut off by a vandal. They were repaired. Later, the hands were cut off a second time. Again, they were repaired. After the third time, they were not repaired. Instead, ‘We are his hands’ was carved into the pedestal.” It is a true story, and one that fills me through and through. It is a story of life, of a challenging situation met with love and grace. Such is hope. Such is faith. Such is love.
Before turning off my lights for the evening, I give one backward glance into the office I cherish so deeply. It is a space of faith, dedication, and devotion. These rooms are filled with hope, faith, and love. Yes, it is time to return home under the sweet, gently guiding light of the crescent moon. As I walk to my car, the tap-tap-tap of my heels resonating in the stairwell, I am peaceful. I pause to feel the cold and to notice the light of the glittering stars in the dark sweep of sky above me. I pause to give thanks.
Afterword: I was drawn to return to the statue soon after I wrote this piece. My brow furrowed as my eyes roved over the statute’s sweeping lines. Curiosity overcame me as I realized that the handless arms actually reach upward. Confused and almost disbelieving, I scrutinized the figure again and again, for I had originally felt the arms reach downward toward me. Shaking my head in amazement, I realized that the actual position of the arms mattered not. A warm smile of delight came to my face and swept through me. When my being wanted–or needed–to feel the support of the statue’s arms stretched down to envelop me and draw me upward toward it, that is what I saw and felt. I am ever amazed by the profoundly wondrous power that is within each one of us.