Sunday, April 3, 2011
In public and in private we make gestures that signal our feelings. Bowing our head or bodies is done to show our respect, submission, reverence, or assent. We hold our hands pressed together when we pray as a physical gesture that signals reverence, petition, and penance, among other things. For the last few weeks I have been thinking about the meaning of this gesture: hands open in front, palms up. For me it is a metaphor for the way I want to conduct myself in life.
To me this hands open, palms up posture has several meanings. In this position, it appears that we expect to “get”. And I do. I expect to receive abundance throughout life and I am putting out my hands in expectation of receiving plenty again and again. Not just material things, but epiphanies, ideas, something to laugh about, opportunities, inspiration, sunrises, connection with others, and many of the experiences that make life truly rich. The posture does not emphasize effort or controlling. As my wise friend Allison puts it, this kind of open expectancy is a “state of relaxed receivership instead of forced doer-ship”.
I also plan to give and this is the same posture made to offer something to another freely and generously. I plan to give generously – not only things, money, and service as needed, but also my compassion, love, kindness, forgiveness, understanding, gratitude and respect. My intention is to use my words to cause happiness and healing. My hope is that my actions make the lives of others richer.
Another meaning of this gesture for me is equanimity. Life has given me so many blessings and so much to be grateful for. I have a solid marriage with a good man; two healthy, funny children; health, wealth, and abundance; meaningful and satisfying relationships…the list is endless really. But this gesture of equanimity reminds me not to grasp or attempt to hold onto these blessings in my grip forever. It doesn’t work that way anyway. Everything changes, nothing is permanent. So I strive to fully appreciate the blessings I have while they are here. In the same way, I recognize that life is not always happy and fun. There are moments of great difficulty and sadness. I try not to label these difficult times as “bad” though, because often what I learn from them can be tremendously meaningful and beneficial in the long term and it causes the happier, easier times to be all that much sweeter. This gesture during the challenging times means that I understand that this, too, shall pass and not only will I successfully endure it, I will find a lesson in it, or some positive outcome. I have learned that I have a choice in how I react, and since I do, it makes sense to look for the positive, to be fully present, and to be grateful. This equanimity helps me to accept and appreciate all of life with intentionality and composure.
Doing or visualizing this gesture every day reminds me to be positive, generous, and equanimous. It is a physical metaphor of my spiritual ideal. If I can give and get plenty out of this life of mine and be grateful for all of it, it will be the life of my intention.