it is important that we bow down to the breadth of our human experiences and to the larger mysteries that surround us. seeing beauty in the swirls of life’s busyness, making the most of what life brings our way, offering kindness to those around us, and being able to laugh from time to time. these gestures may be as grand as anything we can offer in our human life.
these are the parting words of karen horneffer-ginter in her book full cup, thirsty spirit – nourishing the soul when life’s just too much .
like many of us, i have become weary of self help and motivational books – will this be another author telling me what to do, heaping platitudes on me, haranguing me to make endless lists, boring me with (most likely invented) stories about tracy the stockbroker and bruce the bank executive? you know what i’m talking about, right?
what a lovely surprise full cup, thirsty spirit was! it started with my eyes – i like a pleasing cover. the warm yellow and brown colours of a tea cup and pastel-yellow blossoms promised me rejuvenation and calm. if you’re still a “real book” reader like i – this is a book you want to have around, it feels good.
oh, and the words! they are all as lovingly written as the quote above. karen horneffer-ginter comes across as a gentle friend, someone on whose sofa you want to curl up, someone whose quiet wisdom will enrich your life.
this book is about self care, a topic about which i know quite a bit about, and something about which i preach to anyone who will listen. it takes quite a bit, then, for me to find new and interesting approaches. this book delivered just that.
i like the metaphors. she talks about thirst, one of our most essential drives, second only to the need to breathe. it expresses how much our spirit needs watering. how preposterous that we so often neglect such an essential call! the first chapter uses the metaphor of rhythm. she asks a lot of questions, such as
are there places where you get stuck in the movement between engaging in the world and turning within?
do i ever! i think there is a little part of me that rebels every time, that feels yanked back and forth: “8 hours for work! 3 hours for family! 1 hour for relaxation!” what if i want to work for 10 hours and then just … well, maybe swim around in my life, without being plonked into the next activity?
in turning within, she touches on how our use of language can thwart us.
if we had a socially acceptable language for naming “i’m unplugging today,” “i’m on sabbatical today,” “i’m going inward today,” this would be helpful. often when people say, “i’m taking time for myself” or “i’m taking personal leave today” the questions that follow suggest that we should be inserting some alternative activity into the day in order to justify our time off: “do you have a doctor’s appointment?” “are you getting caught up with some errands or yard work?”
that makes me think that “socially” acceptable can mean all sorts of things. we can wait till the cows come home until this sort of thing is acceptable in western society as a whole. but really, i don’t live in society-as-a-whole. i live in smallish societal circles, some of them overlapping, and why not experiment here and there what is acceptable, or even what i can make acceptable, simply by being the one who starts a particular use of language?
some years ago, when i was running a small but very vibrant and busy social service agency, i decided to emulate gandhi once in a while and have a day of silence in the midst of my busy work place. it didn’t mean that i wouldn’t work – i just didn’t talk. and you know what – it went well, and had a positive influence on everyone. that would be an example of experimenting with the notion of “acceptable”.
there are many, many gems in this book, and i honestly urge you to read it. i’ve been given a number of books to review here on this blog over the years – i think i’d put this in the top 5.
let me end with a quote from a poem by oriah mountain dreamer, which the author mentions in the chapter on embracing difficulty:
i want to know if you can see beauty, even when it is not pretty every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence
i want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “YES!”