Monday, July 3, 2017

Finding the Light in the Darkest Places



The biggest rocking chair. Casey, Illinois.
My husband and I have been on a quest this summer to have fun and visit places that we have never seen, even if they seem touristy or trivial. If we are in an area that might have a fun or funky attraction, we are stopping! And we are having a blast doing it. When our children were younger we were often too practical and less spontaneous. Now that we are older and hopefully a little wiser we see that there is value in spontaneity and a lighthearted approach to life. 

Life is serious enough so why NOT visit the biggest rocking chair or wind chime as you travel through Casey, Illinois. As the Archangel Michael (played by John Travolta) said to his fellow travelers in the film Michael, 

"You gotta learn to laugh, it's the way to true love. "

Balancing the seriousness with some silliness has gotten me through some tough times. Some of my most joyful memories have happened in the midst of the greatest turmoil. I often think how funny it is that this can be. Remember that iconic scene in The Mary Tyler Moore Show during the funeral for Chuckles the Clown? Hilarious! There is a fine fine line between our human emotions and sometimes we just have to let ourselves cross it. 

In Nothing to Do, a film I recently had the privilege of working on with some very talented folks, I played a woman who was dealing with the slow demise of her father. She (my character) was taking it upon herself to try to control the situation and things got very serious. Thankfully the brilliant screenwriter and director Mike Kravinsky (Nextnik, Geographically Desirable) came up with a scene that brought some comic relief to an otherwise stressful situation. I cannot wait to see it in the Fall when the film is released. Not only was it a good complement to the seriousness of the subject matter of the film, it was also a joy to play. And we did play, and play and play…I laugh just thinking about it. (Thanks Mike!)
The formations can take hundreds of years to grow just an inch!



On our most recent adventure my husband and I went to see Luray Caverns in Luray, Virginia after attending a wedding close by to there. Neither of us had seen the caverns although we had known about them for many years. The caverns were discovered in the late 1800’s when a prospector felt a rush of wind coming from a small opening and his candle flame was extinguished. When he investigated the source of the wind he found an opening to amazingly beautiful and mysterious underground caves. He kept the discovery a secret for a while and then eventually the caves were revealed and opened to the public. The Dept. of Natural Resources has checked out the caverns and authenticated that some of the formations are seven million or more years old! Some of the stalactites and stalagmites are still growing. It’s a natural wonder that one would think would be government owned and operated. Nope, those gorgeous wondrous caverns are privately owned by a family; a family that doesn’t get along.

It’s ironic to go into those caves and experience the awesome stillness and otherworldly beauty there right below the surface of a pristine freshly mowed grassy field. It's hard to believe that there is stress, chaos and struggle amongst the folks that have operated this gorgeous place for decades.  

Humans are funny. We like to have things looking all perfect on the surface but things seldom are. When we take time to really listen and get to know one another, we find that our lives up here are seldom tranquil and are far from perfect. We are just really good at wearing the mask. Eventually though the mask will crack. It has to for us to grow. 

Which brings me to yoga and meditation. C'mon you knew it would happen! We have, right below the surface, a beautiful place to retreat that, like the caverns, is cool and still and silent. It is where our true self resides and it's just a matter of closing the eyes, stilling the thoughts and getting beneath all of the stuff on the surface that can be so distressing to our bodies and psyches. Visiting the caverns reminded me that I have just to visit my interior cave a little more often to rebalance from the demands of the life up here on the surface. 

The stalactite organ in the room they call the Cathedral


According to yoga sutra 1:12 (“Abhyasa vairagya bhyam tan nirodha”), the ability to calm the vrittis comes through detachment and practice. Vrittis, or agitations, are caused by our ego reactions to situations that we perceive as threatening. When we pause and go “beneath the surface” of all of this we see things for what they truly are and, eventually with patience and practice, our true self can emerge. And that is key to growth, lasting happiness and peace.


But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  ~~Jesus


On the surface we humans quarrel, we fret, we stress over trivial matters. Beneath the surface there is peace, stillness and beauty. When we go there we can practice detachment from our fluctuating thoughts and feelings and reclaim our true nature. Our true nature knows intuitively that all is well and that God or the great mystery that forms things like planetary systems and vast oceans and majestic caverns has got our backs. 


Our guide at the caverns told us that it can take as long as three hundred years for one of the formations to grow just a half an inch. The caverns are still growing. We are all still growing too, hopefully into our loving, mindful true selves. We just need to be patient with ourselves and each other.

Prayer: May you find joy and lightheartedness in your everyday adventures and may you find the courage to explore what is beneath the surface.

Affirmation: I am meeting life with joy and spontaneity. I welcome the peace and stillness that rests beneath the surface of everyday awareness.



Connie Bowman is an actress and yogi and author of Back to Happy a Journey of Hope, Healing and Waking Up. 

For more about Connie including her yoga classes and workshops, visit her website at www.conniebowman.com.

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