Night before last, my little one woke up crying. I ran into her bedroom and found her sitting up, half awake. “Oh sweetie, what’s wrong?” She wrapped her arms around my neck. “A scary, mean elephant was chasing me!” I reassured her that she was safe. That she was having a bad dream and that it was ok to go back to sleep. A short while later, I woke up with a start. I was having my own bad dream: after nearly two years of researching and touring both private and public schools, meeting teachers and administrators to try to determine the best fit for my daughter as she prepares for kindergarten next year, I received a stack of rejection letters— all at the same time, the day before school starts. After I shook off the sleep haze, I laughed out loud. Apparently, my scary, mean elephant took a different form, but it spoke to how I am experiencing my world. A good place for me to look for answers is within myself, then the next best place is to look to teachers who have shared their experience and wisdom. After I had some time on my zafu (meditation cushion), I took a book off my shelf and randomly turned to a page.
Einstein’s God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit by Krista Tippett (I adore her!) is a grounded, thoughtful conversation about the intersection of science and spirituality. The section I turned to resonated with me deeply: “Consider the perfect opening line of Reinhold Niebuhr’s twentieth-century theological classic The Nature and Destiny of Man: “Man has always been his own most vexing problem.” She goes on to say that “one cannot lead an examined life without noticing that all of our grandest objectives— political, economic and scientific— are inevitably complicated by the inner drama of the human condition.” I was reminded of the moments of inspiration I’ve felt within moments of experiencing my deepest despair. The world’s faith traditions speak to these moments, providing guidance on how to navigate our lives.
The death of American astronaut John Glenn hit me particularly hard. Although I never met him personally, I was inspired by his courage and commitment to service. He was the first man to orbit the moon and traveled space many times throughout his career. He was a US Senator as well. If you’ve followed my blog, you know that I was and continue to be fascinated by space travel. As a little girl, I longed to explore the universe— and leave my tiny town of Flint, Michigan behind. I became a mechanical engineer, on my path to becoming an astronaut. But alas, I found infinity and beyond (Toy Story reference) within myself on my mat nearly 20 years ago. Instead of becoming a space traveler in outer space, I find myself exploring my inner space- my body, mind and heart.
The very last engineering job I had was working on a project called Gravity Probe B. It was an experiment to test two parts of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. The project launched in space two years after I had worked on it. I continued to follow it’s progress and read about it’s launch from Vandenberg Airforce Base.
While working on the project, I read a great deal about Einstein, but not just about his complex theories that changed the course of history. In my opinion, Einstein was not only a great physicist but he was an accomplished yogi as well. I don’t know if he practiced yoga, but clearly, through his scientific study and experiments, he felt awe about the infinite potential of our Universe and beyond.
Einstein said, “a human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons near us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty”.
When Eva woke in the middle of the night distressed, how easy it was for me to comfort her, offering my compassion and support, recognizing that the dream wasn’t real. Similarly, with my concerns about finding the best school for her, I can rest easier as I offer my compassion and support for myself. I am doing the best that I can do. In the midst of a world in chaos and with so many people suffering, I widen my circle of compassion to you and all living creatures. Let’s all do the best we can to what we can do, offering our compassion and support. Offering an appropriate response in these challenging times.
“May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness
May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering
May all beings never be parted from freedom’s true joy
May all beings dwell in equanimity free from attachment and aversion.”
~ The Four Immeasurables as a Traditional Tibetan Buddhist Prayer