The Promise of Renewal

On Monday night, the UConn Women’s Basketball team played Baylor to advance to the final four. The game took place in San Antonio, Texas. It was a tough and intensely physical game that UConn won by two points.

Geno Auriemma, the UConn coach, while being interviewed at the end of the game, said something that caught my attention. Describing his team’s win against a team that was stronger, bigger, and faster, he said that, “Although UCONN has a long history of winning, this year’s team is young and when you don’t know because you’ve never been there before, you don’t believe it. These players don’t have that experience yet. No matter how many times they’re told and how many times they look up at the banners hanging from the rafters at Gampel Pavilion …. until they’ve done it they won’t believe it.”

Geno Auriemma has coached the UConn women’s team for 36 years during which they’ve reached the final 11 times and won 11 titles. UConn recruits some of the best athletes out there and they sign up because they want to become even better and win championships. Even so, they have to learn what it takes to win national championships on the college level and the only way to do that is by doing it.

Auriemma’s comments got me thinking about how we too are finding ourselves at the very beginning of a new season, being invited to step forward with hope and faith in ourselves and the days ahead.

We have celebrated the arrival of spring and new beginnings many times before. This time we may find it challenging to find our footing as we’re slowly emerging from a year lived under extraordinary circumstances. Most of us have been through difficulties and challenging situations before, but this one is different.

This last year has been all about life and death, hardcore upheaval, and sustained heightened emotions. In addition, the waves of bad news continue to batter the shores of our psyche and we can’t help but feel sad, angry, and overwhelmed.

“Yes, these are times of great illness and distress. Yet the center may just hold.

Anne Lamott
Dusk Night Dawn

What does the center look like for you?

If hope, faith, and goodness are our heart’s true home
how do we walk ourselves back?

We can begin where we stand, tired and bruised yes, but still standing. As a dear friend from Greece told me during one of our conversations, “We have to begin by taking inventory. We have to know what we lost and what we still have that we can hold on to. We need to know our grief but also feel gratitude for what we have. And, it has to come from each one of us.” She is a wise one this one and I love her.

What other choice do we have anyway? We can’t be of use to anyone, including ourselves, when hope, faith, and courage have succumbed to defeatism and hopelessness. We have to become the keepers of light and hope … each one of us …. every day despite our fear and anxiety.

while in the midst of horror
we fed on beauty – and that,
my love, is what sustained us.

– from “Transit” by Rita Dove

Focusing on the beauty, goodness, and new life as it pushes through soil and stone becomes the antidote to the non-stop avalanche of bad news and darkness. The ice has melted and the rivers and streams are flowing strong. The birds are going about their daily business of building nests and singing each morning and evening into being.

There’s an open invitation to participate and note the areas of our life that are in the process of rebirth and renewal. What is calling out for your attention? Is it a new project, your community, your health, or a relationship? Is it a dream waiting patiently to take form?

Can we give ourselves permission to hope and begin anew
despite our fear and insecurities?

Can we have faith in something stronger than daily news and bad intentions?

Just like these young UConn players, can we
regain our strength and sense of purpose?

We may have some ways to go but we have experience under our belts. We’re not freshmen anymore. We’ve come this far and we know how to find our way through the dark. I don’t know about you but my life has evolved around U-turns and detours. When I look back, I can find no logical explanation for how things turned out but here I am, grateful for the inspiration and small miracles that guided my steps.

I remember the early years when I still lived in Greece and worked in Athens. There is this little old Byzantine church that dates back to 1050 in downtown Athens and on days when I felt sad or overwhelmed and the weight of the world was a bit much, I would find myself heading towards that little church and going inside to sit and breathe.

It was usually during lunchtime and there was hardly anyone there at that time. The church was dark and the scent of incense and beeswax from the burning candles filled the air. I would just sit down and be with myself. I often think of this little church and the deep silence that welcomed me when I crossed the threshold. Especially when the awfulness of human behavior strikes, I feel the need to enter sacred space and somehow find the light, a shred of hope, a moment of peace.

We all need safe space where we can go to find refuge and healing.

Where do you go to find your center?

The little church is not accessible to me anymore but my meditation cushion is and so is my garden just a few steps away from my front door. And then there’s the river and the wetlands where I can go and be fed by the sounds of wind and water and open skies above.

Something amazing happens when I get out of my head and enter that quiet space inside, where I can be with my thoughts and questions and open up to inspiration and guidance without interference.

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

When I am Among the Trees
by Mary Oliver

“You too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.” Can we give ourselves permission to believe that and believe it, again and again, every single day? Can you think of a better offering than walking with ease in this world and letting your light shine?

Can you imagine what would happen if we all made that commitment? What a difference in the world that would make.

Tell me, how does your safe place look and what gives you hope these days?


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