for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
excerpt from Saint Francis and the Sow
by Galway Kinnell
There is evidence that loneliness and isolation can diminish our health, our vitality, and even shorten our lifespan. The opposite is also true. Friendship can heal, inspire, and cut through the veils of our own struggle to illuminate our basic goodness. Friendship can reteach loveliness. This perfect phrase of “reteaching loveliness” has sung in my head since I read this passage earlier this winter in Sharon Salzberg’s LovingKindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness.
As much as I find that I must cultivate connection with my own “goodness,” friendship does that reteaching in powerful ways. If we can clearly see what others see in us, and if we can honor that even those who see our darkest shadows also see our light, it can inspire that light to glow brighter.
This winter season has given me what I think winter is meant to provide. It’s true that our lovely northern hemisphere’s season has brought me dark broodiness because of my body and brain chemistry. It also brought with it time to sit, to talk, to slow down and to connect with friends, family and community. Even the greeting cards that came this holiday seemed to shine with love and acceptance that inspired me to move past some of the clouds that inevitably come into any life and into any mind and heart.
In gratitude, I write this post. In the last few weeks, I have been blessed by these words from friends:
“You truly are a bright and shining star. Tonight I marveled at your radiance and how you wonderful you are. I feel so blessed to have witnessed your life over the past few years. You have shone brilliant courage, magnificent strength, integral vulnerability and an uncommon wisdom.”
“You were always so brave.”
“You taught me to integrate all parts of myself.”
“I am grateful for you.”
“Your presence is a gift.”
While I enjoyed many wonderful conversations and being in the glow of the amazing people in my life (and the great feasts and bottles of wine that accompanied this holiday season!), these words are the treasures I’m carrying in my pocket as reminders for the rest of the dark days to come. I am reminded of the ways that my friends nourish me and the simplicity from which I can nourish others.
These words have lifted me, focused me, guided me. I don’t honestly think I’ve ever really paid clear enough attention to words like these. I have deflected, showered more loving words back, no, I object. “YOU are awesome.”
But I will try not to “object.” Because letting my friends make me brighter and stronger is the only good option here! Might I suggest, the next time you are shown your loveliness with the gift of friendship, soak it in. Meditate on those words. Bring them deeply into your soul. Let them heal what needs healing. Let your light shine brighter because it is seen.
What are the words that you carry with you?