According to the dictionary, reverence is a feeling of awe, wonder, and respect. When I first discovered this word, I asked myself, do you feel this way about your life? Do you sense that your life is amazing, miraculous? Are you filled with wonder?
I had to answer, no. How is it possible to feel reverence when I so often feel trapped and powerless? When I listen to the news, I often get impatient or angry. Even when faced with my to-do list, I get frustrated. I was curious. So I looked deeper, and I discovered this story.
In 1915, while on a boat trip up the Ogooué River in Gabon, perhaps, like me, in search of life’s meaning, Albert Schweitzer wrote about his encounter with reverence: “At the very moment when, at sunset, we were making our way through a herd of hippopotamuses, there flashed upon my mind, unforeseen and unsought, the phrase: ‘Reverence for Life.’ The iron door had yielded, the path in the thicket had become visible. Now I had my way to the idea in which world affirmation and life affirmation and ethics are contained side by side! A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as that of his fellow men, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help.”
Two years later, Dr. Schweitzer started building the hospital in Gabon where he would spend the rest of his life in service to the community.
Reverence. It’s hard to put into words and even harder to put into practice. But when I start connecting the dots in my life, I begin to see that joy, achievements, setbacks, and challenges are all part of a larger journey, that of my unexpressed soul which, like the Ogooué River, is inevitably twisting and turning in its path to the sea as if directed by the same unseen hand that guides us all. Tuning in to reverence allows me a kind of freedom—to be a soaring spirit, to have compassion for myself and for others, and creates in me a greater capacity to hold the mystery of life itself.
What does it take to Flow with Life?
Heat shimmered like a haze above the asphalt road. My mother rested her two hands on the wheel, the air conditioning on high to combat the heat of the day, waiting for the light to change. She felt as if she was looking through a glass of water. Everything was a little blurry, almost wavy.
“Bhuk lagi hai,” the woman said, tapping the window of the car in front of my mother’s. The woman lifted her hand to her mouth as she spoke, fingers coming together to emphasize her desire for food. Slender, and desperately poor, it was hard to judge her age. Her hair was matted with dust, dry and brown, rather than the black lustrous, shiny Indian hair on the shampoo commercials. The child, a girl, on her hip had the same matted hair and one shoulder was bare as the too-big dress had slipped over onto her arm. Her bottomless brown eyes looked straight and fearlessly ahead, while her mother pleaded for alms.
“May not be her child, “my mother thought idly. “Where is the tout who will take her money after she receives it?” Abruptly, horns blared, sharp and incessant, and the woman moved hastily out of the way into the shade of a nearby neem tree. My mother let go of the brake and pushed on the accelerator as she drove through the mayhem that was Delhi traffic.
Being in India is constant sensory overload. Sounds, smells, the way heat touches your bare skin, hitting you in the face. What do we let in and what do we block out? How do we stay connected to the flow of life without letting the white water of the world pull us down?
It’s almost easier to shut the chaos out. The noise. The traffic. The unquenchable thirst of poverty. Then our world can be safe, predictable, organized and comfortable. But life has a way of intruding, opening your eyes and ears, challenging your thoughts, pushing you past the status quo.
What manifested on the streets of Delhi manifests in my daily life thousands of miles away. Pristine suburbs block the homeless out so that when I see them, I’m shocked by hunger in a land of plenty. In almost smoothly flowing traffic, the swerving car and angry honk point to the same universal emotions of impatience and irritation, guilt and sadness.
I want to let it all rush in, this current of life, and have reverence for it all. To do this I need the capacity within me to hold it. I need patience and discernment. How is it possible?
Elm flower essence allows me to create the capacity so that I am not overwhelmed by it all.
Impatiens—the only flower essence so closely tied in name to what it does—stops me from being irritable so that I can have patience with the larger timetable of life. Patience at the driver, at the traffic, at the weather, at the world.
Cerato, the essence of a little blue flower, allows me to trust my judgment, build my own discernment for my own opinions.
Because in the end, in a world of opinions and information, wisdom comes only from within—from finding out what you value, and learning to trust yourself, your instincts and your intuition.
This is a weekly series of blogs that explore my search for reverence for life. What does it mean and why is it important?