I started reading a new book this week - The Zahir, by Paulo Coelho - suggested to me by my beautiful friend, Marinda. The following passage has been echoing in the hollows of my body for the past 48 hours.
Just to give a teensy bit of context: the narrator, a semi-tortured writer (to put it very vaguely), is on a tour of the Cathedral of Santa Maria in Spain...
"To begin with there was the city wall. The wall remained, but one part of it was used to build a chapel. Many years passed, and the chapel became a church. Another century passed, and the church became a Gothic cathedral. The cathedral had had its moments of glory, there had been structural problems, for a time it had been abandoned, then restoration work had distorted the whole shape of the building, but each generation thought it had solved the problem and would rework the original plans. Thus, in the centuries that followed, they raised a wall here, took down a beam there, added a buttress over there, created or bricked up stained-glass windows.
And the cathedral withstood it all.
I walk through the skeleton of the cathedral, studying the restoration work currently being carried out: this time the architects guarantee that they have found the perfect solution. Everywhere there are metal supports, scaffolding, grand theories about what to do next, and some criticism about what was done in the past.
And suddenly, in the middle of the central nave, I realize something very important: the cathedral is me, it is all of us. We are all growing and changing shape, we notice certain weaknesses that need to be corrected, we don't always choose the best solution, but we carry on regardless, trying to remain upright and decent, in order to do honor not to the walls or the doors or the windows, but to the empty space inside, the space where we worship and venerate what is dearest and most important to us.
Yes, we are all cathedrals, there is no doubt about it; but what lies in the empty space of my inner cathedral?"
When I was studying abroad in Barcelona in the fall of 2006, I lived on the top floor of an apartment building with a 70 year old woman named Nuria. There was a balcony up there, and every morning I would sit in a tiny plastic chair at a tiny plastic table and eat my breakfast looking out over the entire city. I could see the towers of La Sagrada Familia in the distance. The church seemed so small from up on my perch.
Though technically not a cathedral, Coelho's words brought me back to my mornings on Nuria's balcony and the few times I wandered aimlessly through the church, taking in the exceptional intricacy, delicacy and beauty of Antoni Gaudi's work, with its whimsical lines, plunging high ceilings, and tiny nooks and crannies. The photograph above is just a tiny glimpse into the wonders of that building.
I wonder what lay in the empty space of Gaudi's inner cathedral.
This weekend (and for the next three days), I have been given the gift of Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra. I'm training to be a Divine Sleep teacher... actually I think guide is a more fitting title. In just a few words, Yoga Nidra is a form of meditation usually done while lying down in which a guide takes his/her students on a journey through the multi-dimensional self, exploring the body, breath, energy, mind, heart, and spirit.
A big part of the style of Yoga Nidra that I am studying right now is discovering and experiencing sankalpa, meaning intention or resolve. Taking the definition one step further, the sankalpa is the heart's deepest truth, the heart's deepest longing.
The sankalpa is what lies in the empty space of the inner cathedral.
So here I am again, asking myself the same question Coelho's narrator asked himself, a question O'Donahue forced me to ask myself last week, a question I imagine I'll be asking myself for quite some time...
What lies in the empty space of my inner cathedral?
But this week, instead of trying to answer that question, or explore it, or dig around in it, I'm just going to leave it unanswered. I'm just going to let it be.
My artistic contribution to the blog this week are two images I drew after two different experiences in Yoga Nidra this weekend. I don't know what they mean, nor am I particularly concerned with figuring that out. I am going to let them simply exist, without judgement or titles or definitions. (I have to admit that my ego mind is running around saying "Don't post this! Put in a disclaimer! This isn't art! Don't do it!" - but my witness mind is saying "Zip it ego!" - So I'm sticking with the witness.)
I am really excited about this training and I can't wait to offer Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra for my family, friends, and students. If you're interested in experiencing Divine Sleep, just let me know, its a really beautiful practice and I would love to share it with you!