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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Let Us Commence

I thought you might enjoy reading this excerpt from Anne Lamott's address given to 2003 University of California at Berkeley Commencement Ceremony.

Let Us Commence

From the wise old pinnacle of my 49 years, I want to tell you that what you're looking for is already inside you. You've heard this before, but the holy thing inside you really is that which causes you to seek it. You can't buy it, lease it, rent it, date it or apply for it.... So it can be confusing--most of your parents want you to do well, to be successful. They want you to be happy--or at least happy-ish. And they want you to be nicer to them; just a little nicer--is that so much to ask? They want you to love, and be loved, and to find peace, and to laugh and find meaningful work.
But the thing is that you don't know if you're going to live long enough to slow down, relax, and have fun, and discover the truth of your spiritual identity. You may not be destined to live a long life; you may not have 60 more years to discover and claim your own deepest truth.... I do know you are not what you look like, or how much you weigh, or how you did in school, and whether you get to start a job next Monday or not. Spirit isn't what you do, it's...well, I don't actually know.... But I know that you feel it best when you're not doing much--when you're in nature, when you're very quiet, or, paradoxically, listening to music.
I know you can feel it and hear it in the music you love, in the bass line, in the harmonies, in the silence between notes.... You can close your eyes and feel the divine spark, concentrated in you, like a little Dr. Seuss firefly. It flickers with aliveness and relief, like an American in a foreign country who suddenly hears someone speaking in English. In the Christian tradition, they say that the soul rejoices in hearing what it already knows....
We can see spirit made visible in people being kind to each other, especially when it's a really busy person, taking care of a needy annoying person. Or even if it's terribly important you, stopping to take care of pitiful, pathetic you. In fact, that's often when we see spirit most brightly.... You're here to love, and be loved, freely. If you find out next week that you are terminally ill--and we're all terminally ill on this bus--all that will matter is memories of beauty, that people loved you, and you loved them, and that you tried to help the poor and innocent.
So how do we feed and nourish our spirit and the spirit of others?
First, find a path, and a little light to see by. Every single spiritual tradition says the same three things: 1) Live in the now, as often as you can, a breath here, a moment there. 2) You reap exactly what you sow. 3) You must take care of the poor, or you are so doomed that we can't help you....
So I would recommend that you all just take a long deep breath, and stop. Just be where your butts are, and breathe. Take some time. You are graduating today. Refuse to cooperate with anyone who is trying to shame you into hopping right back up onto the rat exercise wheel. Rest, but pay attention....
In my 20's, I devised a school of relaxation that has unfortunately fallen out of favor in the ensuing years--it was called Prone Yoga. You just lie around as much as possible. You could read, listen to music, you could space out, or sleep. But you had to be lying down. Maintaining the prone.
You've graduated. You have nothing left to prove.... There are so many great things to do right now. Write. Sing. Rest. Eat cherries. Register voters. And--oh my God--I nearly forgot the most important thing: refuse to wear uncomfortable pants, even if they make you look really thin. Promise me you'll never wear pants that bind or tug or hurt, pants that have an opinion about how much you've just eaten. The pants may be lying! There is way too much lying and scolding going on politically right now without your pants getting in on the act, too.
So bless you. You've done an amazing thing. And you are loved; you are capable of lives of great joy and meaning. It's what you are made of. And it's what you're for. So take care of yourselves; take care of each other.
Source: 2003 University of California at Berkeley Commencement Address

If you would like to know more about Anne Lamott, click  here.


Anonymous said...


Carol Steel said...

Yes, it is brilliant, very wise advice!