spirit flows thru -- Alison Rittger's spiritual reflections on finding the holy in the daily

Lit From Within


PictureBirthday gift from Corky / Alison R.
No candles. No birthday cake, but lots of greetings on Facebook. Family, friends, former students witnessed that on 9-21 I was born and they were glad. It’s joyful to think I touched some lives and wasn’t too heavy handed in the process.

To kick off my birthday, dear friend Kate treated me to breakfast at Toast at the end of Church St., near where the car tracks curve. I valued this time with Kate because, as usual, I didn’t need strategies to feel safe in her company; I trusted her affection for me. Such a feeling on my birthday opened the possibility that this will be the year I feel more trusting in general. This year I might feel safe in the world, be more present and less judgmental.

Over breakfast, Kate and I had one of our talks about a big subject. Goodness. At first I reacted to “goodness” by deflecting the notion that I was good.  I often act with good intentions and sometimes even veer into very good behavior like when I take the initiative with those with less than I have. Kate said that personal goodness is good and from a Buddhist perspective, goodness is basic to all. As we talked about experiencing this general goodness, I imagined what it would be like not to have strategies to make my world feel safer, but to trust this goodness we are feeling in the moment. In the morning on my birthday over breakfast with a good friend contemplating goodness, I felt lit from within. Happy birthday to me!

My birthday included gifts from my second son who is visiting from his home in the Philippines. Of course his being here was the best gift, and I loved hearing that he felt at peace, finally. Around noon, my girlfriend, Corky, brought over a birthday gift. I mused that it might be a plant. Indeed, it was a selection of viola, nemesia, and alyssum in a jade-green ceramic container. Moreover she gifted me with tulip bulbs to be stored in the refrigerator and planted in winter. Such thoughtful additions to my patio garden! And she left blank the lavender envelope that contained the birthday card so I could reuse it. More useful thoughtfulness. Happy birthday to me.

As much as  friends and family made for a happy affectionate birthday, I also felt grateful for Foxibeau, the dog. He is a constant reminder of unconditional love and definitely a source of stress reduction. Every dog person said it would be so, and every dog person was right.

In this 75th year of my life, I plan to let Foxibeau help me get past whatever in childhood has kept me strategizing about staying safe. It really feels like this will be the year I get free. Over the years I have relied on talking to ameliorate pain; now I plan to take a more silent, body-oriented approach. Foxibeau gets to be the warm weight that lies on my chest as I follow recommendations made by trauma specialist, Bessel van der Kolk in his interview with Krista Tippett about treating trauma. He makes the point that language can deflect a person’s ability to really get to the body where trauma is stored. No point in discussing my issues with Foxibeau; I will just be comforted by his furry warmth. Of course I will continue qi gong at the YMCA and Stern Grove, stay faithful to my zazen sitting practice, talk or not to therapist Jennifer and get me to a rolfer for deep tissue work. Add loving and being loved by family, friends and former students and I am lit from within on this most happy 75th birthday!

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