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Exploring the Interior

Doing It All
by Maggie Lyon

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There are moments when I wonder if I am really cut out for this life here in the "real" world. Having spent some formative time in my late teens at Green Gulch Farm and a couple summers at Tassajara, the two sister properties to San Francisco Zen Center, I still after all these 17 years and despite the amazing gifts and crucial life lessons on the outside, question whether I would have been better off committing myself to this lovely Zen community, and fostering an existence that many would consider wholly off the grid.

Yesterday even, I read an article in The San Francisco Chronicle commemorating SFZC for its 50-year anniversary. I actually burst into tears, so touched was I from this very distant-feeling New York City. The article made me want to fly right back there and take roost, not by abandoning my current world, but by somehow magically transporting and inserting it right into the clear-minded center of that special paradigm.

Don’t get me wrong! I love my life. I have a beautiful husband, two sweet beaming kids, wonderful friends, a burgeoning writing and consulting career, and I also truly adore New York. But the conflict I am talking about is common for all of us spirit-oriented women, who are—clichéd as it may sound—feeling the pressure of trying to do it all.

Today, what I’m reminding myself of and vowing once more, is to bring the sincerity of practice that one taps more readily in a community setting whose aim it is to support said practice, and apply that same sincerity and unparalleled focus into the many-layered demands and pleasures of daily living. What I’m really making a plea for, however abbreviated and whatever your spiritual or religious affiliation, is that you and I both bring our devoted monk-hearts right into the center of these whirlwind lives.

Oh the number of times I have settled into my meditation cushion, where my breathing has begun to soften and my attention to sharpen, when the wails of my daughter pierce the air, asking for mama now, and only mama now! Or, when I’ve been sitting for a while with the hopes for another undisturbed 30 minutes and the phone rings not once, but four times in a row, making it obvious that I am needed by someone somewhere for some rather mundane or perhaps rather urgent thing.

My point is: Here is the work! Here is the fundamental practice! It is in applying the same focus and intention of formal sitting, chanting, bowing, praying, or any other devout ritual, to all our other activities and requirements. It is in giving that same present attention to changing a diaper, soothing a disappointment, washing the clothes, running the million errands, or working vehemently on a deadline.

Truth be told this feels impossible a lot of the time. I get totally lost, and then millennia later draw myself back into awareness. Yet occasionally, it actually feels possible. These are the crystalline moments, the gems with which to remind ourselves again and again that no matter how crazed we are as modern interior-rich women, the beats of our deeper spirit hearts can and blessedly do inform every other thing we do, whether we are tuned into them or not. In short, the reminder is, we already are doing it all. How’s that for taking the pressure off?

Maggie Lyon is a writer on wellness and spirituality, and a holistic lifestyle consultant. Hailing from Northern California, Maggie first studied Feminist Studies with Bettina Aptheker at UC Santa Cruz before transferring to Mills College where she graduated with a BA in Creative Writing. In 2002, she earned her Masters Degree in Education from Teachers College, Columbia. A practicing Zen Buddhist and Iyengar yoga practitioner since the age of 16, Maggie also drew on her training in nutrition, intuitive healing, energy medicine, and natural health to found Lyon Lifestyle in 2009. She is devoted to supporting women in connecting inwardly, empowering themselves, and thereby transforming their lives. Along with her monthly blogs, Maggie also writes regularly for Donna Karan’s Urban Zen Foundation. A mother of two young children, Maggie lives and practices quietly in New York City. Friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @MaggieLyon .

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