Turning 40: Into the Mystic

  1. A couple weeks ago, I turned 40 and as I've reflected on the occasion, I find myself eternally grateful for the experience to celebrate life with my mind, heart, body, spirit, and soul. I feel like lately my blogs have been too focused on me, and the next one will be about the children, and my blogs, like life, need to oscillate between focusing on me and on the children. But a reflection on my birthday thoughts. . . .

Mystic, noun: a person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect.

This year was different because the school year extended into the mid point of June, meaning the day before the last day of school would fall onto my birthday.  I meant to take the day off, but as the day grew closer I realized that was silly and it was the 8th grade picnic and I had such a wonderful group of students, I wanted to spend part of the day with them.  On the day before, a parent volunteer and I planned a Renaissance Faire for the entire 8th grade (all 300 students). It was a great time and the students were very well behaved, but because I wanted to have an easy day on my birthday I stayed at school very late (in fact the girls came to help me and we were the last person out of the parking lot), and I was exhausted. 
As I think about my job at this phase in my life, I'm quite lucky to be teaching a subject I love, using my mind and heart to try to stir young people to think. 

Other than waking up exhausted, working on my birthday wasn't so bad -- as an extrovert, it is nice to hear Happy Birthday so often. BJ sent in decor for my room, and brought me Starbucks to the picnic; after the students left my coworkers threw a party -- who knew you can have pizza and cake with your friends still at 40?!?! It was so nice of everyone to take time out of their packing and endless to-do lists to celebrate (or mourn with me -- notice the black),and my kind friend Jenny for such a beautiful cake and flowers. 

 BJ's gift is a trip to Paris in August; he is enthusiastically planning the details and I can only imagine it will be a trip of lifetime. Yet for my actual birthday,  he arranged a romantic 5 course chef's dinner (thanks to Foode) for just the two of us with the restaurant to ourself, a personalized menu and a gorgeous arrangement of flowers he ordered.  He requesteda Parisian theme and it was so delicious. It fulfilled my body and my heart to be sitting with this man who adores me, even though I drive him crazy. 

40th Birthday Dinner from Sarah King on Vimeo.

A few days later, I enjoyed a contemplative run while the girls were with "Mum Mum" and then we enjoyed a beautiful  brunch. 

The week summer began, I was so honored to present at a learning conference with my students.  The next day I headed out for Yogaville. For Christmas, we tried to give experiences and BJ's gift to me was a weekend at Yogaville, only two hours from our home; I was quite nervous about going by myself, and even told the girls I was a little nervous. Molly said, you will meet friends; Anna Cate said, "you have friends already there; you haven't met them."

 Yet as I went, I wanted it be a personal retreat, a way to reflect and honor turning 40 by myself. There, nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains, less than two hours from my house, I discovered a place that fits my values. First and foremost, this place is an ashram, where spirituality, religion and community are sanctioned. The yoga, clean eating, and serene setting were icing on the cake. . .or tofu on top of a salad. When I sent back pictures, Molly Mae said the temple looks like a bouncy house. 

The guru's teaching embraces all religions and the temple is a beautiful sanctuary to honor humanity's search for the divine, expressed in many different ways. The section for Christianity displays a Baptist hymnal opened to "Just a Closer Walk with Thee," and it reminded me of my hunch that mainstream Christianity forgets Jesus might have been a mystic, too. I, also, just want a closer with Thee. On a couple of my runs, I saw a Methodist church. While I find truth and peace in other faiths, I'm proud of the one who raised me. 

In my quest to soak it all in, I practiced yoga twice a day, went to meditation, and even attended a worship service, including chants and a video from Swami Satchidananda. It was nice to be alone because if not, I might have tempered my enjoyment of the experience based on the other person's thoughts about it. 

By just focusing on the experience myself, I found Yogaville one of the most beautiful places.   yogaville from Sarah King on Vimeo.

I remind myself I that I've stood before the Vatican, Saint Basil's cathedral, the pyramids of Cairo and snorkeled in the East China Sea.  Yet, Yogaville moved me deeply, because in this retreat, I found a refuge where I can reflect on religion, spirituality and the creation of the divine, in perfect harmony,  while I felt the call to spend time in stillness with my own soul. 

Maybe that is the lesson of 40 -- notice what it near by, what is sacred near to home, near to my heart.

 This past Saturday, I started the book Douglas, my dear brother,  sent me in honor of our trip to Paris; as I sat with my coffee on our porch, I sent him the scene.

 Saturday marked one year since we learned BJ has Parkinson's Disease. I couldn't help but notice in this moment of preparation for this beautiful trip the signs I've had on the porch for years: Keep Calm and Carry On and pictures with the word "Paris." I know we wouldn't be going if we hadn't been given this nudge to appreciate the present. 

The lesson of turning 40, of Yogaville, and of life is to focus on the present and all that the journey of daily life has to offer. 

“Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.” ― Rumi


Mary Bates said…
Your blog moved me to tears,Sarah, mostly tears of joy in the daughter you are, how very proud I am of you. Your profound piece about life, love and trials were shared so beautifully, and reading about your weekend at the Ashram made me feel like I was experiencing it with you. Bless you for sharing your gift of writing and the importance of living in the present.
Dot Curtis said…
Beautiful writing, Sarah! I enjoyed reading your blog and watching the videos. You are truly gifted.