By Elizabeth Lesser, Co-Founder of The Omega Institute
I will be speaking on Thursday in Newtown, Connecticut. I was invited by the Sandy Hook Promise, a now-nationwide group founded by Newtown friends and neighbors to heal and to be part of a conversation about violence in America. I’ll be speaking with my friend Rev. Ed Bacon. Ed and I have hosted numerous shows together on Oprah Radio; this time we’ll be speaking and leading a conversation we’re calling “Finding Your Invincible Summer.” We chose the title from a line from Albert Camus, who said, “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
As fate or synchronicity would have it, I learned recently that I am the match for my sister’s bone marrow transplant. Things are moving faster than we thought they would and the transplant will be happening soon. I am going this week for a day of pre-transplant tests to the hospital where my sister is being treated. So, the day before I speak in Newtown, I will be putting into practice ways of “finding your invincible summer” as I prepare for a journey through winter into summer with my sister.
I will be writing much more about the transplant journey in the weeks to come, but for now, I want to share with you a practice I will be leading during my talk in Newtown. You can use this practice to find within yourself strength, healing, and inner peace for dealing with any challenge you may be facing.
Sit up tall in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. Feel the strength in your backbone. When you sit with a straight back a sense of dignity is felt in the body. You can see this posture in the iconography of all of the world’s wisdom traditions: the Greek gods and goddesses; the Chinese goddess Quan Yin; Jesus on the cross, or Mary in her blue veil; the Native American chiefs and the indigenous shamans—in all of these figures, you see a similarity of strength and dignity, and at the same time, openness and softness. As you sit with a straight back, also let your chest open and your shoulders relax, so that you feel what the “great ones” felt: the sweet spot between strength and softness.
Where strength and softness meet is where we find our invincible summer. If we are too hard—if we keep ourselves too protected from the pain of life—we become brittle and can break. If we are too soft, too sensitive, we can let so much in that we are overtaken by fear and heartache, and we lose our faith, we lose our way. This is why the practice of sitting still with what the Zen tradition calls “strong back/soft front” is so helpful. We don’t have to turn to the words of others; we don’t have to belong to a religion; we don’t have to go to a workshop. We carry within our own bodies a compass that leads to the invincible summer.
I will be leaning on this practice while I donate my marrow to my sister; while I witness her struggle; while I pray for her openness to receive new cells, and her strength to withstand the treatment. I will try to offer this same kind of strength and faith to the families in Newtown. And I will feel all of you doing the same on the roads you must travel in your own lives.