16 Jan 2013, Posted by elizabeth in Blog, 22 Comments.
I used to soak in the bath nearly every night. It was one of the few habits that formed in childhood and persisted well into my adult years, a reliable part of my daily routine. Once, upon visiting a friend out of town, the first thing she exclaimed when I walked through the door of her home was, “I haven’t had time to clean the bathtub yet!” Sometimes I bathed for only 15 minutes, other times for more than an hour, but regardless of how much or how little time I had to devote it was a way to tend to body and soul, a restorative experience that helped me to transition from day to night, activity to rest. It was where I did some of my best thinking. Then, as the saying goes, I had a baby. At my first visit to the midwife’s office I was warned to avoid soaking in tubs during my pregnancy, which was a major disappointment: if there was ever a time of life to be taking regular baths, this was it. By the time Abra was born I was solidly out of the routine, and in the ragged months that followed, when there was no easy way to delineate day and night and no time for leisurely soaks, I let what had been a lifelong ritual and pleasure slip through my fingers.
How fitting it was that I read most of Katrina Kenison’s new book, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment, a spiritual memoir about coming home to oneself, while soaking in the bathtub over the course of a few evenings. Magical Journey begins where her last book, The Gift of an Ordinary Day, leaves off, and I have eagerly anticipated its release since reading (and, subsequently, re-reading) Ordinary Day. It is the story of entering the “late afternoon” of one’s life, punctuated by the twin losses of her children growing up and leaving home and the death of a close friend. Much like Kenison’s previous book, which bears the subtitle A Mother’s Memoir, one need not be in that particular stage of life to identify with and relate to the very human, universal themes that she consistently grapples with: accepting our current realities, reconciling ourselves with our pasts, the impermanence of life itself. This is a book for anyone who has ever found themselves at a crossroads and wondered, “What now?”
The story unfolds during a period of Kenison’s life where one door has closed and another has yet to open, “the lonely liminal spaces between what’s ended and what has yet to begin.” As she struggles with this “fertile void” she slowly gains an education in how to allow the path to open before her rather than strong arming it into existence. Recounting the experiences, both big and small, of a particular year of her life – including standing vigil at a friend’s deathbed, getting her ears pierced, training to be a yoga teacher, rearranging the furniture, attending a class reunion, exploring Reiki, making a weekend getaway to a cabin in the woods, teaching a writing workshop – they provide tangible examples of how Kenison comes to learn sometimes hard-won lessons in how to grow more comfortable with the uncertainties that color each of our lives. Her antidote? Be present. Listen and love more. Enjoy, appreciate, and accept the circumstances of yourself and your life, just as they are.
Magical Journey is filled with so many rich words and insights, both from Kenison and other spiritual seekers before her whose quotes she smartly weaves throughout the text. Kenison’s writing always has a way of transporting me to her corner of the world and soothing my soul in the process. Her book offers no pat answers – I’d have been disappointed if it did – and grapples deftly with the inherent complexity of life’s Big Questions. She reminds me again and again that “your life is your practice,” and through translating her experiences into words she helps readers understand how to transform their own lives into “laboratories,” for Kenison is truly a teacher at heart. Although I’m still firmly in the early afternoon of my life I recognized many of the same feelings of uncertainty she elucidates, as this stage of mothering a young child slowly unfurls and reveals itself. But after reading this book, I felt surer about my place in this world and more confident that my task right now is not, in her words, to remake myself but to remember myself – even if it’s as simple and humble as resuming a nightly bathing ritual.
“Meaning and purpose come not from accomplishing great things in the world,” she concludes, “but simply from loving those who are right in front of you, doing all you can with what you have, in the time you have, in the place where you are.” No matter our circumstances, Kenison powerfully assures us that we all have this capacity within our reach.
Ms. Kenison has written a beautiful book and “instruction manual” for living and loving better. And, as if to confirm the fact that all journeys really do have a bit of magic at work, I was delighted when I learned that my dear friend and Tribe sister, Melissa Dowler, comprised half of the husband-wife team that produced this stunning promotional video for Magical Journey. Please read, watch, be inspired, and enjoy!
I am giving away a copy of Magical Journey to one lucky reader! Simply leave a comment on this post by Tuesday, January 22, and I will draw a name at random at that time. If you’re itching to read Katrina’s words before securing your own copy of the book, head on over — right now! — to her blog. I’ve been a reader since its earliest days, and I never miss a post.
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