Graduating is a Lifelong Practice

Single Path 0313We graduate from one moment to the next. Every breath we take has a beginning and an end, and what occurs between that beginning and end is a lesson in living.

From the intake of the breath and all that it holds–the experience of it–to the release of the breath as the moment unfolds is an exercise we practice all the days of our lives.

Graduation is neither success nor failure but a series of milestones, markers of where we were, indicators that we have gone on to what comes next. Sometimes, that is only the next breath. Other times, graduation is a moment of accomplishment, of adding another tool to the toolbox that we carry through life.

Life is its own school, with assignments unique to each one of us. Always, there are questions; always, there are options.

I get up every morning determined to both change the world

and have one hell of a good time.

Sometimes, this makes planning my day difficult.

E.B. White

Graduation does not guarantee changing the world or having a hell of a good time but it does get us from one point in life to the next. It is a reminder that breathing is always an option. For the rest, we have our ever-expanding toolbox.

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Throughout our lives we make choices. It is indeed a milestone when we are thoughtful in our word, taking nothing and no one for granted, doing our best not to take things personally. This moment of graduation is available in every moment we live. Its lifelong tool is awareness.

Awareness helps us sort our options wisely, carefully, especially when our choice is one difficult path or another. Awareness reveals the hollowness in magical thinking for no decision made with heart ever rings hollow.

Many times, we approach crossroads that seem so familiar that we are sure we have been in this same spot before yet life does not afford us that luxury, not quite. We are not the same as we were, and neither are our options. Each moment in life is as unique as each breath. We graduate from one decision to the next.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

(“The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost)

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Graduation requires we immerse ourselves into life with our head below our heart so that we do not leave the difficult choices to someone else while we wither in weakness. Rather, we lead with our heart as we stand, perhaps alone, for what we know is right.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Martin Luther King

Our graduation from the womb to the outside world is the first of many, the beginning of miles of stone markers of the path traveled, the one that made all the difference.

 

10 thoughts on “Graduating is a Lifelong Practice

  1. My path, if it can be called that–sometimes it feels as if I beat my wings fly-fast just to hover in place–has been demanding lately so I am coming to this conversation late. I think the path only becomes apparent as we look back over a shoulder. Ahead it really is one unknowable moment that hits us again and again. The past, for better or worse, is the only thing we can truly know.

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    • And isn’t it interesting that the past, the one road we know, is so often up for review for sometimes, there is a fervent hope for a do-over but like the road not traveled that is not possible. Always a thoughtful comment, Adrian, and always much appreciated.
      Karen

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  2. I often wonder how life might have been were other paths to have opened up for me, or if I had made various decisions when confronted with choices. But I am on the path I am on because of those decisions, and consequently I am meant to be there. For me one of the beauties of Frost’s poem is that neither path had been taken by the traveller; and to that extent, whichever path we take in life is new to us. But I have to admit, the one less travelled has the appeal, if a choice is to be made.

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    • Frost has been a lifelong favorite of mine, although he is not as widely read as he once was, and often, the criticism regarding his work seems harsh, at least to me. As you know, this poem has produced volumes of criticism for it is not quite the dilemma that it appears. As I consider this, I probably should have quoted the entire fourth stanza so that it is a bit more obvious that the traveler took neither road for the path is the one we live, and it is only when we look back, that we might see the one not taken as the one less traveled. As for me, I am sure I would take the one less traveled, as it has been a lifelong habit. Wonderful words, Matthew, as usual. Thanks so much.
      Karen

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    • The E.B. White quote is wonderful, isn’t it? I have read quite a bit of his work but came across this one on the Internet. It has such a lovely twist to it but then, that is E.B. White. Glad you enjoyed the post.
      Karen

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  3. I love your phrase “no decision made with the heart rings hollow”. It’s a very curious thing that we cannot define what we mean by “the heart” when used in this manner, but we all know intuitively exactly what it is.

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