cuban refugee boat

cuban refugee boat

I made a promise to my client yesterday. I rarely do that, because it is very tricky to promise someone, especially a client, an absolute in a world that in a world that is stubbornly and perennially relative.

I promised her that I would not abandon myself.

And then I amended it. “I promise you that I will not abandon myself. And if I do, I promise to return”.

The reason I could offer this promise to my client is that these are vows I have made to myself. The only vows, in fact, I have ever made. These vows are personal, of course, and also beyond the personal. They are personal as well as relational as well as universal. They are professional. They are public, and they are private. They are the guiding principles of my life. They are Plan A and Plan B.

Plan A: Don’t abandon myself.

Plan B: When I abandon myself, return.

Of course when we think of “Plan B”, we think of how we are going to save our ass if all our best intentions fall to pieces. What will we do if we invest fully in Plan A, and Plan A bombs out? Gotta have a Plan B.

You might notice that my Plan B is “when I abandon myself”. Not if.  Because in this world, it’s a given that we will leave ourselves time and time again. No matter how integrated we are or how centered we are; no matter how solid a meditation practice we have, or how grounded we are; the world is full of land mines, and will pull us away.

Even if you are a hermit at the top of a mountain, the world will pull you away from yourself. Because there is weather.

So it goes like this:

Plan A: I am centered and present. I am here in my own being, fully alive and awake, resonating with my core. I feel my connection with my deepest being, and also feel how my essence connects beautifully and integrally with the world around me. (The long version of not abandoning oneself).

Weather: Shit happens.

Plan B: Get the f*** back home. (The short version of returning).

So even though Plan B is a secondary vow, it is really the most important one. Given that the world has plenty of “weather”, and that climate change is a reality (both in a real and metaphorical sense), you can count on the fact that you will experience plenty of challenges, plenty of craziness, and plenty of unexpected ‘visitors’ in your life. So I have learned, over and over again, the importance of Plan B.

There is a wonderful chant I like to sing, (written, I believe, by Reb Shlomo Carlebach) and sometimes teach, to clients:

Return again, return again,

Return to the home of your soul.

Return again, return again,

Return to the home of your soul.

Return to who you are,

Return to what you are,

Return to where you are

Born and reborn again.

Singing this song is one of my  “Plan B” practices. A way to come back home. A way to find my center again. I have many others.

The skills of “returning” to oneself are, I believe, among the most important practices one can ever learn. Each of use must find the paths that lead us to our essential beings, and we must walk these paths over and over again. Because if no one is “home”, then life is a rudderless journey.

Returning to oneself must happen again and again. We leave ourselves one thousand times a day. And we must come back one thousand and one times.

Thank goodness for Plan B.