Being mere mortals, we are limited. The Doctor can choose to move back and forth in time in her TARDIS. Superman can see a vistas of land below him. Billy Pilgrim is unstuck in time.
We, however, can only see what’s in front of our faces right now. And we so often don’t like what we see. Mess, emotional and physical. Pain in others or ourselves.
This is compounded by the fact that what we see is so often just a screen a foot away from our face. True, it’s a screen that can show almost all of the world’s images and thoughts – but often it’s just an echo chamber of political ideas and cat videos.
Perspective is so very vital to our lives, but also quite difficult to achieve. Wherever we are, we feel like we will be there forever. Whatever horrors we see in the news, we assume they represent everything that is happening and that will happen.
What really bugs me on a day to day basis now is winter. The season feels interminable. Winter is my least favorite time of year, with its gray-brown palette just sitting still outside the window. Sure, I remember Spring with its bright, cheery green growth. But right now it feels like it may never come.
Such is the situation in “The Secret Garden,” one of my favorite books and a classic of children’s literature. The ill-tempered orphan Mary Lennox comes to live with her distant uncle in his manor house in England. It’s surrounded by miles and miles of “moors,” or grasslands full of heather and other vegetation. When she arrives, it’s winter, is unbearably dreary. To make things worse, her uncle is grief-stricken, having never gotten over the death of his wife. Her cousin Colin is an invalid who has no hope for recovery.
The book beautifully ties together Colin’s recovery and the uncle coming to terms with his loss with Mary’s wait for Spring – in particular, her work to prep for the flowers in a “secret” garden. Without ever having seen the Spring in the moors, she makes the decision to tend a garden, having a sort of faith that it will all be worthwhile. And what is faith but a confidence that there is bigger, better perspective out there?
In the same way, Colin starts exercising and getting fresh air before he knows for sure it will help him walk. And the uncle must confront his feelings about the family he has lost so that he can see the new family he has gained.
In time Spring comes and its beauties are all that Mary could have imagined. Colin learns to walk and then run, and in the end the uncle takes his place as their loving caregiver. It’s the most fulfilling and gorgeous of endings, one that could not have happened without some faith, some confidence in perspective.
I like to think of faith while in Chair Pose. Chair Pose is just as it sounds – you look like you are sitting in a chair. However, no chair is present. You work your legs and your core to act like there is. After a few moments in it, you are struggling and sweating. Being able to put your weight on an actual chair almost seems like an impossibly good reality, just as it seems impossibly good that flowers will pop up outside, or that the news could improve and demonstrate human compassion.
Nevertheless, there are chairs and flowers and good people doing good things. And if we have some faith, we can work towards them and make them a reality. We can tend our gardens to make them bloom, we can start small by helping our community and working upwards.
Maybe that faith is rooted in a goodness in humanity that you think is still there. Maybe it comes from a higher power, whatever the name. Maybe it’s faith in the force of life/life force that keeps the earth spinning and flowering and growing in the unknowable vastness of space.
Wherever its origin, by having some faith that there is a bigger, better perspective out there, you can make it happen. By being in Chair Pose, you can make yourself stronger for when your support is swept out from under you – and having the faith that it can come back again.