• Sarah Clarke

Mourning Notre Dame... or not

Yesterday in Paris one of Earth's most beautiful monuments burned. My first reaction was fear - fear that she would burn to the ground and be lost. When I was 16 I visited Paris for the first time and was enraptured: I explored the city with great ardor and curiosity. Then I went back in my 20's, to light a candle for those in my life I'd lost. My sense of her (for she really feels feminine) was of the immense love and faith of thousands of ordinary people who came together over two centuries to raise the funds and build her - a brilliant and impressive testament to the human spirit. It was a palpable sensation and I honored her reverently when I visited.


Thankfully this morning, due to careful planning and the utterly skillful effort of 500 firefighters, much of the cathedral still stands, and plans are already being made to complete the much-needed renovations and rebuild.


So what's my point here? Well, when the news first came out, I felt a deep sense of almost overwhelming panicky loss. It would be easy to let those feelings take me over and dominate my attention. And then as it became clear that, while still a tragedy, there was hope of salvaging much of the cathedral and my energy settled and my high alert subsided. I realized that my response was totally up to me. Without the news, my experience of my day would not have been affected by a huge blip on my personal radar. I have a choice.


While I want to be informed about what is going on in the world, I realize that it is also very important to make sure I am tending and prioritizing my own energy. Keeping myself on an even keel, so that I can continue to honor my goals, and be in the best state to be of service to others.


I pride myself on being a Witness to others' growth, their joys, their struggles, and to be their ally and even sometime guide. Only when I am tending my own inner life can I be truly successful at this. So, today while I light a candle for Notre Dame, I can also feel my breath going in and out of my lungs, feel my legs folded under me on the floor, and hear the sounds of the day around me. Staying present. Staying aware. It's a dual way of being: attending the inner while attending the outer. A worthy challenge. A practice.


It's this practice that we can take with us throughout our day. It is the way through the old feelings of stuckness, the fear that may arise, the overwhelm that might get triggered. Just finding the breath and noticing it. Feeling the sensations of being in my body. Of moving my body through space. Of the light shining through the windows into my eyes. Keeping clear about why I'm here and what I'm doing. What I'm here for. What my purpose is. My self-acclaimed purpose. What I want to achieve - even if it is simply to stay grounded during the day and in focus, or perhaps something more ambitious - to offer this presence to my children, spouse, family, friends, and clients.

Notre Dame, Paris, May 1988.

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