The Yoga of Significance
Stumbling upon the timeless depth of presence
Some years back, when I was living in Northern New Mexico, I took a day hike along a trail in the Jemez Mountain range. I was looking to break in some new hiking boots in that beautiful landscape. I walked off the trail after a couple of hours, intrigued by some towering stone formations created by primordial lava flows.
Near the formations, in the shade of a stubby pinion tree, I discovered an ancient Anasazi pot that had been broken into about a dozen pieces. It still retained the general the shape of a pot, like a puzzle whose pieces were somewhat separated, but you could still make out the image. This suggested that these pottery shards hadn’t been disturbed for up to 900 years when the Anasazi walked about those hills.
I imagined a young Anasazi child running along with a pot of beans for the family dinner suddenly tripping on a stone and dropping the pot. I wondered if the child was disciplined for his clumsiness. The high desert climate preserves prehistoric artifacts that can still be easily found off the trails in the wilder places. But the human stories behind these artifacts are forever lost.
This was significant somehow, this relationship across such a large swath of time.
I caressed one of the larger pottery shards with my fingertips, running them lightly over the dark, parallel lines painted on the surface. I sensed a connection with the maker who had shaped the pot from wet clay and painted those lines so long ago. It was like I was actually touching the very fingers that formed the pot, as if time was just an afterthought within this shared intimacy between worlds.
I could see that artisan in my mind’s eye, crafting this pot, embellishing it with a design that perhaps held a special sacredness for her, infusing the pot with her spiritual power.
This was significant somehow, this relationship across such a large swath of time. Despite the passage of centuries and the huge gulf in our worldviews, we still shared an appreciation for artistry, like we shared the molecules of the mountain air that we breathed. We both loved and grieved and laughed and cried, as humans do. We made things and broke them. Some things never change within the human experience.
I pretended that the artisan was as aware of me in that far back time as I was aware of her this present day. I imagined she was the village shaman, able to transcend time and reach out across its span to this clueless white guy who was appreciating her work so many centuries later. Would she willingly touch the hand of one born from the line of Europeans who unleashed such a merciless genocide on her indigenous descendants?
I asked the shaman to forgive the cruelty of my ancestors as I lightly touched the shards. I felt she offered it, knowing that, regardless of the life-denying insanity of those butchers claiming Manifest Destiny and the insane bloodlust still carried by the modern patriarchy today, we share the same breath underneath all the insane bullshit. We can’t help but be connected within the web of life that reflects the One Source, despite my people’s ego-madness. As a shaman, she would have understood this sacred interconnectedness.
One of my greatest fears used to be living an insignificant life. I would fret over the possibility that my last thoughts during the final steps of my Earth-walk would be darkened by wondering at what might have been. How would have my life unfolded had I done things differently, made more skillful choices?
The mental trails of “what if” and “should have” regrets never lead anywhere worthwhile. They are not helpful for anything other than stoking the fires of a negative mindset. And yet, I used to mentally walk those trails regularly, allowing my internal dialogue to embolden this horrid and habitual way of thinking, falsely believing that I had no choice.
I would often tell myself that I wasn’t good enough, smart enough or fast enough to keep up with life’s demands. Wallowing in this type of negative thinking is a dangerous habit, like chain smoking Pall Mall’s or texting while driving.
My fear of living an insignificant life was born from the anxiety and struggle over not achieving anything that would look impressive on a business card. I described my life as mundane. I always believed I was doomed to experience nothing but disappointment when Death finally tapped my shoulder. I saw myself not even bothering with the effort to take those final breaths because there’d be no point. How’s that for dramatic negativity? What a ridiculous way to live.
There was no polishing of the spirit, dancing of the soul or invitation for any wonder and awe to infuse my world during those years of self-defeating angst. There were just crappy thoughts about my perceived crappy life. Most days, I only got out of bed because the people in my life made me.
In the face of an infinite universe, which is the home we all share, finding significance had seemed daunting, like trying to capture a lightning strike in a glass jar.
We are all connected within life’s blossoming and have the potential to share love, laughter, and breath.
But then I stumbled upon an ancient pot while hiking in the mountains. It was fragmented but still retained its power as a creative expression of the One Source of life — not a bad metaphor for most of us walking the earth today, seemingly fragmented but ultimately whole. And I met the pot’s maker in the etheric realms of imagination. She taught me that significance is something that comes before the business card or any story of worldly success. It is something inherently within us — a part of our original design, like our beating heart or inherent ability to fashion clay.
Significance is much more immediate than a job description or life goal and can be found in the simple act of creating something useful or asking for forgiveness from an ageless grandmother shaman. We are all connected within life’s blossoming and every moment we have the potential to share love, laughter, and breath. Neither time nor space inhibits this connection of spirit. We share a world of bountiful significance and can easily awaken to its magnitude. It is just right there, awaiting our recognition.
Significance is discovered within the still and spacious awareness of the present moment, and finding significance is as easy as bringing our conscious presence to whatever is blossoming in the flash of now. This is where we discover that significance simply just is. We are all significant because we are all born from the One life.
The new hiking boots started digging into my feet. I knew it was time to go. I considered taking one of the shards as a token but then thought better of it. I left the fragmented pot complete, hoping that others may have an opportunity to meet with that wise matriarch from so long ago and perhaps experience the authentic significance that is the loving foundation of our original human design.