January 2, 2014 § 18 Comments


I always wonder what the world would be like if we all had the same intention, to focus more on love. I don’t know. It could be very awesome. – Britt Skrabanek

Ever since I was in college, I have gotten sick in November. In college, the day after cross-country season ended, I would come down with a sore throat, a cough, a stuffed nose. Last year, I had bronchitis. This year was mild. I caught a cold and lost my voice after I taught several yoga classes. For a week, I could only whisper. I could no longer yell upstairs to the boys to brush their teeth or stop fighting or to come down for dinner. Instead, I had to walk up the stairs and pantomime holding a fork up to my mouth or point to my throat and shrug. Most of the time, the boys acquiesced  and came down to dinner or resolved their arguments, usually upon Oliver’s lead.

I felt extraordinarily calm all week, which is rare for me. At the bus stop, I just stood with the boys and waved to the other mothers. When Gus came home from school, we played Uno or we went down to the bay across the street and found driftwood and shells, secret trails to the water, and animal footprints. During the evening, I walked out the back door and watched the sun as it fell into the water, leaving a wake of purple and grey and orange. Because I didn’t feel terrific, I went to bed early, and the time on my meditation cushion was easier, less fraught with all I wished I hadn’t said.  The week of the lost voice made me see how rarely I needed to speak, how much of what I usually say is just an extension of the chatter in my mind.

After several days, a haggard whisper came back and then a croak. The next Monday, after Gus came home from preschool, we were in his room putting away laundry and Legos. “Mommy,” he said, when I asked him to hand me some socks, “I am going to miss your lost voice when it’s back.”

“What?” I asked, “Why?”

“Well,” he said, “It’s just that you’re loud. You talk in a loud voice.”

When I told Scott he laughed. “You are loud,” he said. “I worry you don’t hear very well.”

After my voice came back, it was Thanksgiving, and then Christmas came after like a freight train. Oliver broke his leg and was miserable of course, his cast edging up to his thigh. He was unable to ride his bike or play soccer, and he and Gus began bickering in the afternoons. The holidays grabbed me around the ankles and tugged. There was so much to do, from Scott’s work parties to buying presents to spending 22 hours in the car driving to Pennsylvania and back.

This year, the holidays were loud.

On a Friday, right before the Solstice, I took Gus down to the water across the street at sunset, while Oliver stayed home with his crutches and a book. “Look Mommy,” Gus said and pointed to the sky, which was molten and darkening quickly. “It’s the wishing star.” We stood there, side by side, listening to the rat-a-tat-tat of artillery practice across the bay. A great blue heron flew out of a tree, stretched its wings over our heads, and echoed the staccato of gunfire with its own prehistoric squawk. For a moment, I felt as if there was no time, that it had ceased to exist or maybe just collapsed, all time layering itself upon itself, wringing out the important moments and ending up with a sunset.

After Christmas, I went through the usual foreboding prospect of choosing A Resolution. The lapsed Catholic in me still approaches events like this as if they were a kind of penance: a whipping strap with the hope of salvation attached. And then I read Britt’s blog about creating a Sankalpa instead. A Sankalpa is both an affirmation of our true spirit and a desire to remove the brambles which can prevent us from manifesting that deepest self. It is a nod to the fact that we are in a process of both being and becoming, it’s a rule to be followed before all other rules, a vow to adhere to our heart’s desire.

My heart’s desire is for more quiet. More sunsets. More silence. More conversations that mean something, that both press on the wound and ease the ache. More jokes and more laughter. More saying yes when I mean yes and no when I mean no. More eating sitting down. More walks on the beach, hunting for sea glass. More reading and more sleep.

When I think about it, my inability to be quiet is really an inability to be in a moment exactly as it is, to be with myself exactly how I am, to not shake my feelings around as if I am panning for gold, looking only for the good rocks, the ones that shine. Instead, my Sankalpa is to be quiet, to place the strainer down and plunge my hands into the cold and dusty water.

If you would like to continue the Sankalpa Britt suggested, I would love to hear about it in the comments.

Happy New Year!


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§ 18 Responses to Sankalpa

  • Christa says:

    Mine, my dear Pamela, is to allow. Allow the quiet and the loud, the inward and the outward, the sadness and the joy.

    Please tell Oliver I’m sorry about his leg! Hope it’s on the mend and the New Year is very, very kind to you all.



    Christa Gallopoulos

    Sent via iPhone, with all the inevitable autocorrects!


  • I was so happy to see a new post in my in box today but my goodness! It sounds like you have had quite a time. I chose a word this year as I often do instead of a resolution. And my word was shine. I laughed when I read your sentence about looking for only the rocks that shine. In some ways, I think we are looking for the same thing but in different ways.

  • My GOD – this is just SO PERFECT. Yes. Yes, yes, yes. You make me want to lose my voice. I love it. I’m with you on the notion of sankalpa, and I want quiet too, and peace (which so often go together, for me). Happy new year, my friend. Much love. xox

  • Wow! Thank you so much for including a quote from little old me. I am touched. As always, Pamela your insight and words are stunning. We can all use more quiet in our lives as the world, not to mention our brains, are loud. Here’s to a quiet and love-filled 2014!

  • I felt so similarly when I lost my voice a year or so ago. What a gift it was to learn how little I need to speak, how much I can convey with a gesture, how often waiting solves a problem.

    I wish I kept that realization closer to the front of my mind.

    Much love and quiet to you in the new year. You never cease to inspire me.

  • I know I say this every time I comment, but you are such a beautiful writer, Pamela. Your imagery of panning for gold is dead-on perfect. I, too, have a life that is louder than I’d like. (I have a loud voice as well, and live with two quiet people who inadvertently sneak up on me at least once a day.) My word for 2014 is “ease;” that is what I’m hoping for.

  • Kathy says:

    I live in the north east and right now we are in the grip of a storm…the wind is howling, the temperature is around 10 degrees, and the snow is piling up. In order to distract myself from the weather, I open my iPad to do some reading and find your beautiful words. You tell a story and then wrap it up it wisdom…it is a gift that you have and I am grateful you share it on your blog. Presently my sankapla is, “May all of my actions be motivated by compassion.”

  • Wolf Pascoe says:

    I’d like a little clarity while we’re at it.

  • More quiet. More meaning. More laughter. Yes to all of this. Thank you for this reflection and for all of your beautiful writing.

  • Petra Bunnik says:

    My Sankalpa is “act out of love and compassion” and the silence part is very interresting and helpfull to me. Thank you for sharing your experiences and wisdom with all of us.
    Lots of greetings, warmth and love from a inspired reader from the Netherlands.

  • […] Wowza! Gettin’ Quoted at Walking on My Hands […]

  • Lovely post Pamela, I especially love: ‘For a moment, I felt as if there was no time, that it had ceased to exist or maybe just collapsed, all time layering itself upon itself, wringing out the important moments and ending up with a sunset’ Great intentions for the year too.

  • Roy McCarthy says:

    Beautifully written Pamela. Perhaps each of us ought to have a daily allocation of spoken words. You lose part of your allocation if you waste them on badmouthing or negativity. That way you get lots of quiet, reflective times with speech and conversation that is worth something.

  • Quiet, yes. I’d like to practice being quiet more often which as you so beautifully point out is not the same as simply not talking. That is the first step, and an important one but those thoughts chattering away in my head — I’d like to let them settle into something much calmer and more peaceful, a space to let the natural world come a little closer. Thanks for this, Pamela! Happy New Year!

  • Sheila says:

    More sunsets, walks on the beach, and laughter sounds great to me. I’ll join that Sankalpa any time! I loved Britt’s quote too.

  • This line reached out and grabbed me by the heart: “The week of the lost voice made me see how rarely I needed to speak, how much of what I usually say is just an extension of the chatter in my mind.” You are onto something rich and true here, my sweet friend. I feel like the artillery fire across the water is a powerful metaphor for the feelings you’re writing about here.

    As always, it’s a honor to read your words. Sending love and peace your way. xo

  • Cathy says:

    I have had a similar experience and epiphany with losing my voice. I liked myself better for it too – at least while I remembered.

    I recently watched This Is Water by David Foster Wallace. My Sankalpa is to not “default”. If you look on YouTube for the video, you will understand. xoxo

  • I’m late… but still not nearly quiet enough, not in my voice nor in my mind. Thank you for encouraging it, however. Shhhhh

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