Have you ever poured your cup of coffee and thought, “Well, there’s just a bit left in the pot, so let me pour the rest of it in my cup?”
You fill that cup to its very brim. It teeters a bit. Then, magically, it holds. Of course, now you’ve got to pick it up and walk with it and that’s another story altogether, isn’t it?
It’s a lot like life. We’re all carrying around these cups that are filled to the brim. How do you walk around with that? Do you stare at it and walk very, very slowly? Do you look away (as many You Tube videos suggest) and just walk normally, knowing it’ll find its own level and so will you? Either way, you probably leave a trail of coffee along the way; something you have to clean up before you get to drink that coffee, which will probably be cold by the time you get to drink it.
How is it possible that we Humans cannot walk with a cup of coffee without spilling it? It’s like asking, “Why is the sky blue?”
It turns out that Human stride has almost exactly the right frequency to drive the natural oscillations of coffee when the coffee is in a typically sized coffee mug. That’s physics.*
The sacred is our Human propensity to take on more than we can without spilling. Filling our own cups to the brim and then going through life, spilling every step of the way. Have you ever heard someone order coffee who requests that the Barista leave room for the cream? Ah, there’s another moment to ponder. Who is this person at your local coffee shop who’s discovered the secret to life itself - leave room for the cream? Even if you take your coffee black, you’ve got to be impressed.
What does it mean to leave that little bit of room in the cup? What does it mean to walk and leave room for the oscillation in the cup … or your life? It’s a lesson worth learning.
What is What is My Medicine?
To know what our unique gift in the world is, or to understand how to use that gift in the world, is a universal Human longing. It matters little if that world is just one person, a family, a community or the whole planet. When you don’t know what your medicine is, it can be tough to make choices, you may feel envious or competitive with people who seem to have it ‘all together’ or all figured out. You may feel ‘lesser than’ or ‘undeserving’ because you haven’t figured it out. When you don’t know what your medicine is, it feels like you’re always crossing paths with a bear in the woods. And the only thing to do when that happens is to stop and respect the bear’s space; hold peace in your heart and give that big, wooly beast the right of way. Anything else is downright dangerous.
It was on a walk in the forest one day that the question came up. Looking up at the tree tops, the question was asked, “What is my medicine?” and the tree tops replied, “It’s certainly the sound of the wind as it passes through your leaves.”
Leaves? That didn’t seem very helpful, so the question was asked again, this time of the dirt; the earth along the trail.
"What is my medicine?” and the dirt replied, “It’s certainly the decomposition of stones, shells and organic matter that hold the history of this place and make up your being.”
Stones and shells? Still not very helpful. So, the question was asked again; this time, of the birds in the trees, “What is my medicine?” and the birds replied. “It certainly must be your song piercing through the forest, and the nest you build in the trees.”
Not sure where else to turn, the question was asked one more time; this time, to the lichen on a nearby maple tree, “Lichen, what is my medicine?” and the lichen replied, “It’s certainly the relationship between the moss and the algae that creates something even more fertile.”
Leaves, stones and shells, organic matter, nests and songs, moss and algae. Every more-than-Human being replied from his or her own perspective! Whatever sustained it, whatever purpose it held, that was its medicine and that was the only way it knew how to express it: the wind, the decomposition of matter, the song, the symbiotic relationship of beings.
If you’re surprised by the simplicity of the answers, you might be even more surprised to learn that they were right! Our medicine is already fully expressed in our being; not a vocation or an avocation that we need to search for; our medicine is fully expressed in how we move through the world and what sustains us as Humans; our connection, love, compassion and creativity.
What’s the Einstein quote? “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it’ll spend its whole life thinking it’s stupid.”
Our medicine is ours and ours alone. It’s something we cannot not do. Imagine a bird that refuses to sing because it believes no one is listening, or moss that withholds moisture from the algae because it fears it won’t have enough for itself. Imagine a leaf that refuses to yield to the wind or organic matter that is afraid to lose itself in another to become something more fertile.
Here’s the question again: What is your medicine? Is there a bear crossing your path? Stop and respect that bear’s space; hold peace in your heart and give that big, wooly beast the right of way. Anything else is downright dangerous.
You know that thing you cannot not do? Name it and go do it. The world is waiting for your medicine.
P.S. - I share a much-loved image of Ben Franklin as a true Renaissance Soul, fully expressed, not as a 'jack of all trades'; rather, as someone who knew his medicine beyond a vocation or avocation.