Living in Our Newest Chamber

You may be wondering why I used a chambered nautilus as the banner photo on my blog site. This sea creature, with its spiral shell holds deep meaning for me, and a lesson in living from which we can all benefit. As the nautilus grows, its body moves forward, and in so doing, produces a wall that seals off the older chambers of its shell. This process not only ensures that the nautilus always lives in the newest and largest of its chambers, it also helps to keep the nautilus buoyant.

I came to understand the rich lesson of the chambered nautilus in a daily devotional reading from The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo. Not coincidentally, the date of this reading was September 16 — the day of my husband’s death — read exactly one year after it happened. Mark Nepo’s words helped me to see the point at which, by moving forward, we resolve and honor our past. An excerpt:

“Can we, in this way, build strong chambers for our traumas: not living there, but breaking our past down till it is fluid enough to lose most of its weight? Can we internalize where we’ve been enough to know that we are no longer living there? When we can, life will seem lighter.” — Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

This reading, so timely in my grieving process, brought healing, hope and, quite literally, a sense of lightness. Such a wise lesson in living — whether or not your past holds traumatic events — that only by integrating the whole of our life can we dwell the fresh expanse of its newest chamber.

Could it be that, in the creation of this magnificent sea creature, God encourages us not to ‘stuff’ our past, but to honor and draw from its lessons so fully that its very edges can no longer hold us? In this, we become fully present to what is before us — here and now. With gratitude, I embrace and aspire to the message of the chambered nautilus; to enlarge my capacity to love deeply and to live completely.

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