Live in Reverence by Bowing to Life

Vincent Van Patten

To live in reverence is to accept that I’m no better than the life that has always been. To live in reverence means I am not above any person or thing.

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

For a few quick minutes, I could hardly control my body as the cold ocean water drew away my breath. But then, my body settled as the cold brought me to the present.

I swam into a state of wonder beneath the morning moon. In that moment, nothing could be more essential than the life rushing through my being — not the past or the future, a thought of fear, regret, or pain.

I focused on my breath and felt the blood pumping through my limbs. The moon — radiant a few minutes earlier while enveloped in darkness — began to fade. The sky, now a subtle shade of pink.

The day had begun. But the moon didn’t leave.

The moon remains even when we don’t see it; there, gone, dissolved in the expanse of blue sky. While I, a life who perhaps thinks too hard about what and why, am just passing through.

Not everyone can be a fossil, burned into this stone we call home. A fossil is a memory of what once was, an age that lives in our imaginations. We too, derive from some primordial creation, and exist as the lucky result of inexplicable processes.

But through our daily circumstances, we lose sight of this. The moon disappears with the rising sun and takes with it the semblance of a dream that transcends what we consider living.

When the moon goes, so, too, do our dreams. So often goes our boundless heart. So often goes our sense of wonder. The day begins and the world pours in with enough pressure to hold us down.

Our routine becomes mundane.

We take offense from a misconstrued comment.

We overthink the wrong things.

There’s a better way to live. It comes from honoring what we can’t understand amid our modern lives. It comes from living in reverence for the magic that’s brought us to this very moment.

I admit, I’m reading A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, so the brilliance of the moon at dawn had me thinking deeply as I floated in the frigid, still unexplored Pacific. If there’s one key takeaway from the book, it would be this:

The earth is about 4.5 billion years old. If the history of the earth were compressed into a single day, life would begin around 4 am.

“Humans emerge one minute and seventeen seconds before midnight. The whole of our recorded history, on this scale, would be no more than a few seconds, a single human lifetime barely an instant… We are awfully lucky to be here-and by ‘we’ I mean every living thing. To attain any kind of life in this universe of ours appears to be quite an achievement. As humans we are doubly lucky, of course: We enjoy not only the privilege of existence but also the singular ability to appreciate it and even, in a multitude of ways, to make it better. It is a talent we have only barely begun to grasp.”

This is wonderfully baffling to me. The earth had existed for an incomprehensible length of time before humans arrived. Yet, we’re here. Life isn’t as simple as stating: we’re just another animal striving to exist for as long as we can.

While this is true, it doesn’t mean we can’t seek a fulfilling, meaningful lives. Just as unexplainable as the depths of history are the extents of the human soul. We’ve been here for an instant; still, we can feel. Within the depths of our being, we can feel.

We’re able to love, communicate, and defy what it means to be human. Or rather, we may be fully human, with abilities beyond our grasp. If we’re only here for a blip in time, let’s tread gently on this earth. Let’s journey weightlessly, happily, and with intention, from where we start to where we end.

To live in reverence is to accept that we’re no better than the life that has always been. To live in reverence means I am not above any person or thing. We are equal.

Let’s use the time we have to move forward together; let’s use this gift of unexplainable existence to leave the world a little better than we found it. That’s all we can hope to do.

We have but a brief stay to make an impact, whether profound or slight, fleeting or everlasting. We choose what impact we’ll have by the way we move through life. While we move, the world leaves an impression on us, too.

Life can get in the way of living in reverence. Not genuine life, which exists whether or not we’re here. But our created false reality where we don’t accept what is, where we get caught up in the trivial, and think the world should work our way.

How can we know which way the world should work?

We try to comprehend life; tremendous joy to be found in trying to comprehend. Personally, this makes studying philosophy, science, people and how we interact a daily adventure.

This attempt at comprehending manifests itself in whatever it is we’re interested in. This is often where we find meaning — the pursuit of comprehending.

But some things aren’t worth trying to comprehend. Rather, let’s honor what we’ll never comprehend to imbue our lives with magic.

I came across this lesson from the book Inner Engineering: a Yogi’s Guide to Joy by the Indian mystic Sadhguru. He says:

“At least once an hour of your life, put your hands together and bow to something. It does not matter who or what. Don’t choose. Just bow your head — whether it’s a tree, a mountain, a dog or anything. This need not be a physical act. Just do it throughout the day. When it becomes once a minute, there is no need to use your hands or your body; simply do it within yourself.”

I’m drawn to Sadhguru and Inner Engineering because he never states that one should attempt to withdraw from life. His advice is practical, as living in reverence and bowing to the world is a tool to move through our modern day with greater ease and joy.

It may feel odd at first to bow to a bee resting on a flower, to an alluring piece of art that’s caught your attention, or simply, to another human being. But to bow is to respect what we’ve been given, a chance to truly live, a chance to be free.

As Sadhguru says, it doesn’t need to be a physical act. Let your spirit take a bow, and it will reveal itself in a natural smile.

The world is not perfect. We hurt each other, we trouble ourselves, things make little sense. While we can’t change the world, we can change how we interact with it. This is what excites me — inner peace is wildly possible to achieve.

Living in reverence for the world changes us from the inside out. I can’t explain why the flowers that I pass burst with color; what is color but a thought inside our heads?

Still, the color moves me. To be moved is to feel my heart open, where energy can freely flow through. When we open up our hearts, we work in harmony with existence. As Sadhguru writes, we dissolve.

“Everything you cannot grasp is in a higher state of existential intelligence than you are,” he says.
“When you see this — really see this — you are a devotee. A devotee is someone willing to dissolve into the object of devotion. If you are a devotee of life, you will become one with it. Don’t be an outsider to the life process. Become a devotee. Dissolve.”

Like the morning moon which dissolves with the rays of the sun, we too can coexist with the process of life. When we do, we may watch, patiently exist, and surrender to the moment.

Life becomes beautiful when we stop trying to make it our way; for we’ve only been here for an instant. Let’s do everything we can to make it count.

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My name is Vincent Van Patten. This is my home, a place to share who I am and what lights my soul on fire. I’m a writer, media creator, and co-host of The Dare to Dream Podcast. Most importantly, I’m an inspired citizen of our ever-changing world. I strive to learn all that I can about how we’ve progressed to where we are today as individual cultures and as a planet. It’s my passion to fill every day with exploration and creativity no matter where I am, whether in California crafting my latest project or on my way to discover someplace new. By writing about my experiences, connecting with people and the earth, and remaining present, I always feel at home. I write to express my perspective of daily living, from the thoughts in my head to the relationships we share as human beings. I write about travel, culture, books, life, philosophy, spirituality, health, self-improvement, and history. I also write poetry and short stories  —  doing so soothes the soul. I believe we’re here to challenge ourselves by questioning all we think we know. When we do, we open our minds to a way of living we could never have imagined. This life is a journey with no finish line in sight. I hope to leave a positive impact with every step I take.

Del Mar, CA
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