Upright with Poise and Grace

Recently my therapist recommended me reading Dae Gak’s, Upright with Poise and Grace. While I’m not a practicing Buddhist, there’s so much wisdom I’ve gleaned from this book.

Sitting Upright No Matter What

Whatever appears
Sit upright in it,
Neither hoping
You can endure,

Nor fearing you can’t.

Just sit upright with
Poise and Grace.

And have no opinion
About your circumstances

I’m practicing this principle in my life, daily now. And it’s not always easy to sit still, poised without opinion. It’s a practice I wished I’d mastered early, especially during the years when I was nursing my husband through pancreatic cancer. But in the stress and physical weariness of care-giving a terminal patient, it’s very hard to sit still with poise and grace. It’s very hard to sit still, period.

On the other hand, my husband, Roger, did know how to sit upright with poise and grace. Ironically, we’d often tease him for being in “Roger-land” — a place where he’d retreat mentally, where he was able to shut out all the noise of any room or situation, and just sit upright, still, poised, graceful. His stillness was a gift and visualizing him, in that moment where I knew he was in that quiet place, makes me smile… makes me remember how important it is to “Sit Upright no Matter What.”

Nonetheless, I’m not sure I’ll ever master this skill. My partner tells me that he’s pretty sure I have ADD. At night when it’s time to settle down after a day’s work, I flit about, distracted by any shiny object or idea– very Unstill. At least these days I recognize this flaw in myself, and I’m working on improvement. Perhaps some of my restlessness stems from the years when it was crucial to stay on top of things, when my husband’s health and life lay in the balance. There’s a huge vacuum of time freed up now that my care-giving is over, though, and I’d like to find peace in sitting still, quietly appreciating the gifts that have left me, and, most importantly, the gifts that surround me.

At the end of the day Dae Gak is correct — neither hoping, nor fearing, will change circumstances, but facing the “whatever happens,” poised and with grace will, I believe,  expand the capacity to endure the unendurable.

Categories: Care-Giving, Uncategorized

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1 reply


  1. Psychological Endurance « The Modern Renaissance

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