“…the truth exists in the moment. If we are anywhere else, seeking something outside of the moment, we are in prison” (From A Gradual Awakening by Stephen Levine). We can look here, there, and everywhere to find something outside of ourselves to fix things. Sometimes circumstances in our life do need to change, in order to free up energy or resources for internal change. But the most reliable change is that which is inner focused. Likewise, we do have to be aware of our past and greet our past when remnants of it show up in the now. And we have to plan for our future. But the fullness of life and the access to change, growth, and enjoyment does not happen in the past or the future. It happens right here, in the right now. The ability to stay and be in the right here and right now is a practice. It does not happen easily or overnight. We are drawn by our cultural practices to be anywhere but here. If we follow that path, we lose our way from the things that are truly satisfying and meaningful – such as a smile or hug from a loved one, caring for another in pain, really tasting that bite of food, or hearing each note in the music. This kind of presence invites a true freedom. It is a freedom that doesn’t want for more. It is full. It is satisfying. If you want to feel freer, find practices that support presence in this moment.
There are times when we need to get up, get things done, and move. And then there are times when we need to be still, listen, and slow down. I think our society tends to outwardly value the getting things done more under the guise of “productivity”. And we do need to work and get things done in order to provide for ourselves both physically and socially. Neither is the one, perfect solution. And neither is needed more than the other. What is needed is to somehow find the middle path or a bit of a balance between the two. In the midst of it all, pick a time to set a timer for 3-5 minutes, silence your phone, get quiet, and listen to your breath come and go. You just might be surprised how refreshing this can feel, and how restorative for your mental health it can be. Enjoy the season!
Shrill screaming like a wounded, scared animal
Heard all around
Back up, don’t get too close!
Fangs exposed, claws extended
Approach and take your chances
You can’t be sure…
Oh beloved animal, say yes to healing
Say yes to rescue and help
Quiet the screaming, come off the defense
Stop fighting, let go and rest
“What would it be like to be raised on gratitude, to speak to the natural world as a member of the democracy of species, to raise the pledge of interdependence? No declarations of political loyalty are required, just a response to a repeated question: ‘Can we agree to be grateful for all that is given?'”
This quote is from the book “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The book is a beautiful, poetic meandering of expression of our lack of separateness from the natural world we are breathing each day.
What color is your hair? Are you vaccinated? What country are you from? What religion are you? Do you have a lot of money or a little money? Are you conservative or a leftist? Which of our two previous presidents did you like better?…Ok, those may be questions that help us understand a little about how someone else orients to our world. But none of those questions are main event questions. They are subtext and mostly meaningless.
Main event questions:
Do you feel sad or afraid? Do you cry? Do you feel ashamed or lonely? Have you felt let down recently? When was the last time you felt immeasurable joy? What do you need right now in your life? Who can you count on? What still bothers you from your past? Do you want to live? Who makes you feel loved? Who is dear to you?
There is so much pain and suffering around us. There is so much division and strife. I am truly afraid of where we are headed with each other. I am truly afraid that we will “other” our fellow humans and begin to see those around us as less than human. When I begin to look around and see fellow homo sapiens as animals, savages, and less than human, then I am headed in the direction of embodying what I am afraid they are (animals, savages, less than human). I begin to manifest those traits myself. If I say “yes let’s lock them up, let them die, deal with them at any cost”. Then I am what I fear.
WE ARE AFRAID. We are very afraid. That is one thing that binds us all together right now. And we need each other. I need you to look at me and see my fear. I need to look at you and say “I see that you are afraid and that matters to me”. We need to be focused on the main event – our survival together as humans. And that won’t come from me convincing you that I’m right or the other way around. That will only come from banding together and uniting as alive, flesh and blood humans. We need collaboration and creativity right now more than ever as we face the challenges our cities, states, countries, and world are facing. Our planet is crying. We need to come together, regardless of the subtext, and be love and hope that our planet and its humans need.
So take The Main Event Challenge: Spend a whole day imagining what you have in common with everyone you come into contact with, rather than what’s different. And acknowledge your fear and the fears that others might have. And then do it again the next day… May you be well.
In “The Five Invitations” by Frank Ostaseski he writes, of the “3 poisons” described in Buddhist tradition. They are greed, hatred, and delusion. Or, said another way, demand, defense, and distract. We crave, we get angry and feel separate from others, and we ignore what we really need to see.
As we are mindful and sit in reflection of ourselves we can see how and when we are drawn to demand, defense, and distract. But this is what I love about living mindfully – there are no unrecoverable mistakes. Frank says, “The missteps we make as we demand, defend, and distract are also gateways to the innate beauty of our inner being”. When we stop rejecting ourselves and are open to all of the ways we react in the world and to others, we can even be grateful for our mistakes and limitations. They are as much a part of us as are our strengths. And we learn so much from our mistakes. When we can be with them, they deepen our compassion and empathy for ourselves and then for others and the world. May you move forward with mindfulness and acceptance today!
This past year has been so very difficult on so many in our community, country, and world. And there is little control we have. This takes a toll on us. One thing we can return to over and over again is self care. The short series “headspace Guide to Meditation” on Netflix is a wonderful resource for self care. It is calming, centering, simple, and inviting.
Either way, I hope you are finding meaningful ways to care for yourself daily.
(P.s. I have no financial interest in this recommendation.)
I just wanted to reach out and remind each person who reads this that we are all in this life and world together. You are not alone. I am not alone. We may feel more removed or distant from one another right now, but we are inextricably woven together and our lives matter to each other. We can hold each other’s discomfort and pain gently. We can find care and compassion in ourselves for one another. We have no physical guarantees, no timelines, no certainties right now of how life will continue to unfold. We can; however, remind and reassure each other that it is certain that we matter to each other. If you benefit and do well, then I feel a sense benefit and wellness. If you suffer, then I suffer with you. You are all my fellow travelers in life and I wish each and every one of you peace, comfort, and certainty that you are not alone. Know that you are held in high regard and that I want for you the highest possible well-being. With love, Jennifer
I read the following words from The Parents Tao Te Ching by William Martin this morning and they moved me:
Our bodies produce the bodies of our children. Our noisy minds produce the fears of our children. But the Tao produces the spirit of our children. Still the body. Quiet the mind. Discover the spirit.
How often we need to be reminded of that in this modern life. We have constant streams of input, even when we aren’t seeking them out or asking for them. We have constant competitions for our attention and for our dollars. And pursuing those things often leaves us no more satisfied than before the pursuit.
However, being still and relaxed enough to enjoy a gorgeous sunrise or sunset or a giant hug from a loved one or a beautifully written word or photo is satisfying. My encouragement to you today is set a timer, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and focus on one, single pleasant word for two minutes. As the mind wanders, just bring it back to that word. Keep breathing. Take another deep breath to close the practice. And enjoy your day!
In “The Five Invitations” Frank Ostaseski writes, “In the end, the only way through suffering is for us to allow what is happening, welcoming the experience and introducing awareness and compassion where denial was prominent”.
Nobody is going to do this well all of the time, but as a practice it helps us to move through troubles rather than getting stuck in the yuck.