Recently a dear friend and fellow meditation teacher reminded me of what was said by a wise meditation practitioner, after 9/11; “This is the time we’ve been practicing for”.
When people embark on an extended residential retreat, I often frame it as it was said to me so many years ago; A part of retreat practice is that of what is sometimes called, “voluntary restriction”. While on retreat, we give up many of our ordinary habits, foods, schedules activities, and devices, or work, our family, when it is voluntary, this pracice is what strengthens our resilience, so when restrictions come when it is not voluntary- as NOW, we have been practicing for this moment. This time and this situation.
In the midst of all that is unknown, which quite naturally leads to fearful thoughts and feelings. There are things that we all know.
1) We’re all in this together
2) As we self regulate our fear, with the skills from meditation (regulating the mind and heart-over and over and over, every time we noticie thoughts arise, and don’t follow them, don’t judge them, and choose to return to the present moment through the breath or another doorway, we strengthen our power to choose our response in any moment and in any situation). We see over and over that we have a choice. And this is not a luxury now, it is imperative, because when we self regulate- we co-regulate, we become a still quite pool of peace in the midst of chaos. This too is contagious just as panic is contagious.
3) Take any opportunity to attend an on-line practice group (so many right now)- Please go to www.desertinsight.torg for our regular programs. Create one with your friends, or search teachers who you are drawn to and find out what’s on offer. So many of us are creating new ways to do what we do such as our new virtual 5 day retreat in April, please go to www.mindful-way.com)
4) Pay attention to the hidden gifts… an accomplished busy woman I know, who has had a full, rich and long career, set an intention at the beginning of the year –like so many people I know- including me- to slowdown and have more space in her life, acknowledged that left to her own devices, she would have kept her plate as full as ever, and now, is actually enjoying this time of slowing down. Another friend has time to focus on her book. A student shared that she had no idea how many people care about her well-being and are letting her know in beautiful ways. Notice your connections with others and foster them. Make the call that passes through your mind. Send the card. Rest. Write a poem about what you are learning from this time period- share it with another.
On a personal note, this challenge has brought a vividness to everything. I keep hearing the line of a poem by Rilke “The things I see- seem more seen into”. I feel the wind on my face in a new way, as if it were the first time, as if it were the last time. The warm bathwater feels like a gift on my skin. I’m cooking healthy foods. And while I am switching to teaching on-line, I make sure to spend less unnecessary time on the computer as possible and spend as much time outdoors as possible. I also hear the words of Poet John O’Donahue; who in a poem called’A Blessing for the Senses’, describes our senses as “Sacred Thresholds”. And while I practice I ask; “Through which Sacred Thershold Shall I Return home?” Threshold to what? This moment and your own great heart- your true and abiding HOME.
I wish you strength, health, love and compassion.