I am fascinated and intrigued by the way in which the Covid19 global pandemic is an extraordinarily collective and yet simultaneously highly individual experience. I resonate deeply with many personal observations from friends and strangers about their experience, but also encounter greatly dissimilar perspectives and accounts that stretch me, and hopefully break my heart open a little bit more.
Life can be painful and beautiful in a million different ways, can’t it?
But one thing seems to hold true for us all: life is painful AND beautiful. Brutiful, as author Glennon Doyle puts it.
One thing I noticed during this strange season – and I wonder if you resonate with my experience here? – is that as my world shrank for a while to the size of our house and family of three, and slowed down besides, life’s usual realities continued, while somehow also becoming more pronounced or perceptible. For example, shifting and unpredictable emotions existed way before Covid, of course! And yet in the world of lockdown I had the impression that there were new emotions, or perhaps old emotions about new things, and that they seemed to shift more quickly and sometimes be more intense – one day full of energy and gratitude for my life and health and connections, the very next day bone tired and deeply sad. Without a busy schedule to distract me, I was able to practice observing, feeling, honouring, and moving through my emotions in a new way. I got better at acknowledging them out loud or in a message to a friend; at allowing the reality today to displace the reality of yesterday, whether the change felt “good” or “bad” to me; and at trying to pay attention to what today’s reality was calling for… Perhaps it was getting a deferred task done at last, or prioritizing connection with my loved ones, or choosing a long, hot bath and some tears. With more time to “play with,” it felt easier, I suppose, to notice how each mood, energy state, or “felt meaning” in my body was temporary. As such, nothing needed to be either feared or trusted in too heavily. Each passing state was real and needed to be heeded, honoured, and responded to, but none was all-encompassing or authoritative.
I guess I could say that I have come to know in a more personal and embodied way that there is a ME that experiences all these shifting states, emotions, and felt senses but IS NOT any of them. I am bigger than everything that passes through my experience, and I am part of a Greater Whole that resources and supports me, and within which my participation and action matter. I regularly lose “sight” (touch/ sense) of this truth, but am learning to trust something that I heard meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg say last week:
“Healing is in the return, not in never having wandered.”
Thank goodness! If healing is in the return, then I can begin again each time I wander from my centre and forget myself and my interconnectedness. I can begin again, and again, and again. Every day. Perhaps someday I will learn to begin again every hour, every moment, even with every breath.
Of course, beginning again is only desirable if the goal is not perfection – and perfection NOW! – but rather being alive in and to this moment, here and now, growing in and with it. I can more easily choose to begin again, again, when I am invested in the process rather than only in the end result, when I believe that it is worth bringing the fullness of my attention and presence (or as much of it as is possible for me!) to the present moment, exactly as it is and exactly as I am. Because I believe that this brutiful world is worthy of attention and presence.
As my life and world begin to expand and speed up somewhat once again, I am feeling the need to remember and hold onto these lessons I have learned about how to move with the ebb and flow of life, and trust the process of life and growth, however long it all takes. Because of this, I’ve recently been drawn back to a prayer/poem by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “Patient Trust,” that I’ve loved for some years.
Its message calls to me again, and it may resonate with you too in whatever life season you are living through.
So I’ve created a guided meditation in the audio file below, in which I offer you the chance to listen to and contemplate with me this prayer-poem and its invitation to “trust in the slow work of [God]” [or whatever other word or concept resonates better with you].
Let me know if you take some time aside to engage with this meditation, and what connects with you.
And let me know, too, if and how you resonate with my “lockdown lessons” or what was different for you.