The recent gestures of two people reminded me how simple acts of gratitude, generosity, and kindness connect us to our shared essential goodness, the inherent light within us. One gesture inspired the poem below. The other filled my palm with sea glass, followed by a heart-shaped stone. Both brought joy and helped me to remember that blessings are where we find or open to them, passing them back and forth, hand-to-hand, heart-to-heart.
sunbeams and shadows like stars cut through the dark cloth of night, all portals, parts of the universe we embody as one
The peonies have returned, as the first lilacs begin their fade. This is the gesture of spring, of life cycle; the blossoms show us over days or weeks, what it is like to grow, shine, and release.
Around me, around us all, the human journey of individual, family, community, nation, and world unfolds. The human energies are heightened and tangled: fraught, frightened, lost, grieving, confused; out-of-step with what was expected, while grappling with what has arisen, what has been lost, and our historic wounds. While turning toward the possibilities within dynamic change is necessary and resourceful, there is no right or one way to walk through this moment. We each have our way. We can trust this. And yes, unrest, messy moments, and grief in the midst are inevitable.
Resiliency is not solely an individual quality or skillset, as it is so often described and touted, but a living connection to systemic supports and resources that allow us to find homecoming and shelter with others, as well as within ourselves. The roots of resiliency are nurtured through learning how to be compassionate with ourselves and others. Compassion engages the heart’s knowing and softer, kinder wisdom. It is the gesture, the practice that allows for the building of bridges and human connection.
More vulnerability, more tenderness, more distress are natural in times of instability, crisis, and systemic fragility. Take heart. Reach out when you need to. It’s all okay.
So much has changed, and is still changing, day by day. While the unpredictable is always a part of life, our regular rhythms, habits, and choices that typically support a sense of control or agency break open in moments of profound disruption. Groundlessness appears and we are seemingly dropped into a new, arising reality.
The word pandemic comes from the Greek pandemos, pan (all) demos (people). Spreading across the globe and our nation, we are acutely aware of the vulnerabilities of those disproportionately affected (e.g., the elderly, the immune compromised, the poor and/or uninsured, the newly unemployed, the college students sent home, the imprisoned, the health care workers and grocery store clerks serving on the front lines, instead of “sheltering in place,” the children without adequate adult support and/or nutrition.) That said, all people know fear and worry in a worldwide health crisis.
This morning as I was reflecting on the disruption of daily life, defined as I/we knew it pre-pandemic, I realized again that mindfulness practices, like yoga and meditation are meant for these times, especially. While everything shifts around us and within us, one can go to their familiar mat and practice moving with breath and awareness and come home to the present moment. We can meet whatever is arising with curiosity, kindness, and care. This nurtures its own form of stability and continuity, in motion or stillness. Our non-judgmental breath holds the same invitations and metaphors as before, of receiving and releasing, freshness and unburdening; our mat is a zone of safety; and the body is a container that can only live in the present moment. This helps us to ground here, where a felt sense of safety can be accessed or cultivated. These practices also allow us to observe and pull back from the ruminating “what ifs” and catastrophic cliffs of of the wandering, spooked mind. These practices of homecoming allows us to look out and remember: The sky is still spacious and the ground is still solid under our feet. A loving, aware connection to self, and in extension shared with others through loving-kindness, can help to fortify us in an unfamiliar landscape. And we can practice again and again, accessing the peace within and our ever-present essential goodness.
May we all be safe. May we all be free of suffering. May we all be healed. May we all be at peace.
Thich Nhat Hanh
artist unknown (Yes, I can’t read the signature. Apologies.)