With a Shutter, A Sigh and a Breath

Statue from Plum Village, Upper Hamlet

I miss the embrace of Plum Village, the ease and joy and safety of monastery, practice centered living.  I miss kind hearted, thoughtful people, and my afternoon naps.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been going through a lot of turmoil.  I learned from a card sent in the mail that a close friend has chosen to walk away from our longterm friendship.  My husband and I are going through  challenges.  And financially we are struggling a great deal.  Last summer I was extremely depressed and detached due to a few difficult situations piling on top of one another in close proximity of time, which had they been staggered I would’ve worked through without being swept under by the emotional current.  I feel the same current licking at my heels now.

I am determined to stay grounded in my practice, to feel and embrace my emotions without being carried away.  Strong emotions come and go like waves on the open blue-gray sea – just as the waves are not separate from the water, anger, sorrow, loneliness are not separate from life.  It’s easy to think that life shouldn’t involve pain and suffering, that it should be without hardship and difficulty.  But this is unrealistic thinking.  When I fight against life unfolding I fight against myself.

In my efforts to cultivate joy and strengthen the seeds of well being within myself during this challenging time I have been getting outside and connecting with nature, soaking up the sun, talking with friends, planning an upcoming outdoor day of mindfulness, taking refuge in my sangha, writing, and practicing gentleness as I experience strong emotions like anger, sadness, betrayal and loss.  Last summer has shown me what happens when I don’t take responsibility for my own self-care, my own happiness.  My reality really is up to me.

On Sunday I felt myself sink down under the murky turbulent tides of depression.  I drew the layered curtains, shutting out the bright sun and clear skies as I lay in bed under the guise of exhaustion and needing well earned rest.  As morning turned to early afternoon I realized that the line between rest and wallowing had become thin and chalky, that I needed to take action and pick myself up out of the muck.  And I did.  I made the bed, got dressed, and opened the curtains to let in the light.  Transformation doesn’t often happen in leaps and bounds, it happens in small, diligent steps towards a greater understanding and deeper compassion of ourselves.  This moment, this breath, this is it.

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