As you see in my subject line, I don’t know what the date is today. It doesn’t matter. What an amazing freedom this is, one I usually only experience when I’ve been on vacation for at least a week. What time is it? Daytime. When should we have lunch? When the belly says so. Should I meditate and practice yoga today? Let me check in with myself and get back to you.
I have turned some kind of corner and I am less focused on myself, less worried, less concerned about being “good” or doing things “right”. I have a few places I need to be (virtually) each week but the mood of anxiousness has made me feel that I am busy all of the time. I have experienced the downside of my built-in alarm system, aka the sympathetic nervous system, because it has been stuck in the alert mode. This has meant poor sleep, racing, unsettled thoughts and mostly no fun! I am not sure how it’s happening, but I feel I am flipping the switch that neurological fuse box back to its ordinary setting.
I hope you got to see the full moon last night. We saw it rise up over snow-capped Mount Baker (Kulshan), followed its golden glow as we walked home from the beach, and bathed in its glory throughout the night. The rhythm of the moon’s cycle helped calm me and gave me a perspective of the planet, as if from the moon. Rather than the worry and panic I’ve felt since the last full moon, I felt compassion and a maternal tenderness. For now, I feel safe from the urgency of our current situation. We’ve changed our behavior and now we can relax into the “new normal”. Because I finally feel this ease, I have space to really feel the suffering of others. Before today, all I felt was guilt that I had things so good and could only imagine the pain out there. Now, I can take it in without being overwhelmed.
If you feel resourced and relative ease, there is a Buddhist practice called Tonglen that I would like to share with you. If you feel that you need to care for yourself until you return to ease, you might consider waiting for Tonglen until there is more steadiness for you. This might not happen, so please let go of any expectation that you will feel ease any time soon.
Typically with Tonglen, we choose to feel the suffering of the world and breathe it in. With exhalation, imagining a chimney out through the crown of the head, we exhale that suffering back out into the big recycling magic of the universe. You might imagine an incinerator that transforms this suffering into something else, remembering that no matter is ever created or destroyed but simply transformed. As individuals, we become like Teflon (yes, from the 70’s) so that this suffering doesn’t stick to us as it moves through. We become like those amazing mushroom colonies that consume nuclear waste without becoming toxic themselves. We openly choose to look right at pain, loss, fear, disease, and breathe it in! This can take courage, so make sure you’re ready.
This morning I heard a beautiful version of Tonlen that begins with tenants of the Loving Kindness practice. I liked it so much that I’m going to create my own version of it soon (I’m updating my recording system – you can check on the Practice Recordings page). If you’re not sure whether or not you’re ready for Tonglen other beings, you could do the practice just for yourself, opening to the possibility of transforming your own grief, recycling your anxiety, letting go of any pain you have today.
I am so grateful for these ancient practices that I can use today to feel happier.
I hope you will find this helpful.