December 19, 2021
It is that time of the year when we can often get lost in too-much-ness and far from home. I mean our true home within ourselves where we can feel totally present and alive with gratitude and connection to what’s around us, not needing it to be different. We are in the time of year where past experiences form the focus of future days. Only too often, the expectations we put on ourselves over the holidays can leave us overwhelmed, tired, frustrated and anywhere but at peace.
This ten days of recovery from surgery has been a great teacher. Pain management is really the practice of managing our suffering. I can tell you that when I am in cahoots with the mind and want things to be different than they are, it will be a hellish day. When I think I know my boundaries and parameters, I’ll suffer frustrations when failing to meet the mark. When my mind is agitated, every ounce of pain is unbearable. When I surrender to just listening deeply to what the body is asking for, I’ll be able to be at one with it. When I am at one with it and breathe into it exactly as it is, it is nothing more and passes much more quickly. Watching this in action has been an extraordinary teaching. The body is a miraculous thing, the vehicle we can call home. It knows what it has to do to heal, especially when we respect it. Rest has been my task and the more I abide, the more the days are filled with love and gratitude, and patience is the gracious teaching. A teaching I like much more than endurance.
I just started reading a book by Kaira Jewel Lingo called We Were Made For These Times. Ten lessons for moving through change, loss and disruption. I knew Kaira as a monastic under the tutelage of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh in Plum Village. There she was known as Sister Jewel. She is a bright light and brilliant mind. Her dharma talks captured everyone's attention with clarity and grace.
Thich Nhat Hanh, or Thay for teacher, is one of the most renown teachers of mindfulness and advocate for peace that has graced this earth. Thay is now in his nineties and after a stroke several years ago, has returned to Vietnam. He was always clear as he was aging that the continuation of his teaching would come from his community and not one person. I have been to Plum Village a couple of times since his absence and if I close my eyes, he is present. The monastic dharma teachers share the wisdoms just like him. It's impressive.
Here is a little excerpt from Kaira's book and a link to where I bought it, but I'm pretty sure it is widely available. link We Were Made For These Times.. When we bring our mind back to our body, we come home. We could consider the state as our true home. This home inside of us is a home no one can take away from us, and it cannot be damaged or destroyed. No matter what happens around us, if we can find this home inside of us, we are always safe.
When we touch this experience of coming home, it is like we have finally arrived home after a long journey. We experience a sense of peace and even freedom, no matter how confining other circumstances. Coming home to ourselves feels like belonging; it is a state that holds us and enables us to hold others.
This is so important because we can live our whole lives estranged from this home within ourselves.
My teacher Thay sums up his whole lifetime of teachings with one sentence: “I have arrived, I am home.” For him, the principal aim of mindfulness practice is to experience that we have already arrived, here and now. There is nowhere we need to run to or be, other than right here in the present moment. And we experience ourselves at home, no longer looking for some refuge outside of us, in some other place or time, when we touch the truth that all that we long for and search after is here inside of us.
We can experience encountering this spacious and free place of our true home in unexpected moments as we spend more time tuning into what is happening inside us and around us...
With Christmas this week, and the hustle and bustle of these most peculiar times, I wish nothing more than for all of us to cozy up in our true homes, in the present moment full of its own glory. This ease and peace within our own skin is the greatest gift we can give one another.
From deep in fog and all my heart, happiest of holidays to you,
from Italy, with love and a bow,
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