In conversation with friends recently, there was a common thread among people that have taken advantage of these reclusive times while the world has stopped to reflect on what really matters. Almost everyone has expressed there is a light on the need for change. Whether it’s to do more of something, less of something or approach whatever is on their plate differently.
Just showing up for the conversation with ourselves that we need change is big. Sitting with it peacefully and without the need for immediate action is even bigger. We are such doers in the west by nature that there can be a feeling of inadequacy if we are not aligned with results.
A couple of the people that I spoke to who have settled into the idea of needing change, were starting to experience anxiety of how their lives will look post pandemic. What will they really do and how will it work out. Adding more uncertainty to our current groundlessness can be a recipe for disaster.
I just finished a Zoom teaching with Jetsuma Tenzin Palmo that really resonated with me. One of the questions aligned with some of these situations. Tenzin Palmo is one of the first westerners to have been ordained as a Tibetan nun in India in the 70’s. She did twelve years of solitude retreat in a cave in the Himalayas and later started a nunnery. There is a book called A Cave in the Snow that is worth the read. The Zoom session was mostly Q and A.
The idea of twelve years alone with the mind I find terrifying, but she had done years of practice before these long retreats. She stayed in retreat so long because she loved it. Someone asked her about the steps to build a practice and work with the mind. Her answer was that in order to build a good practice, you have to first make space by emptying out the garbage that we have collected. You wouldn’t want to build a temple of value on top of a garbage dump. It would be unstable. Release the clutter and create space.
Sometimes when the mind calms and slows down, deep fear and anxiety can arise. Jetsuma said the most important thing when difficult emotions arise, is to not fear fear. We need to welcome it and look at these disturbing emotions with the eyes of compassion. Give it the love and compassion we would give to anything or anyone suffering. Not with rejection but with kindness. Over time, fear can turn into confidence with this practice.
When we find ways to slow down with kindness, we are more able to find balance in life and practice and value in this precious human birth. We can exercise this in the practice as simple as breathing in and breathing out. Breathing in, to retreat. Breathing out, to benefit life and others. We take in life force, we are life force, we give life force. Within this practice we must find balance. Too much of one alone is still too much. Balance is everything. Finding ways to laugh with ourselves can make the journey towards balance joyful as well as fruitful.
These contemplations bring me back to our last months in India when the idea for the X ring was incubating. As we walked in the hills though the billowing prayer flags, even the mountains seemed to express that change was imminent. X represented the crossroads of four directions merging in a central point and time. This moment being most worthy of attaining my full attention, while reminding me to find balance in this very place and time. It marks whatever I need to catch myself on, whether a reminder for change, and affirmation of a promise, a practice, or a reminder to dip into the well of kindness. This moment is big, in the evolution of time, the earth and all her habitants.
For this week to come, I wish us all happiness and the courage to hold our fears with kindness and attention, while maintaining the reigns of balance. Let's keep heart in all we do and all we are.