I live alone, and there are many days when I have very little interaction with other human beings. There are times when this is a great gift, a liberation from the tedium of too many surface interactions and the usual laundry list of "to do's" we all are faced with. And then there are times when this solitary rhythm wears me down, makes me sad, and I'd give anything to hear the voice of a good friend on the phone, or see my grandchildren experience exuberance, or hear my daughters say "I love you." I have paused from time to time to see if I could discern just what is lurking in this weary brain of mine. Despair for the suffering I believe will fall upon many of our citizens who blindly put their faith in an unbalanced egomaniac.
Gnawing grief at the loss, or withering, of some of my old friendships. The sense that my world is shrinking day by day, month by month. And the accompanying confusion about how to navigate the new landscape.
Fear that I won't be able to "sell" my memoir that I poured two years of heart and soul into and came to love. A lurking apprehension that there is no audience for this very personal and thought-provoking book.
Dissatisfaction with myself that I haven't found the discipline to sustain my meditation practice or my piano practice very well lately. That I am reluctant to act in my own best interests somehow...
A perverse desire to borrow down and escape in a variety of good books, and watch yet another series of well-worn, well-watched episodes of West Wing, or Hercule Poirot -- all this instead of picking myself up and entering the world ... going to see a good film or lecture.
Lest those who are following this think I'm drowning in the whining and sorrowful 2017 blues, I want to conjure some beautiful pieces that live amidst the dark ones. I have a loving little dog called Peaches who expresses joy at being with me on a daily basis. I have a grown up granddaughter who is busy forging her career and life and who wants to go on a travel adventure with me, the grandmother who turned away from her when she was growing up. I have two beautiful, quite different daughters who I'm willing to work very hard to communicate my love to, to be authentic with. I have a dear friend I've known since I was four years old who shows up at some of the best times to have a long lunch with me and share stories and laugh like crazy. She has shown me that laughter is good medicine indeed. I felt stinging tears of sadness and gratitude as I listened to Michelle Obama talk to educators in her last speech as First Lady and lay out the call to continue to carry hope, have courage, and never feel marginalized. The sadness came from knowing she was walking out the door of course, and the gratitude was for her presence in our world these past eight years. She blessed the society she has served with her bravery, intelligence, and large heart. And finally I see that I have a mind that still lives and breathes and wonders about life, a mind that appears to be in relatively good form - and that is something I should bow in gratitude for. No kidding! And there's just one more thing...
On Monday I get to go up to Marin County and sit in silence with fellow meditators and attend to the essential practice of lovingkindness, or "metta." If ever there was a time when the cultivation of lovingkindness was called for, it seems to me it is now. Our harshly divided culture, with its mistrust and hatred and fear, is like a wounded animal reeling about in confusion with no clue about how to save itself. The Buddha knew all those thousands of years ago that healing never came about through malice and hatred and contention, but through love. And that starts with ourselves. We must tend our broken hearts and wounded egos first and then bring them into the world. We must bring that to everyone, from the postman and the homeless person on the street to our daughters and sons and grandchildren, to our friends and even those we feel abandoned by. No one should be left out.
I hear it is going to be raining for this week I sit in silence, and that feels fitting somehow, for rain cleanses, and it causes us to pull inward, hunker down, and live inside - in that dark confused realm of heart and mind. This January there will be no sauntering on the hillside paths looking for deer and wild turkeys, but rather a mass of beings under multi-shaped multi-colored umbrellas moving ever so slowly into the vast meditation hall to sit on cushions and under shawls and discover their own inherent goodness of heart. And in all their earnestness find the common ground that is fed by love.
And then magically it will come to an end, and they will march down the hill and get in their cars, and will ultimately have the great opportunity to spread the love around. Not a bad way to spend some days in the grayness of winter, at the beginning of a new year of so many uncertainties.