If life has taught me anything, these are a few of the key lessons that apply across the board:
- Things don’t always go as planned
- My “control” is very limited, and mostly a delusion
- Worrying never helps, but that doesn’t stop it from rushing in anyway
- Where I place my attention and what I choose to focus on profoundly changes my experience of life.
As I write, I am in Austin where I’ve recently finished a powerful and profound writing and meditation retreat led by Susan Piver. Being in Susan’s home with 11 other writers opened me and my heart to the depth of what the next book wants to be. It was the perfect container and helped me to connect the way my meditation practice has supported me and carried me through some of the hardest times of my life. It is what has opened my heart and softened me in a way that allows me to bring love and compassion to people and experiences in a way that I don’t think I would have been able to otherwise.
In 4 days of sharing space, meditating together, and writing in communal silence, my heart blossomed, my tears came. and I felt the complexity of writing about our journey through addiction. I have stayed with it. I love our particular meditation practice because it is all about being awake in our lives, being able to be with life as it is and not needing to retreat within or push anything away. It takes courage to face life head-on, especially when what’s here is painful and uncertain.
Transitioning from retreat back into “ordinary life,” watching retreat dissolve, as Susan so beautifully described it, and returning to my regular pace and ways has been gradual and is right now still incomplete. I’ve been fortunate to be able to blend my retreat time with family time – to visit with my sister and her family who I haven’t seen in a couple of years (because… COVID…). It’s been a beautiful blend of together time and solo down time, time to meditate and write… time to sit in their heavenly backyard and drink in the sights and sounds of nature.
I have been reminded this week of the power of pure and simple moments. Our meditation practice is so pure in its simplicity… simply sitting with our eyes open, feeling the breath and allowing everything to be here, nothing to push away – sights, sounds, thoughts will all come and go, and when we get distracted to the point of having lost connection with our breath, we simply return and begin again. I’ve watched emotions rise and fall away, tears well up and wash down my face as insights and openings come through. I’ve had moments of distracted random thoughts – some inspired and others perfectly mundane. I’ve followed thoughts that led to pages and pages of handwriting into my next book, and I have witnessed the pauses when I touched on a tough concept or memory.
In the simplicity something that is beyond words happens. I felt the power of retreat – simply being together in a shared space where we are all in this together creates a palpable and magical force (I say “magical” because I’m never entirely sure what happens, but I feel it every time). While I can meditate and write on my own, and do on an almost daily basis, coming together to do these things amplifies it all in a lovely way. Having this community, a set schedule, and shared practice create the container where the magic comes to life as we each get in touch with our own inner wisdom, guidance, insight and as we share our moments of challenge and stuckness as well as our inspired moments of flow.
Pure and simple moments also included time with my precious little 3 year old great niece showing me her room, cuddling up and saying, “I love our whole family;” playing with my 6 year-old great nephew and his imaginary dog friend, Leo, who has a different attitude every day (thankfully it was a happy attitude the day he jumped on my head!) and watching his eyes light up with delight as he wove ever more intricate details of Leo/Liam’s adventures! Sharing lunch with my nieces, talking with their husbands, and introducing my sister and brother-in-law to the artistry and charm of Brandi Carlile, the twins, and Josh in their livestreaming campfire concert. A sweet hug and deep conversation with an old friend; sharing a walk to the local coffee shop to retrieve our mid-day drinks with our retreat group. Fun “girlfriend time” with my sister. Taking in the serene beauty of the deer, hummingbirds, and the nightly serenade of crickets and frogs. It’s been a week of precious, simple moments and memories – too many to recount.
And, the plan was, that yesterday, I would make another big transition – get on a plane and fly back across the country to reunite with my husband. Amazing how air travel lets us travel thousands of miles in a matter of hours.
Except… when it doesn’t quite work out. Yesterday was one of those days. My flight was at 3:50 and at 11:19 I received a text from Southwest simply stating, “SWA Flight #5269 from AUS is cancelled. Go to Southwest.com to rebook…” What!? I was shocked and confused – it’s not blizzard season! What the heck!? I tearfully called my husband as the first step in the process to give him a heads-up before I logged on to begin to figure things out.
As I looked at flight schedules, it became clear that there were no more flights that day, no seats available today, and it would be two full days before I could claim a seat to get back home. Okay, then… Time to reschedule my PT, haircut, and acupuncture and connect with my client… But first, I’m making that dinner reservation! Dammit, if I’m going to be here, we are going to eat well! We hadn’t felt like going out the night before, so let’s make the most of this!
Talking with my family, I shared a little worry that Friday’s flight might also be cancelled… it’s a holiday weekend, so it could be extra tricky (today’s report of 2+ hour lines to check bags today and 2.2 million travelers planning to fly out of Austin this weekend – the highest in 21 years confirmed that it’s going to be more than tricky!). Yikes! My niece wisely and calmly looked my way and asked, “What are you going to do with that worry?” Great question! I considered it for a moment and said, “Well, right now, I’m going to feel it… and let it be here and move through me” (or something like that – it felt true and she liked my answer! Bonus!).
I was shaken and simultaneously aware that I am very lucky to be in a beautiful home with people who love me enough to let me stay on and that this is a very first world problem… AND that I still get to be shaken, saddened, and worried. Talking with my son and husband helped me to begin to process and adjust to the idea that the freshly stripped bed needed to be re-made, the perfectly packed suitcases (really, I was way more organized than usual) had to be reopened, and I had to/got to settle back in for a couple of bonus days with my family. My practice allowed me to do all of that relatively automatically.
Cultivating a heart that can hold it all… this is what it’s about. Disappointment mixed with the delight of fresh opportunity, sadness mixed with joy and enjoyment, a little concern of being a burden, and acceptance that this is what’s here for me today. I’m consciously trying to stay in the moment and to be here now even as I notice my thoughts flit ahead to tomorrow… what time should I realistically get to the airport? What happens if I check my bags and then they cancel my flight? Will I get home in time to be at my friend’s son’s celebration of life? Will I get to see my son on Sunday? Or will I be in Austin and get treated to the local incredible 4th of July fireworks that they say they can see right out the backyard from the heavenly patio that has offered such beauty and peace this week?
We shall see… For now, in this moment, I am grateful for the extra time, for being in a safe and comfortable place with people I love who can and will share it with me, for a delicious leftover lunch and plans for an uplifting movie date with my sister, and for my awareness that where I place my attention makes a world of difference in my experience of life. I choose to find the good within this change of plan rather than continuing to be upset or to worry.
Fingers crossed for a smooth airport check-in and ease-ful on-time cross-country travel at the same time I let go of control I don’t have anyway. If you’d hold that vision with me, I’d appreciate it, and I’ll take it one moment at a time. It’s really all any of us can do. This moment is pretty sweet.