― Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have.
― Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
Although "life as usual" for me is always rather unusual, this has been a rather unsettled and, at times unsettling, passage through time and space. Clouds of restlessness and discontent careened across my inner skies as I sat at the computer screen.
For the past few years, my "normal" life has had me, a 70 year old retiree, facilitating three Mindfulness Circles and doing some other low-key volunteer projects during the week in Greenfield, an old factory town in Western Massachusetts. Then, on Thursday or Friday each week, I head out of town to spend long weekends in the country east of the Quabbin Reservoir with my Beloved Betsy.
For almost two months, though, this changed dramatically. A stress fracture to Betsy's ankle prevented her from driving and limited her ability to live her "normal" life. I was re-incarnated as a "householder", commuting an hour back and forth to her place most days to share the load -- which includes caring for twin five year old grandchildren several days a week, and two dogs, four cats, a two bedroom cottage and extensive flower gardens, 24-7.
As I've kept moving to help out, most of my usual routines, other than sitting with the Mindfulness Circles and MMM have dissolved. Even my usually rock solid, one hour daily morning meditation, a practice that I had sustained for years, dissolved substantially to be replaced by hours in a car commuting hither and yon. (I'd grab 20 or 30 minutes when I was lucky.) Rather than sit with others most weekdays at noon for a half hour with #OMG! (#Occupy Meditation Group!) Peace Presence*, I was lucky to sit one or two days a week. More often, I was an hour away at that time of day, picking up the twins from pre-school -- or at the supermarket.
In the midst of all this activity, my carefully cultivated Napping Practice disintegrated entirely!
Although, for the most part, I was actually enjoying the action, feeling quite vital and useful, as I sat at the computer that day, I was feeling quite stormy and out of sorts.
Yet, the next moment, I looked up -- and my own inner storminess shifted dramatically. The reality of storminess--rather than my thoughts about such things-- emerged unfettered. It was raining cats and dogs out there! The dance of raindrops shimmering along the glistening asphalt was exquisite.
Even though I was committed to walk across that rain swept street (and probably get a bit soggy) to I sit the Noon Vigil, I can honestly say that my spirits weren't dampened in the least. I felt the tightness in my shoulders release as my lungs began to fill with air. The river of traffic along Main Street hissed in harmony with the raindrops and wind.
The promise of Mindfulness Practice delivered once again.
The moment I turned my gaze to what was happening outside the world of my own thoughts and feelings to realize the actual storminess that is existing in the here and now, a shift of consciousness occurred spontaneously. As soon as my awareness was released from the story lines the storms created by my own "drama", the expansiveness and fullness of Life As It Is returned--instantaneously! This wasn't a willful act of self-mastery. I merely raised my eyes to look outside.
I love it when that happens.
Of course, there are still shelters and storms woven into the fabric of our lives. The relative plane of existence is absolutely there. There are hard times and there are easy times; times to just cruise, times to roll up our sleeves. Life is just like that.
Yet, as the Practice matures, we come to see for ourselves that it is precisely our attempts to control the world to meet our own models of how it should be, and our own resistances to what is actually occurring, that ultimately separate us from the ever present Oneness of Life. The flow of the Universe is incessant -- and any attempt to create a lasting shelter from the storm is doomed to disappointment. Yet, when we turn to face Life directly, the shelter emerges from within the storm itself. It rests in the embrace of the present moment.
It is sheer grace.
* Since the fall of 2011, a few of us meditate for a half hour at noon on the Greenfield Town Commons, Monday through Saturday. Begun as a form of "direct inaction" in the midst of the #Occupy Wall Street! Movement, #OMG! has continued through rain and shine, snow and summer heat.