‘The only way to take care of the future is to be present now.’
This year has been a year of solitude and of connection for me.
In January I moved into a remote cottage, on my own, after 20 years of living a happy family life. Then lockdown arrived in March. And I have thrived by creating the causes and conditions in my environment to support my health and wellbeing. This is the fruition of many years of self-compassion practice.
In March, when lockdown began we moved all our work online. This has facilitated a deep sense of connection, some continuing and some new. New connections with those who attend our free online daily sits and with people joining courses, who I have not met before in person. Continuing connections with family, friends and students I knew from before lockdown. Thank goodness for Zoom, which has facilitated such deep and authentic connections, especially when we practice mindfulness together online.
I have been contented in my solitude and haven’t pined for those I cannot see in person. I took the opportunity over the summer to holiday with my daughter, to stay with my sister and to see my mum. When I was able to connect in person, I wanted to. It has been the same over Christmas. I value these in person connections much more than I used to and I no longer take them for granted.
I was supposed to be heading home on Boxing Day, but instead decided to stay on for another week with my support bubble, my sister and her family. Although, I hadn’t felt lonely at my home, the thought of heading back there for at least another three months of solitude wasn’t inviting. Also, it is my birthday at New Year, which I have never spent on my own before. On Christmas Day I felt very sad for someone who I knew was on their own for the first time. Based on this I recognised that I would probably be very sad to be on my own for my Birthday. And so I decided to stay.
I think that, as with many people, my resilience is wearing thin. I have braced myself and kept going, remaining cheerful. As for many of us I have lived with an underlying anxiety, linked to the additional uncertainty of living through a pandemic. I feel the hope of the vaccine along with the fear of the seemingly unending and ever changing consequences that this ever-mutating virus can throw up. More lessons in impermanence!
I have been very happy on my own in my home with my two dogs Holly and Nutmeg. In fact, I can’t remember when I have been more contented than this last year. The unexpected life changes I had experienced the year before had enabled me to clearly understand the impermanence and lack of control that I had over life, despite my compulsive habit of planning. My new mantra has become ‘The only way to take care of the future is to be present now.’ My life has been relatively calm, without the laughter highs and the angry lows of sharing my life with others. My mindfulness practice and living in nature has sustained this equanimity.
I feel very fortunate that I have fabulously supportive friends and family that I can reach out to when I need support. I feel very fortunate, that I have a lovely home, in a beautiful place. I feel very fortunate that I have my mindfulness practice and my Buddhist practice. Given the big changes I have experienced in my life this last 18 months, I look back and feel that I have turned towards what has felt difficult, felt the feelings, dropped the stories and moved through my life with grace. I let go of the blame and forgave myself, and all the others.
At the beginning of the year my Buddhist teacher told me that I needed to become more self-reliant. I have attempted to follow this advice, and to a great extent I have succeeded. However, there is a part of me that dreads the thought of going home to be on my own. It is only the idea that I dread. The reality that I have lived has been happy. And yet still the thought of more solitude is daunting. But it is just a thought and I don’t have to buy into it!
So after New Year I am looking forward to heading home. I have thoroughly enjoyed living with my family and sharing Christmas with loved ones. But I look forward to more opportunity for practice, silence and walking in nature. I look forward to the freedom to please myself!
My favourite Coldplay lyric is ‘Heaven is inside’ from their song ‘Every teardrop is a waterfall’. Thankfully, my years of practice have built my resilience, my equanimity and my sense of fundamental inner OKness, so that external circumstances are less of an issue and I can generally be happy wherever I am and whatever I am doing. Heaven is indeed inside and I am relieved I have spent the years of practice that has supported its growth!
Jon Kabat-Zinn says we should weave our parachute before jumping out of the plane. The parachute of my mindfulness and compassion practice that I have woven has been there to pull me up and glide me down to a relatively soft landing. I will keep weaving….for the next fall. And I urge you to do the same, you never know when the turbulence will hit!
That said……let’s see what the New Year brings.
For you all I wish much happiness, resilience and inner fundamental OKness in your minds and in your lives.
Heather will be leading a practice day on Tonglen on Sunday 24 January. For more information please click HERE.