Over the last few weeks every day feels like groundhog day (Actually, I recommend this as a great movie with Bill Murray for cheering yourself up!). I wake up, turn the electric heater on, press the snooze button on my phone three times to give the room time to warm up, get up, put something warm on, make coffee, give the dogs their meds, put them out, then go to practice. And so the days proceed. The Blur lyric from their fabulous song ‘The Universal’ keeps coming into my mind ‘When the days seem to fall straight through you’. Sometimes my life feels like this during this pandemic, which feels less tolerable as more time passes.
I had some bad news this week, an old friend, the husband of one of my university friends died suddenly and tragically. I felt quite shaken at this sudden transition between life and death. I reflect each morning in my Buddhist practice how death can arise suddenly and how it is important to practice to be prepared. Nevertheless, when it does arise it can be shocking.
I am reminded of when my brother died, again quite suddenly and tragically, over a decade ago in his twenties. He had the same name as my old friend. The grief my father felt was terrible to behold and being with him in his grief was only possible for me because of my compassion practice, in particular the practice of tonglen. Tonglen gave me something useful to do at a time when there was just nothing to be done.
However, my brother’s death spurred me on to give up my twenty year long career as a patent lawyer to teach mindfulness. The decision made itself. I wasn’t able to waste another precious moment of my life working in a job which was contrary to my values and seemed to be a waste of my time – although it did pay very well!
After feeling the profound sadness of the death of my friend and for his family who are left behind, I woke up yesterday with an added echo of my feelings from when my brother died. I don’t want to waste a minute of this precious human life. I want to live my life to it’s full potential, to be of benefit in this world, to enjoy each moment and to support those around me to enjoy the moments of their lives too.
Going back to the Blur lyric ‘When the days seem to fall straight through you’, the next line is ‘Just let them go’. I think the only way to get through this pandemic, with it’s restrictions on our usual human needs, is to not think about it too much. To let the days fall through us, moment by moment, and just let each moment go, with an openness for the next moment. I find when I do this with an attitude of beginner’s mind, experiencing the moment as if for the first time, a magic happens. This is sometimes referred to as the pleasantness of the presentness. I find when I let go of thinking about what might happen, let go of thinking about what has happened, let go of thinking about what is happening now, my present moment experience is generally pretty ok.
With this attitude, when I wake, I can appreciate that I have a heater in my room and electricity to power it. I can relish the warmth of my duvet and my warm clothes. I can love and care for my dogs. I can enjoy my morning cup of coffee. I can walk in the rain, grateful for my waterproof jacket, listening to some beautiful songs and open to the sadness and the joy that the moments bring.
As I ended my walk, I was listening to ‘Up and Up’ by Coldplay. As the song ends the lyric goes ‘When you’re in pain, when you think you’ve had enough, don’t ever give up, don’t ever give up……Believe in love.’
A good thing to remember! Especially on those days that feel like Groundhog Day.
Heather will be teaching some sessions at our free-to-members membership weekend (!9-21 March) on the theme of hope. Why not come and join us.