I heard a great quote during my Calm meditation this morning…
“Can we get to a place where there is no place to get to?“
It’s funny because years ago, when I was younger and struggling with self esteem and angst I remember thinking how I wished I could just be. Not struggling, not grasping, not wanting something else or to be someone else. Not worrying if I would be alone forever, not worrying if I was good enough as is, not pretty or skinny enough. Just be. So now I know that other people get it, I thought I was the only one who felt that way. And now knowing that that’s what meditation is all about, just learning to be in the moment, accepting what is. When I was going through my divorce I saw a very good counselor for a brief time, I think her name was Denise. I was struggling so much, with grief and fear and anger, and I couldn’t be still, couldn’t bear to be alone with my thoughts. As soon as I was alone my mind was like a freight train on a circular track, going faster and faster, and the grief and sense of failure were overwhelming. I told Denise this and she said that when the grief felt overwhelming that instead of running away from it, I needed to just stay with it, just sit with it. I did try it but found it nearly impossible, it was just too much.
But years later when I was traveling by myself there were definitely moments when I felt sadness, grief, fear but because I was by myself in a country where I knew no one and was often in the middle of nowhere, whether it was Australia or Mongolia, I basically was forced to sit with my feelings. And I discovered that amazingly, that if you did just sit with your feelings, accepted them and allowed them to wash over you, eventually they would recede, like the tide. You learned that actually feeling those feelings wouldn’t kill you. All that struggling to push those feelings away, to not feel them, the fear that if you gave up the struggle or weren’t strong enough, that those feelings would drown you. But they won’t. I wish I could find her again, just to tell her she was so right. In meditation that’s what the goal is, to accept what is, accept whatever comes up, to observe it. I am a complete neophyte when it comes to meditation, my mind is often still all over the place, but I guess that’s why they call it a practice. And practicing self-compassion.
That’s another thing traveling taught me. Because again, I was so often all by myself I had to learn to be my own best friend. My journal became my friend, my confidante and it was always so comforting to sit down, pen in hand with my Moleskine journal and just write and write, pouring out my angst and my fears. I didn’t see it at the time, but it did change me, made me a better friend to myself. It didn’t happen right away, and certainly it didn’t stop the fears and angst to go away completely but I became better at handling those feelings when they did come. Because that’s the human condition, isn’t it? Our soft animal bodies are so vulnerable, we are so often in our own heads and we miss the beauty all around us. And the beauty inside us.
Our culture doesn’t reward that either. Now with the internet we are bombarded with bad news from all over the globe 24/7. Sometimes I get on Twitter and in the space of a few minutes I see enough bad news (and bad takes) to make me despair for the our future. But then I close the computer and go for a walk, and see the magpies with their flashy, iridescent tails flying around, hear the Canada geese honking overhead and see the mountains with their comforting bulk nearby and know that all is ok. Or maybe it isn’t all ok but we are here. No matter what, we are still here, still breathing, maybe not for long or maybe forever, who knows. But what is the point of despair as long as we are breathing? There is still so much beauty and wonder around, if we take the time to see. The internet is not the real world, although that is so easy to forget. We stare at our phones instead of talking to our families and friends, as though the answer to everything is on that tiny screen. In a way it is and it isn’t. As someone who grew up without internet and cell phones, yea, it was a lot harder to get information. If you wanted the lyrics to a song you couldn’t just Google it. If it wasn’t on the album or record sleeve you were out of luck. And as someone who loves to learn, I really like being able to find the answer to any question I have in a few seconds.
But there is so much to learn that isn’t on that screen. How to be compassionate in a world where people seem increasingly unkind and selfish. How to be happy when the bad news from every corner of the globe is so overwhelming, the knowledge of people suffering and you can do nothing about it. How not to be afraid all the time when the world seems so dangerous and scary. How to figure out your place in the world 🌎, which is something you can only figure out yourself. I feel bad for kids and parents these days, trying to navigate this world that our monkey brains seem ill-equipped for. But I will keep trying until I am no longer breathing.