“If you want to tame something,” the fox advises the Little Prince, “sit with it every day at the same time.”– “The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Some of you may have gotten the impression that all I advocate for is slowing down, resting, and doing nothing. Well, I have written quite a lot on such pursuits! And I am a big fan of a meandery sort of day, letting one thing unfold after another.
But life isn’t always like that. And I know there are jobs to do, schedules to keep, and responsibilities to meet.
Now, on the verge of ‘re-entry’ into our world, at least in South Australia, it’s most likely those schedules will shift and maybe even go back to the way they were… before all this. I have read many commentaries, and thought a lot about it myself – do I want life to continue the way it was before this virus scenario stopped us all in our tracks?
I think it’s quite safe to say – yes AND no.
There’s things I’d like to see resume, like more opportunity to physically connect with friends and family. Like the small businesses around here – cafes and cellar doors and other small concerns – getting up and running again.
There’s things I’d like to see never resume, like rampant consumption and using up of our earth’s resources. I think it’s been a background relief for most of us to hear of the skies clearing of pollution over major cities as car and air traffic has so dramatically reduced.
But really, what I’d like or not like is quite beside the point. Oh, don’t worry, I’ll have my say where I can, and I’ll be more circumspect about dashing into the city for a meeting or to pick up some small thing when I don’t need to. I’ll keep checking in with myself before I push the ‘Purchase’ button – do I really need this?
Yet my control on the larger swing of the world’s affairs is minimal, if any control is there at all. I sense that there will be a surge to get back ‘amongst it all’ once restrictions are eased, the jostle of humanity doesn’t tend to slow down for too long. So I’m giving up any illusion that I can stop the river flowing, or even divert it to my liking.
What I do know is that it’s vital to engage with this moment now, with as much alertness and presence as I can muster. Why? Because HERE is the place where I know how to act most skilfully and wisely, especially as we get back into our ’new-normal’ lives. It’s the same for all of us.
The number of things I’ve read and conversations I’ve had with people who have felt the deep value in this ‘pause’, for their chance to re-engage with life closer in to home, is vast. So many of us felt the deep down uneasiness of the pace we’d stepped into without ever fully being aware of doing so.
So my thinking is that here, and now, is our chance.
We’ve all been living in an age of distraction, our busy thinking mind running from one thing to the next, of disassociation from our deeper knowing and connection with all of life. Our world has suffered, and we have suffered – mental health and chronic illnesses, violence, poverty, homelessness… the list goes on, and you’ve heard it all before.
But maybe, just maybe, we can continue to fan the flame that’s been rekindled through this pandemic time.
The contemplative practices of mindfulness and yoga are not just about training the mind to be more focussed and spacious, or the body to be more flexible. These are practices which can awaken the wisdom of natural cycles in our bodies and lives, so that we inhabit this moment with our whole being.
Richard Strozzi-Heckler, author of “The Art of Somatic Coaching” says: “Bringing our attention to the life of the body is the first step in awakening. Life doesn’t disappear; we do. When we move our attention from the feeling self to the thinking self we lose contact with much of life. Sensation, the building block of life, is where we locate our attention to somatically awaken. There is warmth, vibration, a pulse, a shape of aliveness where our skin meets the skin of the world. Where we focus our attention life will appear, confirming the axiom: energy follows attention. To awaken ourselves it’s important to train our attention.”
And awaken ourselves we must! Because asleep people just go on sleepwalking and following the train track where it leads.
The craziest, wildest beast on the run these days is the human mind, so convinced of its superiority over all other aspects of ourselves. Taming this animal does require practice, and patience, and gentle kindness, as well as consistent discipline.
The rewards are potentially great though, inviting the wholeness of our selves to come back home, to settle down at the hearth of our life and to truly enjoy these brief moments we have on this planet. And to know how to act according to our deepest values.
Never underestimate the power of sitting quietly, for an intentional spell, on a daily basis. It’s not doing nothing. It can change our world.