Untethered

UntetheredLast night I had to have the, “no we can’t go anywhere and no we can’t have anyone over” talk with one of my kids. And then in answer to the question, “how long?”

“I don’t know, buddy, I’ve never lived through a pandemic before.”

And there it is, the unknown creeping right up into my five-year olds life. We’ve explained in the least scary terms possible. We’re staying home to help keep vulnerable people safe. We didn’t explain that I’m one of the vulnerable. We’re practicing love of neighbor.

I’ve talked to a lot of people this week and there’s a thread that emerges. None of us have lived through anything like this and we are grieving everything from regular social interactions to trips planned to enjoying march madness or other sporting events or what have you.

People are scrambling to keep different aspects of work or church or what have you going with video conferencing so for some this week has been busier than others, but strange.

And then there’s the school closures, the work closures, the coffee dates with friends.

The word that comes to mind is untethered.

Suddenly things that tied us into our lives have all been cut loose and great uncertainty and anxiety are all that are seemingly offered in their place. Days feel strange and it doesn’t take long for them to both feel very long, and start blurring together, making us feel untethered even in space and time, and it’s incredibly disorienting.

I think there’s a way through this though besides imposing schedules on our days, which may or may not be helpful depending on our personalities. I think it involves first of all compassion for ourselves and allowing the feelings of sadness and loss and anxiety to just be. We have a tendency as humans to minimize our own feelings and not allow ourselves to feel. We tell ourselves that things could be worse, or “at least __________ isn’t happening so this isn’t a big deal.” This leads us to be cut off from our feelings and also means we are prone to minimize the feelings of others in the same way. Feelings are just feelings and they are all valid. Just acknowledge them, and let them be.

After we’ve moved through a period of acknowledgement, this disorientation may be an opportunity to reexamine our tethers and see which ones are holding us to vital areas of life and which ones are holding us down. Temporary freedom from many of them may give us some much needed space to examine them.

It also gives us a perspective on how interconnected we are to the entire globe and I fervently hope that gives us a way forward to build a better society as we emerge from this historic moment in time.

Observation as Meditation

Observaton as meditation

Opening my facebook timeline right now feels like a freight train barreling at me at full speed. I feel my body clench, tension building in my jaw, my neck, and on down into my shoulders, spine, and arms.

In times like these we need to make conscious efforts to breathe, to observe, to relax our bodies for our own health and well-being, both physical and mental.

I breathe in through my nose for a count of eight, hold it for a count of eight, and release it through my mouth for a count of eight. I’m not sure where I got the eight from, but it works for me. It draws my attention back into my body and I become conscious of all the ways in which I’m curled up on myself, holding both my fear and everyone else’s in the muscles of my neck and shoulders. I suspect I’m not the only one.

We have entered a time of great uncertainty with no idea of when the danger will have passed. It highlights both our interdependence on one another and the fact that tomorrow is promised to no one in ways that most of us don’t live with in our day-to-day reality. Pretending that this isn’t so only buries the fear down deep, and makes our bodies tense and curl in on ourselves again.

I’ve been practicing observation and awareness as meditation. Partly because I’m really bad (read not practiced enough) at the sitting still kind (hey maybe quarantine is a good time to practice that).

The leaves on my geranium on my kitchen sink are fuzzy.
There are tiny flowers popping up all over my yard, some of which my kids are bringing me.
Moss is coming back to life under my dogwood tree and it has the softest, most amazing texture.
One of my trees is putting out new leaves that look kind of like tiny green feathers as they emerge.

All of creation is emerging from a time of winter sleep just as we go into a time that feels very much like a winter sleep. But there is something to learn from nature in this. The tree turns within itself and waits.

We are not trees and we are not accustomed to a yearly routine of shedding things that seem so necessary in order to wait in stillness and silence for the right time to re-engage with life and re-emerge.

But while we are not trees we have been children. Everything in the future seems forever away when you are a child, and yet children cope with this reality by fully engaging in the moment. My boys are forever bringing me samples of nature, those tiny flowers popping out, acorns with their tiny caps, a moss-covered stone.

And it occurs to me that they are on to something.

So I hold a stone in my hand and feel its coolness and its weight in my palm.
I examine the scale-like texture of the acorn’s cap in contrast to the smooth skin of it’s seed. I stare at it in wonder that a tree lies coiled within this unremarkable and yet magical brown oval.
I water my houseplants and contribute to life and growing and all the things that seem to be put on hold right now, and yet are still happening all around us.

I calm my brain and do my best to inhabit each moment with an awareness that life at full-speed doesn’t always allow for.

And I breathe.

Breathing Together

Breathing TogetherTo answer the question, how do we support each other when we can’t meet in person, I’m creating a Facebook group to share spiritual resources. I’m leaving that definition purposefully vague because I’m hoping to cultivate a community to minister to each other in a variety of ways. If this sounds like something that would feed your soul during this time, please come join in.