Two years ago around this time of year, I went on a silent retreat to heal from a broken heart. God, was it just two years ago? Had it already been two years? It’s funny how the passing of time offers such paradox. The reality that our lives are moving forward at lightening speed, and the illusion of how our near past can feel like we lived a different life a million years ago.
A year ago I was somewhere else. Recently, I ran into a student and a year ago she was in a coma. Today she was standing on the street holding a yoga mat. A year ago you weren’t a mother. Today you are nothing but. A year ago he was alive and now he isn’t. Ah, time and the way it presents us our newfound selves the way it surrounds us with nothing but a chance to adapt and look back in awe.
A body remembers. When I put on my coat and boots and hat and gloves and walk around in my Chicago neighborhood the sound of my footsteps crunching into the snow and ice brings me back to the cold, snowy silent walks I took during that retreat. They were aimless walks. Their sacredness is something I can only appreciate now. I would stare down at my feet and up at the sky and I could see my breath and I would cry or not cry and I would get used to the sound of only my foot prints and the stinging wind, and my watering eyes and for a few precious moments I would feel this imperceptible reassuarnce coming from my body, we will be ok.
It’s funny how I notice I am nearest to that voice when I am needing to hear it the most.
It doesn’t surprise me that I feel a certain craving toward this refuge. The newness of my move has receeded some and things that I probably haven’t or didn’t really let myself see before are now rising to the surface. It’s uncomfortable the way seeing things more deeply can be. My life, my relationships, my work, my identity suddenly look nothing like I had expected them at all to look, and at the same time the life that I am looking at seems to be exactly as it should be. I stand back to try and get a bigger view of things. This, instead of resisting the view all together.
The Buddha calls the cycle of life’s ups and downs, vicisitudes, of things swinging this way and that. The fame and the shame, the joy and the pain… At one point or another we are cycling through an upswing and then a down. We can count on that because we are human. This is the truth of being alive. With any kind of steady practice, we can hope that amidst the certainity of the terrain shifting underneath our feet we can locate a center point, a north star, a guiding us back, a whisper of reassurance coming from a place within that seems to be never afraid , we will be ok.
At the top of the stairs at the meditation retreat there was a painting of a quote. It read, “Try not to expect anything. In this way, everything will open to you.”
Expect anything? Certainly there is a relief that comes with saying, that’s it, I have no control over where this all is going. I might as well put my hands down along with whatever plans I may or may not have imagined for myself and feel the ways in which life is carrying me along it’s crazy current. It’s when I can stand right smack in the center of this ride and see that all along the way, this is the opening.