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There is Nowhere to be but Here

Crepuscular raysPHIL: I often read aloud after we retire at night, and we’ve been reading one of our favorites for the second time: “Ten Poems to Set You Free.” Last night we read “Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?” by Mary Oliver and the commentary by the editor Roger Housden. Oliver’s poem, along with others in this book, is a call to truth, to living your life more honestly, to finding your true calling, to owning and honoring your hidden desires, to act on this rather than letting the days slip away. Implicit in her writing is a challenge to be present, though she is so skilled a wordsmith as to have no need to use that word.

Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch?

I sometimes find myself wanting in that regard. Facing the twin pulls of my dreams and the horde of obligations that shout at me each day, I spend too much time procrastinating and doom-scrolling. Inertia and habit too often close out another day without anything to claim.

But there is one area where it is much easier for me to be present, and that is with Maude. Because I feel fully accepted and have no need to hide any aspect of who I am, I am much more able to enter into that state of being fully present, which also means giving my full attention. We each see and are seen.

(It’s not clear which comes first – full acceptance or being present. The two arise together and are entwined. They complement each other so naturally that knowing which is cause and which is effect has little use. By accepting how Maude is and what she does, I avoid the focus on what she did and the speculation on what she might do, unless, of course, we’re playing chess together. From the other side, being present doesn’t imply full acceptance, but if something is bugging me, it is the ideal position from which to examine the source of that irritation.)

So the challenge for me is to take the peace I have with Maude and use it to tackle those obligations by saying “Yes” (see Maude’s piece), be very aware of how I use political news for an adrenaline rush, and reach for that latch.

MAUDE: “Sorry I missed the meeting, but I didn’t realize it was Friday.” “I can’t believe the week has gone by and I still haven’t finished that report.” Is it time to shop again? I feel like I just did that.” “Is it really already December?” My experience of time seems to have altered drastically during these many months of lockdowns and underlying political tensions.

This strange morphing of time has led me to examine its effect on my relationship with myself, Phil and the outer world.

One of the most unexpected effects is that I realize I am more aware in many ways of being in the present moment. This may in part be a defense mechanism to all the outer tensions that have built up. The sensation of hunkering in place has somehow also brought out the feeling of being in the now stronger than ever.

I face each moment with a stronger sense of gratitude than ever before and handle each new event with wider open arms than before. In so drastically reducing the direct contacts with others and the outside activities I participate in, I have gained a stronger awareness of each activity, each person.

A friend of mine was sharing a story recently in a Zoom circle. She had something come up in her daily situation which was stressing her out and taking time and energy she felt she didn’t have. We all know that feeling: something we are responsible for isn’t working and has to be repaired; a parking ticket arrives in the mail for a place we have never parked our car and we have to try to get it straightened out on the phone since the office is closed nowadays; something we have already taken care of disappears in the mail and we have to go through the whole thing again and now it’s late.

The aspects of life that I don’t choose and that impinge on my plans just seem to pop up and interfere with the smooth running of the day I have visualized. My friend, however, found a different way than resistance to respond to her issue. She decided to just say “Yes” to what had presented itself, and, wait for it…to do that cheerfully! She reported that the shift in her response entirely changed the situation. This is a wonderful way of saying, be present with what is, and be there consciously and willingly.

I am finding that this is the great gem in the heart of this crisis that I think we can all come away with. We can take advantage of this much-restricted situation to be fully present with what is. There are far fewer distractions of our own manufacture. We have an opportunity for calm and peace as we settle into the new norms and the times we have with each other via Zoom or in person. If you are in a relationship where you are living with someone, then treasure this time, the presence of each other, and the quiet opportunities to be together and handle this crisis together. If you are living on your own, then you have an opportunity to truly experience the present and who you are when locked down on your own.

None of us would ask for this experience, but given that it is here, we can use it as an opportunity to dig deeper into ourselves and to be present with what is. This is another opportunity to spread peace, to be peaceful with what is and to share that with others.

Photo credit: Phil Mayes

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Successful Relationship Reading Corner


Books on shelfIn our blog this week, we wrote about the fact that there is nowhere to be but here. We discuss being present with the current stresses of COVID-19 and politics. Here are some articles dealing with these issues. 

Nurturing our relationships during the coronavirus pandemic "At a time when we all face uncertainty and worry about coronavirus, such changes in our relationships are probably all the harder to cope with. So it’s worth trying to be extra patient and understanding, both with each other and also ourselves. To do that, we need people around us and ourselves to be aware of how what we do can affect each other. Some of our relationships are likely to be strained – but for the good of our communities, we should stay at home through that."

Mindfulness: How It Can Help Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic "To say that COVID-19 has been an emotional roller coaster is an understatement. While you’re busy juggling working at home, homeschooling your children, and disinfecting your groceries, your mind may be playing a constant chatter of worry on a loop. “What’s going to happen with my retirement savings?” “What if I lose my job and health insurance?” “How will I make my mortgage payment?” And the ultimate fear: “What if I develop a cough, fever, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of the disease?” Now, for a moment, try to forget all of that. Breathe in and out a few times. If your mind wanders, just notice that, accept that your mind has wandered, and refocus on your breathing."

Peace Of Mind During The Pandemic: Finding The Path To Happiness Through Being Present "Pre-COVID-19, living in the present moment was more of a “nice to have.”  For those who could do it, there was compelling evidence that it was a major contributor to achieving success and happiness. Today we are in the midst of the worst pandemic in global history, resulting in the largest social and economic shutdown in our lifetime, and the stressors affecting each of us are more intense than we have ever experienced."

Spreading peace one relationship at a time
Phil and Maude
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