Happy February. I missed wishing you all a happy new year. Have one anyway.
The new year brought a huge change for me. I traveled for months, after beginning to set up shop in rural Idaho, an unfamiliar place to me – certainly, not home, yet – then arrived here, for good, on January third. Even if you are familiar with your neighborhood and feel at home, we are all facing uncertain times. I imagine many feel what I’ve heard expressed around me: fear, anger (which grows from fear), and lost in what looks like the possibility of destruction of what is called home.
Too much news or arguing or overhearing arguing, the barrage of accusations or descriptions that continue to fuel the pathological polarization in this country: us/them, blue/red, male/female, colored/white, young/old, rich/poor, and native born/immigrants is another product of fear. I struggle daily with finding and practicing the antidote to our human tendency to act out of fear – to blame, polarize, project or lash out in physical or symbolic violence. On a good day, I awake remembering my most immediate and effective tool: gratitude – the theme of the last blog post in honor of Thanksgiving month.
As I mentioned (saving you from scrolling), I cannot feel fear and gratitude at the same time. When I am exercising my gratitude muscle – consciously and actively feeling grateful, fear disappears. If you think that is simplistic, I dare you to try feeling truly grateful and continuing to hang on to your insecurity, anxiety, doubt, worry or the other many names and children of fear.
Moving to rural North Idaho (how far north? – let me just describe what’s keeping me indoors to blah, blah, blah-og, instead of letting you get off your screens, and commune with nature or your human fellos or fellas: there is a TON of snow outside, and it keeps coming down; there is no longer a driveway or a road or a walkway or any hint of ground of any kind, just mounds and mounds and mountains of snow; did I mention it’s still snowing? – the tall, beautiful trees have so much snow on their branches – pine laden or bare – that they are beginning to look like white mountains, also) has been the greatest challenge in my life (yes, I had actually started a sentence that needed ending).
Excuse me, I left my train of thought for another view (or seven) from my window. This distraction resulted in the longest parenthetical “phrase” I have ever written.
Back to North Idaho (I have learned, in my very limited time here North Idaho has little or nothing to do with the bulk of Idaho who ignores us, most of the time) where I have felt lost and almost homeless since moving. What is feeling lost, falling apart, feeling alienated (homeless), losing a sense of identity or simply confused? It is getting off balance, not knowing who I am in order to be true to myself. It is losing touch with the vital, essential core of being that makes you you and me me: integrity.
With the discomfort and alienation, however, came another tool for acting for justice, equality, with respect and dignity toward all, and being kind, instead of letting fear take over and becoming a self centered ego running amok. Solitude and introspection arose with my isolation when I practiced gratitude. One day while appreciating the great variety of wild animals, trees, birds, and a strange bug who smells like a spring meadow when aroused, I caught a glimpse of my insides – an integral cog making me me. That susan bit wasn’t related to being talkative, sociable, urban, educated or a coffee drinker. It pointed to someone bigger and connected to life directly, not straining to touch others through the above masks.
We, modern machine ridden people, desperately need solitude to find ourselves again. I fear that is an almost impossible task for the young Americans glued to their machines, unable to be alone for two seconds. The irony is that they are alone while pretending to connect (virtual, not real) in social media and electronic cyberspace. My grown children have described some good friends who are seemingly incapable of communicating and being with them, even after a long absence, and must be on their phones continually. Addiction to any outside role, substance, activity or image is a grasping and holding on to one of the masks of the ego. To see inside ourselves, to reconnect with our true selves, to be alone in contemplative solitude, instead of alienation, we must be willing to drop our masks.
Practicing gratitude daily, and as many hours as I can remember, has led me to a contentment inside myself. Instead of feeling alone and isolated, I have discovered the rewards of solitude, contemplation, meditation, self reflection, or finding the glue that holds me together. Ironically, connection to others, to nature, to that sweet smelling bug, arises. Unity and togetherness emerge from a more secure, integral me, discovered in solitude.
The dazzling white world outside my window, even before sunrise, held me in awe. I could not leave my window (and, as you well know, I am still distracted by its spell). I have not had many cold, snowy winters in my 62 years. I have not appreciated the great gifts winter can bring. Today, instead of being “stuck” at home, I appreciated winter’s invitation to retreat, to delve deeper into myself.
I was moved to write. Hopefully, it provides a good ending to this post:
Winter smothers us with its white pillows. Ice, snow, cold, and the angry wind chase me home, into the warmth of my beating heart, to my roots, my center, to the seed of life, hiding, waiting for the thaw. White, white and white, again, with chilling frost descending on everything, reminds me to withdraw. Only white or dark to look at, nothing to smell, nothing to hear, only cold to feel, I turn sight, hearing, touch, smell and all sensation inward.
Go deeper than the sensational summer. Dive under the ever blossoming, exploding ego, always hungry. The sun is inside. Reflect that light.
Be still. Be silent as the snow. Be naked as the trees.
Winter smothers the world of senses, chases us inside, to the hearth, back to the beginning, before time and the sun were. Return to that inside glow, the primal ember, the eternal now.