August 2, 2011

From Judgment to Curiosity to Grace

I’m moving back into my routine with intentional slowness.

I’ve spent nearly a week on Lopez in the San Juan Islands as part in facilitating a yoga retreat led by my teacher and friend, Sarah Trelease.

No internet. Very little phone service. In fact, for all practical (and habitual) purposes, I was completely offline.

I cleaned and created spaces for retreatants, assembled lovingly prepared food, lit candles, in + exhaled fresh air off the Puget Sound, held rocks the fertile shape of eggs, warmed in cold palms while eagles scooped air currents, low overhead. I practiced yoga and walked slowly with hands clasped in meditation through wet grass, over gravel and under towering spruce, their branches fanned proud and protective over a carpet of ferns. Nature creates a perfect and abundant beauty that is difficult to express and almost painful to witness. It’s enough to crack a hard heart wide open.

And far away from my comfortable habits, my iPhone, my chips and my many buffers, I also was presented with angst. And compound angst, that amid such beauty I wasn’t magically and perfectly calm.

“Sit still and watch the thoughts arise. Greet them with a friendly compassion, name them ‘thinking’ and come back to stillness, bringing the mind to clear lake versus roiling waters.”

Become more mirror than fog.

Easier said than done. But fortunately, accomplishing or doing this isn’t the point. Giving yourself an opportunity to notice the tendency to resist and  undo it is. We humans stand stalwart in the way of becoming our clearest self.

Oh yes. I witnessed many ways, over the week, where I was actually expecting anxiety to arise in situations before they happeneating food to fend off  hunger before it was felt and assuming the harsh judgement of other people before I’ve even stayed long enough to meet them.

This retreat  became opportunity for me to realize the absurdity of actually preempting fear with fear and see the complacency I’ve developed toward tolerating my own, less than kind, internal dialogue.

I dove deep into this ocean.

And it felt, at first, like drowning. The pain was oddly wearing the face of comfort; predictable, stable, secure. The devil that I know. Sigh. This is addiction. In Buddhist terminology, this is Samsara -the perpetual cycle of suffering. We continue to do the very thing that causes the pain so we can maintain the illusion of control over our experience.

Until the submersion became less like being suffocated and more like being weightless.

And so it goes on this path. Never perfection, just bits of clarity, remembering that it’s ok not to know and returning to my day-to-day life abiding in a slightly more spacious container.

I’m moving back in to my routine with intentional slowness.

Taking the time to go offline and practice silence, to wander and recalibrate with the slower rhythms of nature was one of the most valuable things I’ve done in awhile and I would highly recommend it.

Here are a few other ways you can bring some clarity into your well-worn groove:

  • Disrupt the cycle of checking emails, texts and making phone calls.
  • Find a new way to eat, try different foods, learn a new recipe, cook a new vegetable, have a dinner party.
  • Read books instead of watching movies.
  • Do a crossword puzzle instead of playing Words With Friends.
  • Turn a sharp eye on your habits and notice the things you reach for when you’re uncomfortable, how they provide a gratification that may actually be increasing your next bout of discomfort.
  • Do yoga.

I would love to hear about your experience.

So I’m moving back in to my routine with intentional slowness. Answering emails one at a time, leaving only one window open on my browser, taking long walks with my son, listing and planning rather than spinning back into a spiral of busy-ness that is far more anesthesia than efficacy.

Mostly, I’m renewing my commitment to treat myself, and the world, with increasing gentleness as I reconnect with my home and community.

Sliding from judgement to curiosity to grace.

Will you join me?

Photo credits Daniel Balda

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