This weekend I turned 42. On my birthday morning, after making coffee, I pulled up the New York Times. The zeitgeist is deeply troubled.
The UK Election just reinforced a Brexit from the EU, but also reinforced a retreat by people into nationalism and self-preservation. Non-cooperation, non-neighborliness, non-flourishing are taking hold on people. Certainly, this spirit has also taken hold in the United States.
The NYT Opinion writers are grieving the end of global cooperation, prematurely anointing Trump the winner of the 2020 election, and proclaiming the failure of the progressive imagination to engage peoples’ emotions – since Truth has become a naive paradigm, a “20th century ideal”, and what has become winnable in elections is the ability to manipulate fear and act on emotion. Frankly, it’s not looking real great for human flourishing, and Mother Earth doesn’t have much more capacity for us to continue retracting deeper into our own individual anxieties.
So on this new year, this turning anew, I recommit to doing my best to live well, and to help make my home, my everyday life, my studio practice, and my presence to all whom I encounter, as calm, hospitable, meaningful, and mindful as possible.
I recommit myself, with sacred intention, to cultivating a life of Sanctuary, and to see and be in all places I inhabit as Chapels. I turn away from fear, and towards Life.
I begin by turning towards imagination. To look anew at how I go about life. To look with contemplative eyes at the spaces of my home, the art I make in my studio, and the presence I bring to all whom I encounter. How am I creating in all of these spaces a sense of calm, hospitality, meaning, and mindfulness? Where am I neglecting these?
Be where I am, in any moment. This is advice from Thich Nhat Hhan, and is the easiest and probably most transformative metanoia. This transition can occur in a single deep breath, to recall myself to my lungs and my body and an awareness of life that requires no words. If you hear me sigh, it’s not one of grief or anxiety or sadness – I am bringing myself back into full presentness. If I’m doing dishes, do dishes mindfully. If I’m sweeping, sweep mindfully. If I’m wrestling with my son, wrestle mindfully. Don’t worry about all the other things that need doing, or being distracted by various thoughts.
Turning away is not avoidance. Metanoia is aligning the soul with the Spirit – above and beyond the lower-case “spirit” of the world – to allow oneself to be fully present in love and compassion and service to the world. It takes only a single breath, to find oneself alive and OK, and then able to to turn back into the world in love and compassion and service to others.