My meditation has been all but peaceful lately. It's not like it's been turbulent--like fearful. But my mind has been all over the place. it's a bit anxious about what's to come. There's a part of me that wants to let go and move into my parents' house so I can write and create full time. But last weekend was proof positive that this wouldn't be the case. Whereas I used to go to their house to relax and let go and be free to create, it's not that place anymore. I suppose if I moved upstairs that might be the case, but I got nothing done last weekend. thankfully I was able to work out a general plan for my courses--I think that legwork is important. But most of the time I either had a headache or I was too tired and unmotivated to do anything. Typically I will want to go shopping at the outlets or go to the fair trade store or go to a yoga class or work out at the park. But three out of four of those options weren't viable for me. And it was shitty on Saturday and Sunday--and even Monday. Actually Sunday was a little cool but I was able to go out on my walk.
I finished Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander with a bit of frustration. Although it was interesting to walk through a few months with him, reading about his reactions to life, I still felt a sense of his bitterness. And it made me bitter myself. While he was upset about the Cuban missile crisis and other threats of war, I feel the same sense of unease about the current political, economic, and spiritual climate. That being said, it is interesting how he writes about how Madison Avenue feeds upon our desires to belong, and tries to persuade us to buy something that will contribute to our belonging. But it doesn't stop. We crave more. We're never satisfied. Augustine says, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in you," but so many of us are so incredibly distracted we never recognize where God truly is.
He does write about how many distractions there are in his world. Living as a monk in Kentucky certainly allows little distractions, but he's compassionate about the rest of the world. He, too, suffered from this lure of distraction. Even Henri Nouwen, whose "Genessee Diaries" I'm reading now, suffers from his mind flitting everywhere, seeking to belong. He had to go to the monastery to live as a monk for seven months to recognize this and settle his mind. Of course, I don't know if he found that inner stillness because I just started the book yesterday.
I wonder what Merton and Nouwen would say now. Thich Nhat Hanh hasn't written in a while--of course I have to log into that site that is a teleconference. I forgot about it. I would like to spend some time there today. But even a few years ago Hanh wrote about how many distractions there are--too many lures away from our own selves.
It gets to the idea that we never really know who we are outside of our social self. We might have particular identities, societal labels such as "professor," "daughter," "athlete." But what do those identities mean when we're alone? Do they predict how we'll react in every circumstance? No, especially if you're open to the newness of each moment.
My county is officially on "shelter in place" mode, which means, my guess, that the store shelves will be bare of toilet paper and milk. I don't need either. In fact, I honestly have enough food in my place to live for several days. No, I won't have much variety, but at least it's healthy enough. I could honestly live on roasted butternut squash with some whipped topping the rest of these days. Of course, my digestive system might offer some protest.
So I will maintain my 800-square-foot hermitage here in suburban Philadelphia. It pains me that I have to pay more than $1600 a month for it. I would love to live somewhere for half the cost. My desire is to get a job where I can work from home and move to a place further out in the country. Whereas I used to complain about not being able to buy ice cream because the grocery store was 15 minutes away, I actually would welcome that again. I just hope to live in a community that offers a little more of a progressive attitude about the connection of all living things.
When I see people with full shopping carts, all I see is the 20-or-so plastic bags that will choke marine life. That makes me sad, but I hope that eventually the entire US will adapt to bringing in their own cloth bags. I wonder if the nation passes a law that charges $1 for every shopping bag, people will modify their behavior. That money could go towards the environment. Honestly people won't modify their behavior if they don't see the effects of their behavior.
Consider this, people don't modify their eating behavior if they gain 20 pounds. Instead, they buy bigger clothes. It's not until their doctor diagnoses them with diabetes are they forced to modify their behavior. If we say that something causes cancer--like smoking cigarettes--they might not modify their behavior. Even those who have been diagnosed with lung cancer might not modify their behavior. I have seen people who have had part of their throats removed still smoke. It's just not bad enough for them to modify their behavior or treat their addiction. IT's too hard for them.
I have seen people struggle with alcohol addiction modify their behavior when they finally see the damage they have done to themselves and others. Their addiction covered their eyes for so many years. Eventually the ball hits the floor, and they can fall apart or bounce. It's always inspiring to me to see how they bounce. A dear friend of mine has been sober for 30-some years. I didn't know him when he was drinking, but the person he is now is remarkably beautiful. He is truly happy. I think it's been 10 years since his father passed away, so he posted several pictures from his father's memorial, and saluted him. He struggled with his relationship with his father, and I think, after several years, he finally forgave him...and himself.