I haven’t felt like writing for weeks. I felt like I have lost my voice somewhat, probably because I have not felt solid ground under my feet for what feels like the longest time (but in reality has been about 7 weeks!)
In that time, I have borne an abrupt split with my previous employer, travelled 1000km south to a new region of NZ (away from dear friends and the dog I used to co-parent), moved in with a new house-mate, started a new job, and joined a different community. Then, having not given any of these new seeds a chance to sprout, I flew ‘home’ to London for a overdue visit. Living predominantly in my parents house (with the unique challenges that brings) I feel more of an unsettled itinerant than ever.
Last week though, I had the opportunity to get out of the smoke for a while. I stayed for 4 days with wonderful friends, Satya and Kaspa, who created and manage the Amida Mandala Buddhist Temple in Great Malvern. On Saturday, a small group of us did a day-long retreat; 3 hours of continual chanting in the morning, then an afternoon discussing and contemplating giving & receiving. (In the evening there was a ‘sharing circle’ which I didn’t attend because I still hadn’t found anything to say!) It was really wonderful to be in the easy, genuine and comfortable company of good friends, and to re-connect with the dharma. Listening to the dawn chorus was another highlight of the trip – in my years away from the UK I had forgotten how beautiful English bird-song is. Watching British TV comedy in the evening together with mugs of tea and Satya’s vegan chocolate was also fabulous!
In many ways, Satya and Kaspa offered me what Anne Lamott prescribes in the opening chapter of her latest book, Hallelujah Anyway:
When other people look hunched or pummelled, I know what to do and say, to help them recolonise their bodies and lives. I say: stop the train. Be where your butt is. I would say: Life can be painful, but I am right here, and you have a good heart… I would tell a person, “you have the right to remain silent. Would you like a nice cup of tea? Some M&M’s? Let’s sprawl, unfold those creaky wings.”
Sometimes we need to talk things through, (endlessly), or perhaps wail and scream, but also know that the ‘right to remain silent’ is an option.
My mind has spent a lot of time noticing differences, between where I was and where I am now. Between my expectations and reality. But it was the words of the murdered British MP Jo Cox who encouraged me to make a conscious effort to notice instead the similarities rather than the differences as I find my feet. We have far more in common with each other than that which divides us.
I can’t fully process the myriad thoughts and feelings that wake me up at 4am, but what I am very sure of is that Kalyāṇa-mittatā, good friends, are everything to me. (Haven’t I said that before?!) To have flown one nest, only to have been received with all my flaws, confusion and fears into other nests – firstly in Queenstown, and then on the other side of the globe – is phenomenal.
On this election day in the UK I am also thinking of that beautiful line by priest and inter-faith scholar Raimon Panikkar; “The world we look forward to will not be another tower. It will be a well-trodden path from house to house.”
*Drawing above is by Michael Leunig