Here in NZ, in one more week we will move beyond the strictest level of lockdown. I’ve already noticed a shift in my energy, and a flurry of thoughts and emotions about re-entering normal life. It’s very similar to the feelings that I’ve experienced when I’ve neared the end of a retreat and contemplated returning home.
For me, there is comfort in self-isolation, like there is on silent retreat. No-one can disturb me, bother me, challenge me or make demands of me, and I have the freedom to turn inwards and try and untangle (or at least make sense of) some of the knots in my personality.
On the spiritual path there are many paradoxes, and one that has long troubled me is the need for acceptance of one’s current body & mind predicament, alongside the desire to cultivate more wholesome mind-states and habits that would benefit ourselves and others. This came up for me over and over on the 4-day mindfulness retreat I’ve just finished with Stephen Archer, as I noticed thoughts arising in connection with potential changes that I’d like to make post-lockdown. One of these changes is stepping outside my comfort zone, figuratively and literally. I’ve written before about failure, and it’s definitely something I try and avoid at all costs. Should I even try? Why not accept that sometimes I prefer being in the background where it’s nice and safe?!
I’m currently involved in another fantastic online course; “The Courage In Poetry” offered by the wonderful Irish poet David Whyte. The ‘courage’ aspect of this course (thank you universe) is very well-timed. David says that all good poems are born from a part of us that doesn’t know how to fully articulate itself yet. We start exploring our ideas and emotions without knowing where we will end up. We start from a place of darkness, an “I don’t know-ness”, or even “I can’t do this-ness”, but find courage to take the first steps. This has been thought-provoking for me, although the invitation also makes me feel rather intimidated!
There is so much change ahead and so much about the way forward that is still unknowable. We don’t know how we get through this financially or emotionally; what businesses and what relationships will stay intact.
THE BLESSING OF THE MORNING LIGHT, by David Whyte
The blessing of the morning light to you,
may it find you even in your invisible
appearances, may you be seen to have risen
from some other place you know and have known
in the darkness and that carries all you need.
May you see what is hidden in you
as a place of hospitality and shadowed shelter,
may that hidden darkness be your gift to give,
may you hold that shadow to the light
and the silence of that shelter to the word of the light,
may you join all of your previous disappearances
with this new appearance, this new morning,
this being seen again, new and newly alive.
Here’s a paraphrased Buddhist parable which helped guide me this week: the Buddha had spent a series of days giving discourses to a group of villagers. One follower in particular would come faithfully every day to listen, but after the talks he would head into town and start drinking, mischief making and breaking all his vows. Nevertheless, the next day he would be back to listen to the Buddha (with his hangover). Finally, he approached the Buddha and asked for some advice. The Buddha told him “I don’t expect you to never to fall off the path, just fall in the right direction. Face towards your destination, and if you fall, fall forwards.”
Tony Robbins says, ‘you get what you tolerate’. That could apply to our physical health, or our emotional, mental or spiritual health as well as how we spend our days. I’m committing to taking some baby steps, or at the least, orientating myself in the direction I want to head (fall!). Who’s with me?!
There are 11 of us in our ‘bubble’ here at Aro-Ha, and we are taking it in turns to do home baking for an afternoon tea treat (not every day I hasten to add!). This was my offering this week, and it turned out pretty yummy so I offer it to you all too:
Vegan Banana & Dark Chocolate Muffins – makes 4 large
- 2 ripe bananas
- 1/4 cup soft brown sugar
- 2 tbsp melted coconut oil
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup wholemeal flour
- 1/4 cup rolled oats
- 2 tbsp chopped dark chocolate
- 1.5 tbsp wholemeal flour
- 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 1 tbsp rolled oats
- 1 tbsp coconut oil (solid)
Pre-heat oven to 190c. Line a large muffin tin with papers. In a medium bowl, mash the bananas with the sugar, baking soda & salt. Mix well. Stir in the vanilla and melted coconut oil. Add the flour and oats and stir with a spoon or spatula until just combined, then stir in the chopped chocolate. Divide the batter into the muffin cases.
Make the topping – wipe out the same bowl and add the streusel ingredients. Squish them together with your fingers until crumbly and looking a bit like wet sand. Cover the tops of the muffins with the streusel, then bake for 18-22 minutes until golden and a skewer comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes (ideally!) and eat warm
Go well, I hope you enjoy the muffins!
It’s weird to say ‘safe journey home’ but I feel like we’ve all been on a bit of a journey these last four weeks. Maybe ‘home’ is where we are currently, and it’s the ‘normal world’ that takes us away from home, from connection to our truer nature. It’s a very strange experience this human existence.
Thanks for reading!