Welcome to the ninth day of the ninth month, from a new member of the Blackburn House. Today, as the morning temperatures are slowly, steadily falling, we are still surrounded by colorful wild flowers. Evidence of change and aging abound: petals are curling, leaves are falling, and colors are fading. Yet, in the midst of signs of death and dying, seeds and pods remind us of life. Bees and hummingbirds are leaving, but not dying. Just as the sun is still shining behind the cloud, even if we don’t see it, the bees, hummingbirds and geese live on, although out of our sight.
Slowly, ever so slowly, I learned how to trust Life that I could not see, Love that I could not feel, abundance that I could not imagine. Gradually I learned how to practice being in the fullness of Life, even if I didn’t feel, think or sense how alive I was. A good friend told me to act as if, to be as if, to live as if everything is okay, to accept life as life happens, ignoring any anxiety or our many names for fear. I scoffed. I balked, but I practiced anyway. Surprise, surprise: I began to feel, think and experience that everything is okay, good, even. It’s a skill to continually ride the waves of life without being upset, afraid or under the delusion of control, and, as with all skills, practice is also continual.
I practiced and failed, practiced and failed, and still practice and fail. My greatest improvement is that I remember to practice sooner, after I fail. I began raising the bar by taking greater risks, also known as, putting fear to the side. Thus, a long, circuitous journey which I will tell you all about, another time, led me to the Blackburn House, living with four strangers, in a strange land where I knew no one. Less than two months ago, fear/anxiety/distress/insecurity/worry or any thought of weakness could have easily overwhelmed me. Those many forms of fear exist, pop up, and nag me frequently. Oh, did I mention I’m the only “old” person in a household of tweens? Self-consciousness could also take over. Practicing my exercises rescued me. They are like breathing. And, Life has expanded again.
Actually, those exercises can simply be breathing. Try being fearful while being aware of your breath. Concentrate on inhaling and exhaling, feeling the air in your nostrils and lungs, the expansion of your belly and chest. Slow down the exhalation, feeling the air wanting to escape while you hold it in, only gradually releasing it. While you are paying attention to your breathing, you are not worrying about the future or feeling regret over the past. You will not be homesick or full of selfish thoughts or kicking yourself for something you said last night. You will be in the fullness of life.
Breathing is absolutely essential to life, and yet I have spent many days (years?) unaware of breathing. The abundance of life, the fullness of living, can be easily accessed with the awareness of the abundance of air, in and out of our noses and lungs. The first morning at the Blackburn House I woke up with a moment of dread (another name for fear). What have I done, committing myself to a year in an unknown place, thousands of miles from my western friends and family where I am the odd one out, in age, in my western ways, with years of urban experience, now useless in the country? Panic jumped up as a good option, but I remembered my breathing exercises: everything is all right, everything is good, everything is okay. Everything is changing. Life and Love, alone, are changeless. Breathe in that delicious air, breathe out slowly that life-giving air. Look around you and be pleased.
I looked around me and I, from the drought ridden West, saw more green than I have ever seen. I, from the thirsty West, heard gurgling sounds from something tripping downhill called W-A-T-E-R. I, recently from the Mojave desert where the sun blazes intensely on eyes and skin all day, without one tiny cloud of a break, looked up and saw the most spectacular white sculptures in the sky, then another set, then a new exhibit, never ending art, as abundant as the air. Relaxation and peace came immediately. Panic completely faded as an option. And, I was pleased.
Gratitude, like breathing, replaces my fear. I now can live here and now, and live in the fullness of life. Panic attacks of my youth, when I was a tween, are rare now. Instead of feeding my fear, I can now delight in the wild flowers all around me. I have never seen so many flowers, plants, trees and bugs that are foreign to my western eyes. I have never seen so much lushness and density of green upon green. And, I’m the old one.
For all you young’ns, you have a lot to look forward to. Start today. Look around you, and be pleased.