I’ve really settled into a deep inner practice this year; inner and also outer, balanced by creativity and meaningful connection. My days are settled into the rhythm of self-care, mindfulness and rituals that support me inside and out. Inside, I remain calm and oddly unsurprised, unrattled, by whatever unfolds. I can even see how these two roller-coaster years have served me by “giving me permission” to cease looking outside myself so much for answers or validation. No more trying so hard or pretending that I could ever conform to something “normal” or “mainstream”; just gently being me, exploring whatever that means, moment to moment. I find enjoyment honouring the full individuation of myself that all my traits and preferences have always pointed towards, thus I feel more comfortably “myself” than ever before. This serene state doesnt require the world to be solved or my health to be healed; they are not mutually exclusive. My days are infused with gratitude and it turns up all the lights and colours, day after day.
This has helped me to experience (not just “know” hypothetically…) how it really all does start and end on the inside of us, in our own back yard. The more I turn my attention there, the more gold seems to come my way, the simplest of days infused with it. I’ve got around to doing all those daily practices I allude to, and more (not just on highdays and holidays…) such as pausing to meditate several times a day, mindful walking, journalling and practicing being right here, in the moment, most of the time, which is the real pot of gold that each of us have access to.
Because it all happens right here in the present moment, outside of the reach of fear, rumination and the classic incentives of “money, prestige and winning” (to quote Eckhart Tolle). Nothing else matters nor has power outside of this moment, because “now” is where everything happens; all the rest is illusion, either the ghost of a memory or wild speculation of a future we can’t hope to predict. Beyond those things, I find peace and stillness over and over and over again because it is always more than manageable and offers such peace, such immense sense of wholeness, that the experience of them utterly defies words so I don’t even strive anymore. I savour it all for me, as can we all, once we get beyond the misguided belief that we need to save everyone else, thinking we have to bear the responsibility of all that is “going wrong”. Its not our job to convince, cajole or carry anyone along, none of us is here for that; what is unfolding right now is way bigger than any of us and we each play our ample part by cleaning up our own act.
All very well to feel so serene and “holy’ living your life like that, with ample time to paint and meditate, you might say. Yet I have my load…of high levels of pain and the many problems and frustrations that come with hypermobility, “stopping me” from doing what I “want to do”, keeping me from planning ahead. Like most people, I have to play Tetris with our finances just so we can get along. In recent months, we have had, and still have, loss and serious illness in our family and inner circle, all the usual stuff. Yet when I take pause and spend time with this moment, and then this moment and then this one I start to draw gold out of even this state of being “grounded” by my so called limitations because it quite literally grounds me here, in the now, which is the only moment that is and that matters; also, because I appreciate how it has liberated me for a life outside of the fray. Of course, we are all different but, whatever our circumstance, the gift of being here with what is, right now, is already here waiting for us, just as soon as we become aware of it…as in, truly, deeply aware, following the breath, ceasing to identify with our thinking, just stepping back and witnessing it all, noticing what comes up, aware of our own awareness…not bemoaning our circumstances or trying to medicate or distract them away.
Sometimes we don’t see gold for looking, or because we see what we expect to see, not what is actually there. I took myself for a walk in the woods near our house the other day, which was the first time I had managed to go out alone, due to my health, for quite a long time. The landscape had seemed so drab, so colourless when I set off and I could have stuck myself in that mindset, eyes down to the ground, yet when I looked up high in the trees, alerted by a certain chitter-chatter made familiar during last summer’s dreamy warmth in my garden, when they nested nearby, I found the trees above my head where full of red and yellow goldfinches, their dazzlingly incongruous outfits a foil to the bare-woody brownness of the trees. Only the day before, I had worked on an old artwork of mine, improving and expanding it to add more radiance plus an enhanced sense of depth to the composition so that these celestial birds now seemed to be tumbling from a portal in the sky, like manna from heaven. It had been my original vision for the artwork, two years ago but never quite got there…always a bit flat…and now I seemed to be able to get much closer to my far-more expansive intention, leaving me much more pleased with the result.
It was as though, not for the first time, my highly-focused attention working on that artwork, art being a highly-focused task that holds me in the moment more-so than anything I know, had somehow manifested them!
The next day, we came across the goldfinches again as we walked by the river where we mostly walk each day (and they have been there many days since)…loads of them…and then they appeared in the trees near our house, their unmistakably cheeky, rambling song with its “beep beep” chorus alerting my eyes upwards as I filled up the bird feeders. This morning, as I prepared to get on my yoga mat, there were 11 of them sat on the roof directly opposite my window, pecking at the moss, so, getting closer and closer. So much gold, right on the doorstep…I feel truly blessed.
What has this got to do with anything, some kind of superstition, as though the birds signify something meaningful…what’s it got to do with real life? Well, what it reminds us of, when we notice and appreciate any other small yet precious detail of our lives, is that it all happens when we slow right down, expand our gaze, take the time to be fully present and aware, interested, grateful. These things appear to us only when we are paying attention, being present, open, curious and aware, not expectant so much as willing to be pleasantly surprised without putting any pressure on the moment to be one way or another. In such a state, we skip dimensions, outside the bonds of the strictly three-dimensional experience, including the rather hopeless and cynical way the world is presented to us and how we have been entrained to see it, and so we remember, as children do (but almost inevitably forget, once they are socialised…) that life is so much more than “all this”, that possibilities await us way beyond any limitations our day may seem to present. We start to directly experience how there is gold waiting for us, whatever that may look like to us in particular, just as long as we are present and open enough to receive. For me, it happens to look like a world stuffed with brightly coloured birds, amongst other things!
From right here, we can refresh and renew our lives in some surprising ways, not by “doing anything” in particular but by changing the way we are being. New models of how to live our best life will no-doubt arise out of such moments, and we can amply harvest those inspirations as we go along. Old-stuck patterns will get noticed and thus trimmed away so they can shackle us no-longer and toxic exposures will be seen and addressed, not left unnoticed or put up with any longer. As space gets created in our days, it can seem as though everything is held in more space, thus nothing feels so pressured or chaffing as it once did. Calmness and clarity become less conditional and so the nervous system resets. And of course, whatever we “do” from present awareness gets infused with presence, transforming it and infusing it with quality and power because we are fully there with it, filled with joy and purpose (not just doing as a means to an end).
Yet the real gift is the practice of slowing right down, out of action and into awareness, as a primary state of being; now given its ample priority at last. Day by day, inch by tiny inch, time spent this way effects some surprising changes of trajectory made up of countless minute adjustments that turn out to alter everything in our own back yard and so here’s the very truth of it: this is the pot of gold we forgot we were sat on all the time, never needing to go out there digging for it since we only ever had to realise that it was here, hidden in plain sight, all along.