looking back, 2018 (part 1)

If you ask me in March or September, how the resolutions I set in December the year before are faring, the answer would probably be, not well. However, if you ask me in December (now), how those same resolutions are faring, lo and behold! Something has usually shifted significantly along the lines of those intentions. My great-grandmother’s philosophy was not to let the old year see the new, which generally meant lots of cleaning and disappearing of decorations. I suppose my rituals are variations on hers.

The trick may be not to look in on what you’re baking too much, or there may be no trick. It may just be deeply embedded in my nature to read out a progressive pattern. Either way, I like entering the new year with an optimistic stance, beginning with looking back before reaching the threshold.

          2018 was a year of trying to trust myself differently, of moving attention into body and action.  Although I have a ten years younger sister, I was raised as an only child for a long time. So habits of entertaining myself run quite deep, also habits of talking to people in my mind while thinking that I am actually communicating with those around me. There are lots of wonderful things about this way of being with the world, but I was feeling weirdly, smothered. Something was deeply wrong about the way I’d closed myself in. 

Minds can get cluttered, and I began to admit that minimalist aspirations had amounted to shoving lots into the attic, leaving the facade appearance of a spacious and welcoming foyer. So sure, I let way fewer material things trip up my energy/time for what was most important, but I was feeding a blind spot, too. A great deal of my energy had simply been re-directed, traded up for a similar trap, for instance, putting a lot of pressure on the role of learning things, to tame these feelings and to bridge those gaps.

And learning things was beginning to say, “Um, there is really no room for more learning things. Go make some and come back.”

Thankfully, I did pay attention. Here and writings elsewhere, I see the theme of unlearning isolation as a thick cord through the entire year. There are places where it frays a little, but never breaks. Tangibly, it meant taking a course I had on my ‘maybe’ list for several years, enjoying the company of classmates and teachers. It also meant pulling away from and/or “holding in a different way”, my obsessions, most of which involved screens of one kind or another.

I also worked with mantras a lot, and with “living life like a fairy tale”, which is a variation on awake lucidity. Immersion, such as in virtual worlds, in daily life. I may not have taken the course if not for this little game actually, because I imagined back to my teen years, where I was often running on the track or bicycling through the university, knowing that, for so many reasons, attending the school was out of my reach. So it felt like a loose end. What was in reach? I decided to take that young girl under wing as an invested parent might, and meet the longing where it was possible to do so.

My only regret, if I can call it that, was taking the course through the summer, when wandering the campus full of beautiful trees and pleasant little meditation pockets was not always ideal. I’m comfortable enough to go wander now, though.

In the fall, a Buddhist teacher/friend I had waited for each week with baited breath, to post his class sessions online, abruptly (or so it felt to me) decided not to anymore. It was as though he confirmed my secret question: had I had become dependent in the way one does when they’ve stopped growing, stopped hearing freshly? Had I stopped approaching anew?

Realizing I had… that rather than putting what I was hearing into practice, I was listening to a favorite piece of music over and over again, I felt both relieved for his gift (intended or not), and cut off in a merciless way, forced from a nest I’d been very happy in. 

Which brings up something else I should mention: abandonment issues.

I’ve learned so much from this teacher, but to be honest, what I’ve learned through words is a fraction of what has mattered. His life, not the disciplined practices or impartations of knowledge even, but the sense of spaciousness about his life, and his peculiar way of seeing things, have I guess imprinted upon me. I can feel thankful for that and let go, at least a little.  

But then what to do? Fill the gap? Leave the gap? Admit the sadness and look to the root? Laugh it off? Deflect and deny? All of that?

Yes, all of that, along with accepting the challenge of moving on as a signal of the Flow of Life’s confidence. Whenever one finds themselves leaning on a person, a teaching, a place, an image, etc. that hard, they may be hiding, stalling for time. “The cave you fear to enter…”

 My cave has endless entrances, most of which are entirely open, waiting to be explored. There are lots of lanterns in the attic, oil in abundance, the right shoes somewhere… 


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