May 10, 2022
Mary Oliver is an American poet and I recently read a line from a poem of hers that said “My job is to love the world.” 7 simple words, but not a simple task. We all face very difficult circumstances that can get in the way of loving life. This pandemic is one example of a huge challenge we have all endured. Living in it, getting through it and transitioning out of it is taking a lot of work. I can only speak for myself, but I am aware that it is easy for me to feel grim, anxious, fearful and full of doubt. The ground beneath us is constantly shifting and we still face uncertainties. Tara Brach, who is a well known author and meditation teacher (she has really great free talks on you tube), calls it a “trance” when we get into states of fear or doubt. It happens to all of us as some point, whether it is related to the pandemic or to a sick family member or a challenging job or just a personal feeling of unworthiness. We all struggle at some point. And we all need tools that we can use to help us wake up (get out of the trance) and feel all of life with an open heart. As soon as this article is submitted I am getting into my packed car and heading out on an 8 day silent meditation and yoga retreat at The Guelph Centre for Spirituality. This will be the first retreat I have done in over two years and I will be into the “thick of it” as you read this article. Meditation is a tool that helps me. “A heart that resonates” is the theme of the retreat and we will be exploring the flavours of an awake and present heart that are called the “Divine Abodes” in Buddhism. There are 4 divine abodes and they are all expressions of a wise and kind heart that we all have the capacity to cultivate. The abodes are loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. Loving kindness is all about seeing the goodness that is around us. Compassion acknowledges that we are all connected, all of life. We want the very best for all all beings. Joy acknowledges the capacity that each of us has for experiencing life as a celebration. Equanimity is our ability to be present to experience all of the abodes This practice doesn’t deny that challenging things are happening, it simply encourages embracing whatever is going on with these abodes. It is not easy work but it is based on the idea that we all have the potential to be guided by love. When we intentionally focus on love, compassion and joy we are happier. And what I love about this practice is that it is about loving the life we are in right now. Not our future self when we loose 10 pounds or get our husband to stop snoring. It’s about waking up to this one precious life we are given and as Mary Oliver says, “being astonished by it.” It is our job to love the world.