Each morning I remind myself that I have carved out these couple of months of solitude to practice taking care of myself in the deepest possible sense. Not as a self-improvement scheme, but so I can take care of my own suffering and not make as much suffering for others either. It’s a time of watching sunrises and sunsets, long walks, and simplicity. In alchemy, they speak of cooking the soul in different types of heat, water, fire, and sand — I’d call this a long water bath, simmering in the gentle heat of space, time, and ease.
I wake up when I want to, just letting my body follow its natural rhythm. Sometimes that’s as late as 9. Boil some tea and start the oatmeal on the stovetop. Write down in my journal words of gratitude, things I need support with, and offer blessings for the day. Write the story. Then settle down on my makeshift meditation cushions, bow to the Buddha within and without, place the Buddha’s robe of the precepts around my neck, and breathe deeply, following the instruction of the guided meditation. The meditation instructs me to meet my inner child, to reenter my childhood home and walk through the halls and find her, wherever she is. Usually, I find her in the upstairs bedroom where she is playing with her many stuffed animals. She seems a bit scared but also delighted to see me.
For the first two weeks, she was certain that I was laughing at her for being so imaginative and living in her world of stories. She told me, it’s hard to be in reality. That there hasn’t been space for her to relax and I’ve been so hard on her but she doesn’t know any better. That it’s not fair, it’s just not fair. I listened and reminded her that while this may have been the case, I am doing my best to be there for her now. I ask her how she feels and she tells me that she’s scared and that she would like to feel more connected to other people but doesn’t know how. I tell her that now I am an adult and if she’d like I can show her how to breathe and be like a mountain when she has feelings, be they big or small, and when she feels afraid. She nods and says she’d like that very much and we breathe together. Before leaving, I ask her if she wants a hug and we embrace. I remind her that I will be back soon and I sense that I am earning her trust. She is learning to respect me, that I will not abandon her, that this presence that I offer her is what she’d been craving all along and bonds us together like gravity. I leave her there where she remains, playing in her imaginative kingdom.
As I offer this to her, I feel the levity return to my days, the buoyancy of childhood joy and wonder returning, a feeling of playfulness in my mind, a peace that does not depend on external success but that is always available to me. She takes me back to the simple joy of the present moment and I offer myself the skills that every human needs to learn, how to breathe through fear and tension, how to be still in the midst of feeling, transmutation to tenderness.
After, it’s time for a walk. It’s about an hour’s walk into town over meandering county roads. I often talk to myself as I walk. I talk into my voice recorder on my phone and give myself little dharma talks. Usually, by the time I’ve gotten to town, I’ve also composed a song. I sing it to myself on the way back and refine the rhythm and lyrics.
Yesterday I received a call from a stranger. He said, “I heard you are a friend of Kaz.” A local musician I met once. This village has no more than 400 people.
“She told me you want a bicycle? I’ve got one you can have for free ”
I said, “When can I get it?”
He says, “Where are you? I”m coming to the village.”
I say, “I’m walking there”
He picks me up, “Got to stop by an art gallery first”
At the art gallery, every piece speaks to me. The artists work upstairs. Sign me up for a studio.
We drive to his house and he says “I like my house because it’s surrounded by trees. Living in the boundary lane” I smile.
He gives me the bicycle, “Can’t talk now, but visit for tea and music soon?”
“Yup,” I said and cycle away.
Grateful for wheels.
Magic abounds in the present.
Speeding over the ground already feels too fast.