Thursday, March 19, 2020

This Great Love

Here's a poem I treasure, from Persian poet Hafez. These days we may not  "leave each morning" but, surely none of us does not  "lift a great pack."

This Great Love

I want both of us
to start talking about this Great Love
As if You, I, and the Sun were all married
and living in a tiny room.
Helping each other to cook,
do the wash, 
weave and sew, 
care for our beautiful 

We all leave each morning
to labor on the Earth's field.
No one does not lift a great pack.
I want both of us to start singing like two
traveling minstrels
about this Extraordinary Existence
We share, 
As if,
You, I, and God were all married
and living in 
a Tiny
                                                             -from Hafez, The Gift

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Black Swan

Black Swan event is nearly impossible to predict and has profound and universal impact, changing the world forever. Now, this rare bird, this crisis, has crash-landed into our lives, threatening millions of humans. We are told to “flatten the curve” and stay home indefinitely, while hospitals amplify their care ability and a vaccine eventually arrives.

Before, in my workplace, I shook hands with guests. I hugged, and received hugs, abundantly, from co-workers and friends, old and new. Last week I watched happy visitors touch, inhale, try on and breathe all over beautiful, seductive things in the now temporarily closed Phoenix Shop. This nasty virus apparently survives on surfaces, and well, you already know what we all came to understand. 

A day after swearing off embracing at work, I found myself standing a few feet from my lovely co-worker Caitlin, with whom I hug often. Suddenly I said, "Aw, forget it!" and we turned to each other for a quick, big hug. As we briefly clung together we laughed, and the world snapped back to normal again, for just a moment. 

My personal prescription for sanity (other than hugs!) is to indulge yourself with Mother Nature.

Drink in the rays of the sun each day. Whether you sit beside a window in a comfy chair or lay down in the grass and dirt outside, just absorb the amazing strength of our planet while enjoying the warmth of our star.

Feast your eyes on a flower, admire trees, listen to birds, take deep breaths of the breeze. Marvel at the miracle of your body as you walk, hike, dance, and sing in the shower.  If you can, stare at the sea, or the mountains, or watch waves on the beach. (You can listen and watch nature on screens too, though that’s a little too Soylent Green for my taste.) 

Wherever you are, you can usually gaze at the stars or the moon at night. Remember that while everything changes, some things do not. I don’t think the constellation of Orion is going to rearrange itself, or that the dog-star Sirius will go walkabout off to a different galaxy.

Take comfort in what doesn’t change, or what won’t change as much. Thick blankets, soft skin, warm pet fur, chocolate. Write letters the old fashioned way, on paper, with pretty colored pens.

Read that daunting book you’ve had on your shelf for years. For me, it's Old Path, White Clouds, by the beloved Buddhist monk Thich Naht Hanh. Relax a little - eat pasta and ice cream. After that, take a bellydance class via Zoom! Have a kissing marathon with your shelter-in-place companion. Find solace in prayer and meditation.

For those who enjoy the company of their families and their partners, there is a special kind of bliss in being together, and being safe. One hopes that our communication skills will improve, by sheer density of opportunity to practice them, combined with the powerful need to understand and help each other during this global emergency.

A friend gently explained to me that the well known saying “May you live in interesting times” (considered a curse) was popularized by President Kennedy to remind us that great challenges generate great progress. The Chinese saying was actually “Heroes come from turbulent times.” 
When we face our fears with as much grace as we can, we become heroes.

How will we progress? Perhaps we’ll learn that we really are just earthlings, all of us astronauts, and that we need to wake up to this reality more than ever before. Perhaps we will find more ways to love and care for each other, and for our magnificent, one-of-a-kind planet. Perhaps all of this will, ultimately, be healing.

The cover of our early edition of Thich Naht Hanh’s book A Guide to Walking Meditation, shows him as a young man, standing beside a country road with a big smile on his face, a tall sunflower as his walking staff.

He says, “I put my palms together, like a lotus bud, and pray that we all find peace.” May it be so.