This morning is cold with no promise of sunshine. I’m sitting on the couch, wrapped from head to toe in a thick soft cocoon. The blanket was my dad’s. I imagine him in his last years, shivering, wrapped in this same blanket—he never could get warm. And as I prepare to meditate, I marvel at our proximate intentions, the preacher and his son. I’m not on my Christian knees but my Christian eyes are closed. I’m not saying the prayers of my childhood, but I am in a familiar contemplative space where the same visitations of grace and love that I knew as a child show up. I tap my singing bowl and hear and feel its deep timbre. My body remembers the sound in that way that bypasses my brain and my body sinks deeper into the couch. My face lets go of whatever it was holding (I didn’t even know it was holding something) and the muscles in my forehead relax and my jaw releases. The usual kaleidoscope of thoughts moves a bit slower and I ask the question that a busy mind avoids, what’s here? I wait for something to arise and notice my breath, that great engine that has been expanding and contracting for 61 years, mostly unnoticed. Slower and more attentive, I feel the soft puffs of air slide in and out of my nostrils. I am amazed at the perfection and vulnerability of the delicate flow of air over the nasal mucosa, in and out, one after the other. My sinuses get that tickle that always precede wet eyes. Wow. Look at me breathe!
In the midst of the coronavirus, in this moment, I’m OK. I’m breathing. I am filled with gratitude for my breath and for the life that sits bundled in my dad’s blanket, this one, this precious one, just like this.
And then as is the way of moments, it changes, my breath takes me to another place. I’m flooded with memories of people dying from AIDS, that “other” pandemic, in the 80’s, friends, acquaintances, struggling to squeeze out every breath, basically suffocating from pneumocystis, AIDS pneumonia. The tears turn to anger. There was no international call to action or research, the deaths were expendable others. The President of the United States didn’t even utter the word AIDS. Many died horrible deaths. Many died alone, shunned by their families. My thoughts race, my stomach gets tight and I’m barely breathing.
By some grace, I ask my clenched jaw, What’s here? It’s remarkable what the pause and question do to the body. There is a door I’m avoiding. The coronavirus is often a respiratory infection. What if I get it? What if this time I don’t escape suffocation? In the opening, once again I feel the sinus tickle of approaching tears, but their names are loss and fear. This time I put my hand over my heart and whisper as a mother to a child, “Sweetheart, this is so hard. I’m here for you. I got you.” The simple physical gesture of goodwill unleashes something stuck, something that has been lurking in the background. I’m afraid. Just like so many others in this world I’m scared about what is or could be. I’m not alone. There is room for me and the world. I strangely feel better, in that way you feel when the windows are cleaned.
Many things I don’t know but this one thing I know in my bones—compassion is the gateway to loving presence, call it God or love or Spirit or whatever it is you name our ability to move beyond this temporal plane. Ironically, I think it requires the stuff of life to enter. No need to pretend that things are different than they are, compassion provides the resources to have a relationship with what is. Resources that include my innate regenerative, connected, wise, and powerful heart. Here’s the deal, if I resist the shadow of life, the pain doesn’t go away, it metastasizes. But even more soul sapping, I miss the chance to glimpse the ineffable state of grace and love that resides in this moment and this moment and this moment.
May you and I be happy.
May you and I be healthy.
May you and I be peaceful.
May you and I live with ease.
May it be so.
Daily Bites and Blessings
Welcome to "Daily Bites and Blessings." Pull up a chair. I’ve set a place for you at the table. These edibles are sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet and often they are both. This is a come as you are party. I invite you to bring your compassion, courage, and curiosity as we dine together on life's bounty. May our time together give us more light and more love.