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Looking Out, Going Within

I’ve noticed myself looking out the window this last month with a particular quality of attention. I will walk to the sunroom window, stand next to the banana tree, and just look out at the outside world. I’m just taking it all in, looking wistfully at the parked cars, the blooming daffodils, the greening grass with brown spots, the tall trees. It’s probably been about a month since I went outside and I feel a sense of curiosity about what is going on out there, in the outside world. I am both content to be inside, where I feel safe, and wanting to go out and explore – explore and distract myself from being with myself in this new reality.

The only other time in my 58 years that I remember looking out the window with this quality of attention was in 1990. I had just moved into the Zen Buddhist Temple in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and as a member of the community, I often spent what would have been leisure time in community activities. I was happy in my new home, mostly, but I wasn’t fully committed to it. Window gazing was especially common during the 5-day intensive meditation retreats I participated in there. I would sometimes catch myself looking outside with a kind of curiosity and wanderlust. Sometimes I’d crave pizza, or a diet coke. Other times, I just wanted to extricate myself from the discipline of retreat and the challenge of facing myself. Those were difficult days and it was not easy to be with the mess that was me.

In talking with friends and coaching clients, it seems that many of us are feeling an impulse to turn within. I’m hearing of people recommitting to the disciplines that they know work for them – whether journaling or meditation or quiet time alone. This going within is one of the positive trends of a truly stressful, uncertain time. I feel heartened that some are finding treasure hidden amidst the challenges.

I continue to be busy with satisfying work, but I’m taking time every day for practice. I’ve found it has helped me to face myself and to chart my path through the many difficult decisions I’m having to make. And practice has helped me to have a little bit more equanimity in a time when I have been pushed emotionally and mentally right to the edge of what I can bear.

My primary practices have been journaling, meditation, self-care, and relationships. My journaling has focused on re-evaluating how to focus my energies in life and, more immediately, on what I want to accomplish each day. The pandemic has opened up space in my life to think anew about how I want to spend my time. I am letting go of some commitments and considering new ones. My meditation life has taken a surprising and delightful turn. I’m learning a new form of meditation – “social meditation” – taught by Vince Horn of the Buddhist Geeks. More on that later. Self-care has focused on getting at least 8½ hours of sleep and eating a nutritious diet free from gluten, sugar and processed food. And finally, it’s been a great time for deepening my relationships of all kinds, most especially with my wife.

I hope that you are thriving amidst the difficulties of this time. I am offering my services at deep discounts to everyone on my mailing list. Please reach out if you feel the need for some support. And I have four new online programs that may be of interest to you (see upcoming events). Finally, I will be in touch soon with opportunities to learn more about “social meditation,” if that sounds interesting to you.

In the Christian tradition in which I grew up, this is Good Friday, the day on which we are invited to reflect on Jesus’ death, and our own. There is much death in the world right now, more than I can fully take in. But I hold fast to hope for a bright future to come. Society’s onward evolutionary unfolding towards greater goodness, truth, and beauty will ultimately prevail. May it be so and may you find your way through this time to your own brighter future.

Wishing you peace,