My wife and I have been without electricity for 11 days during the aftermath of the worst ice storm to hit Oregon in a long time. In fact, it might have been the worst ice storm ever to hit the state.
Today, while I was on a dog walk around our rural south Salem neighborhood, I heard someone scream in delight. Then I noticed lights on in houses.
For the rest of my walk home I visualized coming back to a house with electricity. I pictured myself taking a hot bath for the first time in over a week and a half. I thought about the joy of turning our generator off.
Then I walked in our front door and flipped a switch in the entry way. Nothing happened. We still lacked power. After calling PGE, our utility company, it became clear that we were one of only a few houses whose electricity hadn't come back on.
On our neighborhood's Facebook page person after person was posting about how happy they were.
Me, I was astoundingly sad. After eleven days of worrying about when our power would be restored, now I had to start over -- worrying about when a repair crew would fix the small outage of ourselves and a couple of neighbors.
For much of tonight I felt listless, low energy, too despondent to write a blog post.
So I decided to make a transcript of a guided meditation by Jeff Warren I'd listened to this morning on my Calm iPhone app. It helped a lot to do this.
You won't get the same feel from Warren's words as if you heard him speak them himself. And the pauses in the guided meditation aren't shown in the transcript.
But I hope you'll like what Warren says as much as I did. Enjoy.
The Great Escape
Do you ever find yourself plotting your escape? I do. My mind goes around and around, trying to figure how to get out of my situation.
I think, maybe I can travel somewhere new. Nope.
Maybe I can go see my friends. Nope.
Maybe I can just go outside and lay down in the sun, and just escape my responsibilities for one day. Nope.
Right now the pandemic has many of us confined. All our normal escape routes are blocked, all the usual ways we take care of ourselves.
What to do? It's an ironclad rule of human existence, when there's nowhere else to go, when we can't escape from our life, then we have to learn to escape into our life.
The greatest escape actually isn't an escape at all. It's showing up in a new way.
So here's a practice for whenever you're having a hard time and feeling trapped. If you're feeling just fine, this is also a good practice to explore.
Because the skills you strengthen here are relevant to being human anytime. Let's go.
Close your eyes and then take in a few full deep breaths. As you inhale, stretch up the spine, find some dignity in the posture, like you're connecting to human nobility and fierceness in facing your life.
Then, as you breathe out, imagine you're breathing out an intention, or reservations, or worry.
Some nice long exhales. Now find your equanimity. Equanimity is the muscle of staying open. Open to the full 360 surround of sensations and sounds and thoughts, open to what actually is here.
So let's start with some basic Humanity 101.
Sometimes life is hard. Feeling like life is hard puts everyone of us in good company. So we can practice sending some kindness to ourselves, whether we're feeling just fine or whether we're not feeling so fine.
You can say something to yourself like, hey, I've got your back here. I'm the part that sends in the love. Here you go.
So you're not after some big sentimental swell here, though that can happen. You're more after an acknowledgement of caring.
Take a moment to just feel what you feel. Caring about yourself exactly as you care about a friend who is having a hard time. To you, it feels calm, patient. You're just being present.
Or maybe I feel strong and supportive. Maybe it feels warm and loving. All these are expressions of caring. You can say your phrase and send in your caring, in your way.
Try this for a bit.
OK, so keep that caring attitude going on in the background. Our next move is acceptance. Can you feel everything you're feeling without needing to change it?
This is how we make space. It's the beginning of escaping from the need to escape.
If you want a bit of extra support, it can help to lightly pay attention to a home base. It may be the feeling of the breath at the nostrils, or some background sound.
Keep going here.
OK, so maybe you are lightly paying attention to a home base, like the soft sensation of the breath. And all the while, you've got this attitude of caring, of accepting your situation.
Letting go the problem solving, the scheming, of any attempts to avoid whatever it is you're feeling. You're just being where you are.
This is being human practice. Opening to how we are. And if the feelings are strong, remember your support. The breath, or your home base.
Remember your caring acknowledgment that this can be hard.
And now, in this final stretch, just rest.
No external freedom is forever, because life keeps mixing it up. That's just how it is. Fortunately, freedom also can come from the inside.
It has to do with our capacity to make space, moment by moment, for exactly what's here.
Instead of getting free from our life, we get free around it and with it. Sometimes this is easy. Sometimes this is ridiculously hard. We do it anyway.
Because that's what humans do.
When you're ready, open your eyes. Very good to be human with you.