The view is unchanged. Thirty years, same coastal location. And, though the world is chaotically strange outside our front door, off the back deck things are persistently unchanged. Dusky low tide sand, the jutting land spit holding Santa Cruz, diving pelicans and surfacing seals. The low reverberation of wave upon wave upon wave.
Last week I wrote of suffering. A way to breath-transform the distress that surrounds us into prayer. And here, nestled in this comfort cocoon for a week, I catch myself grinning for no apparent reason. The suffering at the front door exists, but I remain by the back door where a pervasive sense of peace settles over this small part of the world.
Pema Chodron’s voice wiggles and squirms it’s way into my consciousness. Something she said about lightening up. Something about seriousness being the world’s greatest killjoy. And I wonder about joy in the face of all this pain. Is there an embodied way to uncover joy, let it breathe, encourage it to rise to the surface? Not in denial of the suffering, but in spite of it.
I have a long history of dancing with this particular deck view. So I put on some music and move with this question. Right away I greet the propensity to gloom I feel in my bones. I was born to get caught up about everything all the time. But what about these feet? They move to this beat in the most relaxed and ordinary way. No big deal. I play with miserable knees, worried hips and then flip the switch to legs that have a sense of humor. It’s a practice. It’s possible.
The beat intensifies, the pulse of it lands in my belly brain. I pay attention from the bowl of my pelvis instead of my judgmental eyes. I sense my heartbeat, look out the window, take an interest in the world out there. Fishermen, sandpipers, sunbeams on water, surfers.
The tempo gets crazy. I release my head, drop all sniveling complaints about myself, about others, about the state of the world. Hang in the delicate sensitive space of this moment. And this one. And this one. Giggle at our collective illusion that there is solid ground to stand on. That our preference for security and certainty hold any weight in the world.
The music lightens up, a quirky jazz piece, my feet prance, hands chime in with some wacky off-beat gesticulations, patterns I’ve never experienced quite like this. A practice of doing something different, something extraordinary. A sense of wonder, a curtain of awe settles upon me.
My breath slows down with the music. There is this released sense of struggle ceasing, a softening into surrender. Fertile ground in which to plant seeds of joy. Seeds that need cultivating in this suffering world. Seeds that deserve sunlight and water and air in order to thrive. Seeds that I cast from this deck in the hopes they find root in the sand. Another form of prayer.
P.S. I know you will love this addendum. Yesterday three construction vans pulled up to the condominium next door. Since then our peaceful universe is intermittently interrupted by the whine of saws and hammers pounding. The landlord apologizes and lets us know it will continue all week. What’s a seeker to do? a) laugh at the absurdity b) take each jolting sound as a reminder to breathe c) be grateful for the incredible abundance and comfort surrounding us d) all of the above.