Research Elder at The Wellbeing Project
United States of America
Some years ago, a wisdom teacher said “drink from the well of silence.” Although I had been meditating for some time, the way those words landed in that particular moment allowed me to approach meditation with more gentleness and compassion and curiosity. Several years later, when our daughter was born, my heart cracked open with love and I saw the degree to which I had armored my heart against love over time. Following that moment, with some success and many faltering steps, I have aspired to ‘live from my heart.’
Making this decision means I have an opportunity for self-examination—to explore what chips away at the compassion and kindness I can offer to others and myself—and notice what gets in the way. Obstacles include an upbringing and cultural-bias that preferenced cognitive ways of knowing. The brain’s efficient ways of perceiving, processing, and categorizing can lead me to ways of seeing and engaging in the world that narrowed my perspective and fostered, for example, comparison not belonging. Developing ways to attentively listen to others and to the body, through yoga, meditation and dance, has expanded my ways of knowing and informed my way of being in the world.
Fear, for family, community, our world, and an ever-growing ecological grief, underlies much of my mental chatter. I have been trying to reduce a torrent to a stream so that fear diminishes and love grows.
What helps me in this endeavor? As a morning person, before sunrise, I light a candle and give thanks to the earth and all of earth’s gifts. Then I sit, focusing on the breath or settling into the cradle of loving-kindness or listening to the sound of the wind through the tree or the symphony of the tree frogs. In winter, some days benefit from a walking and warming meditation. When my ritual is complete, I give thanks again.
My efforts to deepen and enlarge my spirituality help me to be more trusting, open-minded, curious, and kind. Something as simple as slowing down and practicing courtesy and kindness—a teaching from my grandmother and my parents—enriches engagement with family, friends and colleagues and encounters with strangers.
My upbringing as well as my inner orientation encourage me to be of use to others and our planet. Spending time to identify my purpose, which is not confined by time of life or bound to a career, is a lodestar for my life. Giving myself permission to slow down and be silent helps me dwell in my heart, enhancing gratitude, joy and connection. I still have loads to learn.
Pema Chodrun books (especially When Things Fall Apart) and podcasts.
John O’Donohue, (especially Anam Cara and To Bless the Space Between Us)
Robin Well Kimmerer, Braiding Sweet Grass and Gathering Moss
Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac
Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush, Walking Each Other Home
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living
Sounds True podcasts with Tammy Simon
Dan Harris 10% Happier podcast
Krishna Das and Nina Rao on Spotify
Insight Meditation Timer