A generous heart
Today it was stormy and cold on the coast. I was inside, the company of our pets and the rain on the roof keeping me warm. I set my alarm later now, and I am learning that it is OK to rise later, in time with the sun and not with my ego. Most days, my morning practice is softer, quieter, less physical. On the days that I work from home I have no tram to catch, no traffic to battle. So I make tea. I walk along the beach. This morning the sand was frozen, the waves steamy.
Many years ago I created this seemingly wild manifesto about living by the beach, and waking up with the permission to ‘ease into the day with ritual and intention’. At the time I ‘eased into the day’ with a 6.30am bike ride through the city to work, and a coffee for breakfast as I switched on my computer, so to say that this wild manifesto seemed dreamy and improbable is an understatement.
I didn’t really know how my life would end up transporting from the city to the ocean, or what it would look like once I arrived. Perhaps I imagined that attaining my perceived ‘perfect lifestyle’ would mean that I had become perfect within it. In reality, arriving here was a messy move of timetable and ambitions, with some things reluctantly surrendered along the way. And despite the change of scenery, I remain as I was - patient at times, distracted at others. My relationship remains as it has been; the perfectly imperfect collision of two souls. Everything is as it was, I am finding. Only quieter.
Without the rushing of people, traffic and time - everything shows up here. My thoughts seem louder; my patterns clearer. I see myself more than I did before, and that transparency can be confronting. When I think about my earlier manifesto of the ‘perfect life’, I must have imagined that by now, at 33, I would feel whole. That there would be no battle against myself, my body, my mind. I feel grateful to have learned since then, that life is a constant tumbling between peace and disquiet, contentment and the unanticipated. That there will probably be no such ‘arriving’ to wholeness, but rather a gradual surrendering to the knowledge that everything is already, whole.
There is a tenderness to this sudden spaciousness, and each day I lean a little closer towards what I know to be true but am not quite ready to hear fully - that this (moment, place, time, body, feeling) - is all there is. That my ambitions, my to do lists, my perception of what ‘perfect’ is, and everything else along the way, are just intoxicating, but meaningless dances with ignorance.
And so, with rain tapping on the roof above, and wind howling outside, I imagine that I am beginning a slow journey of unfolding; of peeling off the layers. I imagine releasing and unravelling all of the accumulated noise, dust and stories that have found their way into the crevices of my being. In solitude, I practice letting go of the things that didn’t work out, and I practice being tender with myself when that practice is hard. I remind myself to uncurl my fingers and to soften my jaw. Surely there is no need to be braced when there is no-one to be seen or heard but oneself? I am reminded that this practice is ‘work’, and that it is often unglamorous. And yet I feel relieved to be doing it. I remember the words of the Dalai Lama, that ‘love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.’ And I make it my goal to foster the generosity that bell hooks spoke of when she said that ‘a generous heart is always open, always ready to receive our going and coming’, that ‘in the midst of such love we need never fear abandonment. This is the most precious gift true love offers - the experience of knowing we always belong.’