In the midst of this weird pandemic universe we’re in, I’ve been reading…a lot and experiencing so many mindful moments. I know, that probably sounds funny coming from a second-time-new momma who most definitely has her hands full, but there it is.
But the Instagram scroll was proving to be pretty crappy for my well being (no surprise there), and those long overnights with this fresh little one left me wanting for some kind of…something. It may only be in ten-minute increments, but suddenly I’ve read more books in the last month than I have in a long time. Admittedly, my choices are all over the place (Circe, by Madeline Miller, is an amazing fiction read in case you need one—followed by a laundry list of Louise Hay-esque personal growth books), but lately it’s Pema Chodron on my nightstand. I’ve wanted to read When Things Fall Apart for a long time—and what better time than during a pandemic to dive into how to navigate chaos to find those elusive mindful moments?
Lately, as I’ve been shooting for my daily photo project, I’ve felt an unraveling—old routines and habits now 10 weeks gone, being replaced by a different rhythm, a different set of plans and paths throughout the day. Perhaps, if you didn’t know what was happening in the world, you might look at the images and think everything was the same as before in our lives. But my photos feel more intimate, simpler, more…up close. Is it because I feel those things so deeply every day? Or because that’s what I have an abundance of right now? I’m not sure, and maybe it doesn’t even matter why.
In her book When Things Fall Apart, Pema shares the Buddhist concept of Tonglen—a method for connecting with suffering—our own and that which is all around us. It’s as simple as breathing in an awareness of the suffering of others and breathing out the joy and peace and happiness that might alleviate that same suffering. We can make it specific—for every frustrating moment I’m having with my kindergartener’s distance learning journey, I can mindfully connect with all the other parents in the world who feel this way—or, we can make it super general. But even the simplest moments of this mindful connecting makes room for us to move through our days more mindfully. And let’s be clear—mindful does not always mean easy or simple, it just means more aware.
When we’re more aware, we capture more of the depth of life in front of us—we see the nuances of life more easily and our photos become richer, even if we are photographing the same things we’ve seen and done a million times.
It might be that you’re epically tired of sheltering in place, feeling the strain of our real-life Groundhog Days, and you’re wholly uninspired. What if you take a mindful moment to connect your heart and mind with everyone else feeling the same thing, and quietly send them the patience and self-compassion they (and you) need to grow in this time?
It might be that you’re settled comfortably into your new routine and you’re deeply loving this pause. Take a moment to connect with that wealth of heart within you (and everyone else who is feeling that same way) and send that feeling of contentedness out into the world for all of those hearts who so desperately need it.
And then pick up your camera or your notebook, look around your life and live your truth, whatever it is today.
And, also, here are some other, really grounding and helpful ways to Stay Present in the Chaos of these times.