Posted by: carolyn / through a widow's eyes | April 7, 2011

A Repost: Abiding with Presence in the Be. Here. Now.

One I love dearly asked me about meditation recently. My whole life is one walking meditation now, mostly, although probably somewhat less deliberate than a year ago when I wrote this.

Abiding with Presence in the Be. Here. Now.

Here in America, in the 21st century, we can’t abide silence. Our phones are attached bodily, holstered to us; personal mood music is piped directly into our ear canals. We can’t sit still. We work all the time and if not working, we are playing just as hard, or impatiently preparing for what comes next.

I’m as guilty of this as the next person. Or I was. Days have a different structure now. I observe patiently, bemused at the changes in the person I have become as a “young widow.”

For many years I have been reading and thinking about mindfulness, slowing down, breathing, paying attention. In my old life I had always found it challenging to put into practice a theory so simple. Yet now, along with some of my widowed comrades, I practice just these ideals. We walk this labyrinth – mindfully stepping through each day, abiding in this place of deep pain, not fighting it, not smothering it, patiently allowing the time and attention it requires, will continue to require. But we aren’t virtuous; we have no choice.

I am an insect pinned to a board. I realize that waving my legs frantically will not free me, even if I had that kind of strength, which I do not. I am here, now, for as long as it takes, for better or for worse.

Death and its attendant grief rips away the context of your life. The bottom abruptly falls out. There is the eerie, very real feeling of nothing solid upon which to stand. You are in dangerous dizzying freefall, all your previous plans extinguished like a blown-out match. When you have witnessed your partner breathe in, breathe out, and breathe no more, it is hard to care much about the daily list of things to do. When the person with whom you had planned to grow old is taken from you, there are days you may idly notice the sun move from one horizon to the other and you have not a single recollection of anything achieved during that same number of hours into which you used to pack so much: a workday (unimaginable now); shopping, planning, preparing meals; household chores; exercise; bathing. Doing any one of those things seems like such an accomplishment these days. Now it may take weeks to cross off the tasks in one erstwhile day’s to-do list.

I am alone in the house. Time moves so slowly. The days take on a syrupy quality, sticky, viscous. I’m reminded of the lyrical Joni Mitchell “..and the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all my senses…” Except in this case it’s not so much a joyfulness of noticing but a brooding deliberateness. Pinned to my chair, I notice everything down to the ticking of the clock.

Maybe this is what I will take away from this saddest of years – this new noticing. I contemplate clouds, birdsong, the pattern of sun on the tablecloth. I drink a cup of coffee. Not like before, when a coffee break would mean carrying the cup from place to place; swallowing without tasting while also writing a list, reading a recipe, driving, or talking on the phone. Now I sit at the table in silence and slowly sip my coffee as the sunshine streams through the window. I notice the heaviness of the kettle as I pour, the sudden burst of aroma as the water passes through the grounds, the steam swirling in its cosmic pattern, the comforting heat of the mug between my hands, the dark delicious richness of the French roast in my mouth.

The animals show me the way. They don’t do; they just be. And, amazingly, they do not feel guilty. The cat can spend the whole day stretched out on a bench, sensuously luxuriating in the sunshine. Not once is he compelled to glance at his wristwatch and leap to his feet. The dog pushing his head under my hand, or the cat coming to sit, abide, with me when I am crying has been at least as comforting as the best that humans can offer. Animals don’t try to fix the unfixable. They don’t worry or wonder when things will be better. They patiently sit with me and Be. Here. Now.

I have been pondering the wisdom of animals since I watched my last sweet black cat after she was hurt in an accident. Her heart had been injured; her organs were crushed. Heroic measures did not save her. The vet had sent her home to be with us. Without objection she crouched on a blanket in an odd place in the room. Her extremities were collected close, tail curled in around her. All she could do was breathe, slowly, in and out. She did not panic. She did not wonder what came next. She breathed each breath as well as she could and in between she rested.

I breathe in. I breathe out. In between I rest.

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Responses

  1. we have wandered through another year’s worth of days,and still…be here now,applies to every tick of the clock…trees with no leaves,song with no words,my friend…there is peace where you walk,embrace it,and be here now,shawn.

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  2. […] A beautiful repost by Carolyn Stephens on her blog, Through A Widow’s Eyes, about mindfulness and being present in the wake of grief. One I love dearly asked me about meditation recently. My whole life is one walking meditation now, mostly, although probably somewhat less deliberate than a year ago when I wrote this. Abiding with Presence in the Be. Here. Now. Here in America, in the 21st century, we can’t abide silence. Our phones are attached bodily, holstered to us; personal mood music is piped directly into our ear canals. We can’t sit still. We work all the time and if not … Read More […]

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