Finding Meaning and Beauty in Isolation April 1, 2020 16:22

I’m not looking at the clock much these days. My life is not revolving around clock-time, anyway. I am following a schedule, of sorts, but it’s more intuitive—and highly dependent upon the present moment.

 I’m not waking up to an alarm clock. Actually, we’ve found that we don’t really need one. Zora usually wakes us up at 4:45 A.M. with her cat opera. Her feline sense of time is amazingly early and consistent.

Staying home has encouraged me to let go of compulsive list-making and bustling around to complete tasks A to Z. My day does revolve around a few requirements, such as meal preparations, household chores, and movement, meditation, and japa practices, but they don't have to occur at a specific time.

So, I’m not tethered to a clock—and I feel a bit unmoored because of it. I’m not accustomed to being guided by my own needs, priorities, and intuitive leanings. For example, I didn’t wake up this morning planning to deep clean the living room (If I did, I would typically think of a million other things to do instead), it just happened organically. And, I enjoyed it. I took my time dusting, sweeping, mopping. It didn’t feel like a have to—or a burden.

This “new normal” of not looking at the clock and fretting about “all the things” was not a spontaneous realization. It was a process—and not a very comfortable one. For three weeks I have been struggling with anxiety. Usually, it manifests as a hard knot of pressure around my heart that comes and goes throughout the day, or the nervous energy to do, do, do—compulsively checking emails, Facebook, the news, of all things, for reassurance—and, of course, not finding much there.

However, I noticed a shift occur sometime last week. I woke up and noticed thick, heavy fog outside my bedroom window. The old me (the one from three weeks ago) wouldn’t have considered walking outside in it, especially without having showered first.

The new me recognized immediately that this phenomenon was fleeting, so I threw on a pair of jeans, a sweater, and shoes. I grabbed my phone and Maya (our Yorkie), and we took a slow walk down our long driveway (800 ft) in the fog.

Everything looks different in the fog. It obscures familiar reference points, depth perception, and even sounds are more difficult to pinpoint and locate.

Walking in the fog became a practice of being present with what is. Because I couldn’t see the familiar, habitual landmarks, my attention was captured by the shapes of branches, pavement cracks, small puddles, droplets of water clinging to pine needles, a rabbit darting under bare branches of a mulberry bush, Maya’s small body shivering against my jacket, cool air against my cheeks.

The fog kept us rooted in the present. When I turned to look back at the house, it had disappeared. When I looked toward the end of the driveway, it was invisible.

Typically, when I walk down the driveway, I’m on a mission to get the mail. This time, I walked slowly, mindfully. I took time to take pictures—to be curious—to observe small details with an open heart and mind. This, too, was a practice.

Maya and I made it to the edge of the driveway to an empty, shrouded street. We had no destination, really, or objective. We were on a little journey, an awareness field trip.

We turned to walk back home, the fog slowly lifting with the sun. Each step along the way was like a recitation—a mantra of movement. This practice of slowing down—of doing less—no planning—no striving—nothing to attain, achieve, or realize—is just the beginning.

I still have moments of recurring anxiety. That tight knot returns around my heart, and I feel the pull of clock-time, that compulsive need to do, strive, and effort.  I think about this walk in the fog with Maya—of simply being, immersing in sensations, the present moment, and appreciating the beauty and stillness of uncertainty.

Thank you for reading--feel free to check out the Middle Moon Malas online collection of hand-knotted mala designs. This period of social distancing and isolation is ideal for personal practice. Not only will you benefit, you'll also be supporting a local online business with your purchase.  

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