No Coming, No Going
Intention instead of resolution
Inhale. I am holding the space of the inbreath. Exhale. I am holding the space of the outbreath. I hold space for the world of joy and suffering. I hold space for us to take a breath together.
Almost a month into the new year, I find myself both a little off-course and exactly where I need to be. I did not make a list of new year’s resolutions, but rather, new year’s intentions. To me, resolutions happen on calendars and timetables, pages in your bullet journal or checklists in your goal-setting app. They take work and can be rewarding, but they’re also inflexible. I don’t have anything against resolutions per se, although I know that they often put money in the pockets of industries that profit off of our self-loathing. I am fairly good at sticking to commitments (in Gretchen Rubin’s paradigm, I am an Upholder) so I sometimes make resolutions. This year, I didn’t.
My intentions this year are both big and vague: to be more present in my life and to devote more time to the book manuscripts I am working on. Each of those things can be broken down into quantifiable goals and actionable steps, but right now I’m just easing in to all of it. Intentions are something that require conscious choice on a daily basis, about looking at a situation and asking, “How can I take a step in the right direction?” over and over again. During the past few months, I have been watching the ebb and flow of my inner life and my capacity for living up to my intentions. Some days, I am bursting with energy and attention, some days all I can do is watch reruns of The Office after work. I see myself expanding and contracting and I’m figuring out how to weave my intentions into those cycles.
I am also staying loose and flexible with my intentions because something really big is happening in my life: I am buying a house with my husband and partner. Yes, I am a first-time home-buyer at the age of 36, and it took 3 adults to get there, but we did it. I have so, so many conflicting feelings about this, and if you are feeling angry or envious upon reading this announcement, know that I was in the same place just a few months ago. I do not want to be like people who plaster pictures of their baby bumps all over social media without a thought for the people who are in grief about not being able to get pregnant.
I have never wanted to be pregnant, but I have had many hard feelings over the years about people posting pictures of new homes online. Until just a couple of years ago, I had resigned myself to renting for the rest of my life. Homeownership is kept out of reach of so many people and I want to ignore neither the privilege nor the hard work that enabled me to get to this place. I feel both joy at finally being able to live with both the loves of my life in our own house, as well as guilt about having something that so many people don’t.
I don’t want to dwell on this topic too much here, although I do plan to talk about it more in the future because I think everyone benefits when we talk about money and compare notes (talk about your wages with your co-workers, folks!) Right now, this is just to say that I’m sure the bi-weekly newsletter schedule I had set up for myself will continue to go by the wayside a number of times during the coming months. And that my work of clearing out the old has only intensified. This week I have deleted my Twitter account, two Instagram accounts, and my Zillow account. I mentioned doing a cord-cutting ritual regarding a former friend a few weeks ago, and in addition to performing that ceremony, I am going to mail something of theirs back to them. I realized that I had held on to this object so long because I will still trying to protect my former friend from their feelings, something they always used to require of me. I am getting very clear about the energies and patterns that I refuse to take with me into my new home.
This week’s card from the Brady Tarot is Three of Feathers (Wands). How apt, since the card from my last newsletter was the Two of Wands! Ok, all, I am not going to lie: I really feel that this card is for me, but I want to share it here in case the message is for you, too. Here is an excerpt from Rachel Pollack’s guidebook to The Brady Tarot: The title “Vantage” does not mean gaining an advantage over others, fair or otherwise. Instead, it means a position that allows you to survey what you’ve accomplished.
Although I have been feeling guilt and frustration that I have what others do not, I also need to reflect on what I have accomplished. It’s so easy to take our accomplishments for granted. How have you worked hard to build the life you have? What are the victories, big and small, that have shaped your relationships, career, health, or home? Let’s pause to value ourselves and not only focus on what is lacking.
Remembering Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh, a person whose life and work were of enormous importance to me, passed away on Friday at the age of 95. A Vietnamese Buddhist monk, he was exiled from Vietnam for advocating for peace during the 1960s. His teachings have reached millions of people, and even though I do not practice in his lineage, he has had a great amount of influence on my spiritual life. I commit to spending the 49 days after his passing practicing his teachings, reading his works, or doing something in remembrance of him. Here is a short list of his works that I have found the most helpful:
No Mud, No Lotus — If you are looking for a new perspective on suffering or are struggling with depression or anxiety, I highly recommend this brief, practical book. It offers practices in meditation and breathwork.
Teachings on Love — A book of advice on inter-personal relationships as well as teachings on the all-encompassing nature of love.
The Other Shore: A New Translation of the Heart Sutra — I think Thich Nhat Hanh acquired something of a reputation for being a nice old man who encouraged people to breathe mindfully. But he was a deep thinker to be reckoned with—something that becomes apparent as soon as you read his commentaries on Buddhist scripture. His commentary on the Heart Sutra is bold, intelligent, and changed my perspective on this text.
The Raft is Not the Shore — This book is a dialogue with Daniel Berrigan, the radical Jesuit priest. Since it is an interfaith dialogue, I was expecting something more theological. Instead, it is an amazing meditation on the relationship between religion and anti-war activism.
The title of this newsletter is from one of my favorite songs in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village community:
No coming, no going No after, no before I hold you close to me I release you to be so free Because I am in you, and you are in me Because I am in you, and you are in me
A bow of gratitude to you, my teacher.