We Are All Refuges Now

Here a quote from a lengthy piece written by a seasoned refugee now living in the UK. This young chap writes so well and with gentle humour too.

You’re new to the refugee game, so let me give you some advice. You can’t plan for the future. You can’t guess how long it will be. So don’t. Plan for today. Shop for the week. Have goals for the month. Pause your long-term ambitions and work on small achievements you can control. You’ve lost control over the future, but COVID-19 has proved you never really had it. This is a great time to learn to enjoy what you can right now and do what you can with what you have today because that’s all that’s certain. Small moments of connection and laughter are the best things you’ll ever have.

Find the full article…

I was recommended this article by Angie via email.
Here are her further reflections on the situation we find ourselves in.
The other comparison I’ve heard is we’re under house arrest. It’s quite a benign arrest but still, we are confined under certain restrictions. Solitary confinement is one of the toughest regimes to endure and sends some people mad. We do have the internet and ways to communicate but we can’t touch one another – unless we have immediate family living with us. So no direct human contact via touch. As human animals, we do need people!
And the weirdest part is that we are all going through this at the same time. With bereavement, for example, we feel it acutely but the world continues around us, and is there for us to step back into as & when we are ready or need to. So there is a “normality” to comfort us. With this everyone is going through their own versions of loss & dealing with it in their own ways. It feels fragile.

And it is what it is!

Merit Bench – Merit Lived

Here below is an email sent to me which, having asked permission I am publishing here along with this photograph of a bench, merit bench. What struck me and why I asked to include the email here is it covers all the issues most are facing; the highs and lows, the practicalities, emotions, family/children and the training/spiritual aspects. It’s everybody’s story although, perhaps not. I’ve in mind those who just can’t get out of their flat or home with nowhere they can go to and be safe, even if they could get out. In the end, everybody’s story is very individual. True in all times.

Blackford Hill bench overlooking Edinburgh.

Dear Rev Mugo,
I hope you are keeping well at this (extraordinary) time. And that the monastic community are all well and, touch wood, virus-free. I imagine it is pretty easy to stay isolated there and to keep the rhythms of daily life going.

I’m fine for the most part. I had a few days ill with a suspicious fever/shivers a week or so back but it soon passed. I still have a job – working from home of course – so that makes me one of the lucky ones at this time. I even have a letter from my employer telling whom-it-may-concern that I am a “critical worker” although I don’t feel very critical at all as I don’t actually work on the front line of water supply – I work on planning future engineering projects not keeping the water flowing in the present.

My son is, as usual, completely fine. He spends one full week with me followed by a week at his mum’s. He’s just left me for his mum’s earlier today so the flat feels incredibly quiet now all that boy energy has dissipated! He’s spent a lot of the last week making videos to upload to YouTube – mostly about his favourite subject – football. Well, who’d have thought less than a couple of months ago that we’d all be in this situation?

Like, everyone, I guess I am finding the whole situation, by turns, strange, sad, peaceful, unsettling. On the upside, I’m noticing the spring a lot more – how wondrous it seems this year! Of course, it must be like this every year but I’m definitely noticing and appreciating it more this time around – more time to go on local walks, it’s quieter, the birdsong more obvious in the city. And no contrails across the sky – incredible. Road traffic is, I read, down to 1955 levels. I walked to a local park to play football with my son last week and the pair of us walked down the middle of the (main) road kicking the ball between us – something unimaginable a few weeks ago and it reminded me of when I was a kid. But part of me misses all the noise and the bustle of the city, the life and the previous normality. I certainly miss the presence of people, colleagues and friends especially.

So now on my own, I start what I am coming to think of as my fortnightly one-week retreat at home. I’ve noticed this drawing inward, this time to reflect seems to be bringing up a lot of emotions – some occasional anxiety and quite a few seemingly out-of-nowhere bouts of tears. Not necessarily in a sad way, more cathartic than sad. I’ve rediscovered the pleasure of reading, which is an essential antidote to watching endless coronavirus news, and a poignant line in a poem, novel or even a film can bring it on. Its at times like this that we appreciate what we have, the small things in life, but also become acutely aware of the impermanence of everything – our own life and the lives of those around us. I sometimes think to adjust to times like this are what all that retreat training at Throssel was for…although I know of course it goes much deeper than that.

Our prior is doing a sterling job getting the Priory online and on Zoom; that’s another surprise – I never thought we’d meditate together silently via an iPad! And thank you (again) for Jade Mountain which continues to be an amazing source of solace and wisdom, much needed in our troubled times. Which reminds me…a bit late I know, I was going to share my favourite merit bench – photo attached. Top of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh; the best place to see the city from.

Keep well
In gassho

With Bluebell Bows

I generally end my emails with ‘With Bows’ now here is a verse at the end of a recent email to me! Can I change my email salutation? Probably not!

in the garden
one bows
everything bows

with bluebell bows,

Covid-19 Creativity – Bear Witness Stitch

Here is a contribution from Adrienne Hodges in the series on creative expression in the midst of our historic Pandemic. This quilt bears witness into the future. For all those who struggle and are afraid.

Detail of a quilt.

I’ve recently taken up needle and thread to embroider a quilt that I made many years ago. It started as an evening pastime and a bit of an exploration in simple stitchery. Over the past three weeks, this practice has taken on a significance that I hadn’t envisaged at the start. Aside from being an effective calmer of the mind, I have begun to choose imagery of a rather topical nature – the representation of the virus we constantly see on our TV screens should we decide to switch it on and watch the news.

There are over twenty of these little roundels scattered across the whole. There have been several stages to each one and it has taken quite a few hours. I told my daughter about my latest addition and her take on it was that I had slightly lost hold of my senses. That isn’t how I see it. I feel helped by absorbing these little bugs into my work. The slow and gentle process of forming them has eased some of my fears and anxieties. The instinctual reaction of turning away has dissipated as I have stitched. I feel glad about that.

If my quilt survives as these items do, years into the future, it will bear witness to these extraordinary and difficult times. Oh, and just to balance things out I have scattered ribbon rainbows throughout the design too. There’s always hope……..

Antidotes to Fear of Death – Poem by Rebecca Elson

The Universe in Verse 2020 trailer: "Antidotes to Fear of Death" from Maria Popova on Vimeo.

by Rebecca Elson

Sometimes as an antidote
To fear of death,
I eat the stars.

Those nights, lying on my back,
I suck them from the quenching dark
Til they are all, all inside me,
Pepper hot and sharp.

Sometimes, instead, I stir myself
Into a universe still young,
Still warm as blood:

No outer space, just space,
The light of all the not yet stars
Drifting like a bright mist,
And all of us, and everything
Already there
But unconstrained by form.

And sometime it’s enough
To lie down here on earth
Beside our long ancestral bones:

To walk across the cobble fields
Of our discarded skulls,
Each like a treasure, like a chrysalis,
Thinking: whatever left these husks
Flew off on bright wings.

From a Brain Pickings Post.