I recently reached out to my Zen teacher Diane. I was frustrated, yet again, grappling with a very old issue around self-acceptance. Despite my many years of personal growth efforts, this ancient and sticky issue keeps showing up. As Diane and I only talk intermittently, I shared the myriad of things alive for me in the moment – gratitude for a spiritual path and my teachers, pride in my younger daughter’s efforts and growth, aliveness about my research, excitement about my older daughter coming home from Europe for the holidays and my issue. That stinkin issue.
Her response to my five-minute rant was, “I’d like to call your attention to the word “and.” “What word?” I asked, thinking I misheard her. “The word and” she repeated. Diane then went on to reflect back my monologue with amazing detail. She reminded me that I started our conversation by voicing gratitude. I then talked about feeling frustrated and proud and excited. She emphasized that although that old issue is back again, it is part of the vastness of my current experience. It’s an AND perched between gratitude and excitement. She reminded me that my delights and frustrations are not disconnected parts of my life; they are all my life. And seeing that is the actual practice of acceptance. This beautiful, yet simple teaching was profound and helped me to relax into the totality of my current experience rather than defining it by my challenge.
As we say “adieu 2020,” several descriptors of the year come to mind: surreal, overwhelming, unbelievable, stressful and, of course, unprecedented. And I also think of gratitude, silver linings, blessings and awakenings. Sure, it would be easy to reduce 2020 to one dramatic focus – Covid-19 (or Black Lives Matter or the Divisive Election). But the truth is that 2020, like my life and yours, is a mix of ANDs. It’s been a hard year – very, very hard. Stress, loss, fear and grief have challenged us to a near breaking point. AND, there were gifts: Reconnecting with friends who live afar, families eating meals together, greater social awareness & activism, and environmental healing to name a few. We need not look far to see the ANDs of 2020 but we do need to look and bring awareness to them.
Life is filled with lots and lots of ANDS. There will always be joy AND sorrow, wins AND losses, delights AND frustrations, life AND death. It’s not part of the tapestry of existence; it is the tapestry. As we say step over the threshold into 2021, let’s bring with us mindfulness of the ANDS to help us remain empowered and centered in the new year.
I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for being part of my Embrace the Middle community. Your support encourages and fuels me in my own path and in our collective midlife journey. I wish you all health, deep connection, meaning, and joy as we open our hearts to all the ANDS that life has to offer.
With deep gratitude,