This post is inspired by April’s Pink Moon that so gorgeously lit the night sky last Thursday.
I’ve been stressed lately as I’m trying to handle new changes in my life. A new job and different class schedule have me trying to make my life less complicated, but life seems to be quite the opposite. Needless to say, I don’t handle change very well, yet I try to find comfort wherever I can, so last week’s Pink Full Moon was definitely something I was looking forward to. As I watched the pregnant moon travel the night sky, I began to remember the comforting lessons I received at The Esalen Insitute in Big Sur, CA.
Last November I was at Esalen for a weekend retreat on loving kindness facilitated by Against the Stream facilitators Noah Levine, Vinny Ferraro, and Enrique Collazo.The retreat started off rainy and windy, yet somehow the climate at Esalen was warm and cozy. Late into day two of the retreat, the sun broke through the rain storm and we were given the opportunity to enjoy the sunset. I stood on the patio and watched the sun quickly drop below the ocean horizon. As it did so, I felt no anxiety towards how fast this moment was ending. Instead I felt calm and was able to simply enjoy the experience. “Goodbye for now.” I thought. “See you soon.”
The next morning I woke-up early. I am typically an early riser, so a 5:30 a.m. walk down to the tubs wasn’t too unusual for me. When I arrived at the tubs it was still dark out and there was no one there. I disrobed and sat in the outdoor hot spring sulfur tub that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. I was immediately filled with so much gratitude for the experiences I had at Esalen. The conversations, people I met, the moments alone, the tubs, the dharma talks, and the meditations were all so intertwined for me. In moments where I felt attachment I practiced non-attachment and simply tried to observe. I thought of my mother and brothers who have passed on and cried simply because I miss them. In doing this, I somehow began to prepare myself for the upcoming loss of being here, and returning to my “regular” life.
How do you prepare for an ending? Well, like the sunset just a few hours before, I chose to just be in that moment, and reminded myself that all is well. I sat and watched the sky lighten, and just like that, I realized that this is how it is.
Right now, the changes in my life are quite obvious, but sometimes change is so gradual that it’s easy to miss. It does not matter if you are paying attention or not, change happens. Change is always happening. For example: although I still feel distressed at times, and my distress can feel familiar, I have in fact, changed. I am more patient with myself, and I give myself more loving kindness than before. I can appreciate a moment, and not be attached. I am more proactive and slightly less reactive. I speak on my own behalf and take more risks. Yes, there are still enough old patterns in me to drag me down, but there has been an emergence of a kinder self in me.
Just as the sun set the day before, it arose, without question or worry. Mindfully observing this natural cyclical pattern of darkness and light gave me great comfort. It was evidence to me that this is how life is, and that I just need to let go of trying to be in control of making my life light all the time and keeping the darkness at bay.