This article was originally published in Anna Friis’ blog on September 5, 2021. Republished with kind permission from the author.
This morning I walked past a small blackbird, contorted in pain and turning in small desperate circles on the pavement. A part of me wanted to pretend I hadn’t seen it, but I made myself stop, lean towards the feathered creature and work out the options for helping. I did what needed to be done. It was ghastly, yet I’m glad I stopped.
Before this pandemic began, way back when the world seemed like a different place, many of us were perhaps more easily doing our version of walking past the suffering bird. If we looked away, perhaps we didn’t have to see. Along came Covid and the presence of suffering all around us has become unavoidable for anyone who has their eyes open. No country has been spared. Alongside many international organisations, the Centre for Mindful Self-Compassion (www.centerformsc.org) stepped up and began offering online meditation circles for anyone in the world who wished to join. These circles were offered four times a day, in various time zones, led by a senior teacher sharing compassion-based meditations for 45 minutes each time. They were, and remain, free of charge.
For the many who join each day, these meditation circles have been a light in what has sometimes felt like a bleak world, providing gentle structure to a long day, ease for tired bodies, rest for over-busy minds, human connection for the isolated and solace for the aching; a candle in the window that has warmed countless hearts. They are also really rewarding and wonderful, often with the four corners of the globe represented in one zoom room.
Sometimes I get to lead these, generally the 4 pm PacificTime slot (11 am NZT), taking my online seat alongside a community of people some of whom turn up occasionally and others, every single day. So much has unfolded among us as individuals and as collectives over this time; sorrows, joys and just the very ordinary business of getting on with day to day life. Whatever arises in these sessions is invariably met with kindness and a sense of connection and warmth (even via zoom) that is palpable. What a gift it has been to quietly meet in this way to share breath, silence, collective wisdom and an enveloping positive regard.
Turns out the benefits of a meditation practise are immense. For me, my mat has become a resting place, a place of refuge, a way of making peace with my thoughts and feelings and of seeing things more clearly. Taking a disciplined dose of “me time” each day has led to an increasing awe for the intelligence of my “heart mind’, that seat of intuition and wisdom that has always whispered the way. Meditation gives me the courage to listen to that intuitive guidance and be led in directions I could never have imagined, even if it has meant doing hard things – and it has. It has also led to work that is profoundly meaningful and satisfying, with daily opportunities to learn and grow and be of service towards a kinder world. Along the way I’ve been able to let go of things I thought I needed to “fix”, and to work out more clearly what really matters; turns out that includes taking care of myself as well as others. I’ve learned to protect my energy when I need to and to give it unstintingly when I can. That is a powerful thing.
Most importantly, I am a little more able to lean into what ‘is,’ even when it’s painful or hard, without wanting it to go away. It’s life, nothing right, nothing wrong, just life, the highs and the lows and the everything in between. I know I am incredibly grateful to be living it, I hope I can do so even just a little more lovingly. I also know none of us have to do it alone.
Fly high sweet blackbird.
You would be so welcome to join the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion Circles of Practice public meditation groups. You can sign up here.