“I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that’s what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.”
– Joan Didion
He lays in a hospital bed, blue gown pulled down from one shoulder by a tangle of cardiac leads. On the monitor behind him, the electricity in his heart flutters, then spills into a dozen different directions. Alarms hoot. A nurse runs into the room, then another, then me.
“Do you notice that? In your chest?” I ask, feeling for a pulse in his wrist.
“No,” he says, glancing behind him. “What?”
The advice given to writers is to start in the middle. It’s a good instruction, because it maps onto a reader’s experience of living. At rare times, it seems like a perfect grace, our place as witness at the centre of it all. Most of the time, it doesn’t feel that way, at least not to me. I’m often puzzling over how I ended up where I am, untangling events that led me there, my feelings about them colouring the present. If not that, then I’m asking questions. What should I do now? Is it worth even giving a fuck? Does it even matter?
It matters. Every small act is tied to the other, and can create conditions for our continued freedom, or stand in its way. In that way, nothing matters more, so we’re big on action at the CEC. You know that, though. It forms one of the pillars that girds us. Meditate. Get clear. Celebrate. Find love. Activate. Let it move us where we most need to go.
Sounds easy. It’s not. It takes practice to give a fuck. It needs strong, healthy relationships with others, so we get the feedback we need to be sure our aim is true. It takes courage, requires that we deepen in both humility and trust of ourselves, so we can receive those messages without feeling we did something wrong. It takes effort, because we must bring our full attention, our true mindfulness, to bear again and again, so the wisdom of our lived experience can find its way into the world through skillful means and do the work it most wants to do: repair the tender, hurting parts first in ourselves, then in others.
As Shunryu Suzuki said, “there is no such thing as enlightenment, only enlightened activity”. The insights we’ve gleaned on the cushion, or in play and exploration, find traction as they latch onto all parts of our day.
We start first with ourselves, heaping on radical acts of kindness and self-compassion that make up the forever-work of getting out of our own way. From there we move slowly outward, to see how we can use our practice to show up in relationship, with another person, to our community. We explore how these connections not only sustain us and shape us, give us the feedback we need to grow, but move smoothly into larger themes of activism and humanitarianism, as a natural extension of the love we have for what holds us together. Last, we touch the cosmic, the dance that we are a part of, witting or not, willing or not, each cell a glimmering reminder of the Big Activity that is unfolding through you and your beautiful beating electric hearts, again and again and again.