Happy spring! Even though it is lightly snowing outside at the moment, last night marked the vernal equinox—the time when light and dark are equal lengths—signifying the start of spring. I attended a celebration and ceremony to honor the day. The beautiful experience with a small group of loving women reminded me of some very important components to living a joyful life. The details vary from person to person, but some of the elements of a fulfilling life are the same for everyone.
Finding a group of people with whom you truly connect is important for most of us. Some people have the need to connect with many others, others are happy with passing connections here and there. I have the need for deep connection with just a few people. When I can get together with like minded folks, I am very joyful. Finding the group or groups that serve your needs isn’t easy. It is not unlike dating when you have to meet lots of people before you find the right one. But it is worth it when you find a community where you feel welcome, at ease and can be yourself. Last night was the perfect community for me.
Play and Crafting Is Needed
As part of the festivities last night, we did a craft project. We got sticky with glue and pieces of yarn and raffia and this and that and made little nests to welcome the nurturing rebirth of spring. What I observed among our small group was how each woman was deeply engaged in creating a unique object. There was a beautiful child-like silliness reflected in everyone’s face. And there was joy and playfulness abounding. Yet engaging in arts and crafts can bring up so many different emotions and past experiences. Perfectionism, messiness, skill, competition, happiness, and sadness might emerge to name a few. I have to say that I was a bit disconnected during the crafting and was overwhelmed with a jumble of emotions. After the fact, I think I know why.
Being With Others While Taking Care of Yourself
I am very disrupted by evening events in general. I have yet to learn how to manage being with others in the evening in a way that takes care of myself at the same time. I almost consider myself a nighttime hermit. So how do I reconcile my night hermit tendencies with the want and desire to connect deeply with people I care about? My inclination is to say, “Skip the evening events.” And I do try to find ways to nurture deep connections during the day. But that isn’t always possible so I go to evening things here and there. If it is the right community for me (as it was last night), the benefits outweigh the downsides. Nonetheless, finding a balance between being with others and taking care of myself is my area for exploration and growth.
I am easily thrown by hunger or cold. Last night I was hungry and cold while we were crafting—though at the time I doubt I would have been able to articulate that was the issue. I hadn’t eaten for more hours than I usually go. I had under-dressed. Had I had enough self-awareness last night to notice my feelings, I would have had a snack and put on more layers. Perhaps I needed to center myself with some quiet time in another room to calm the mishmash of emotions. Whatever the method, taking care of your own needs while you are with others is important. For me it doesn’t stop with the event.
After any evening event, I continue to have to work to take care of myself. Unwinding is a huge deal for me. I have difficulty stopping my mind after an evening of stuff. Whether it is good stuff or bad stuff doesn’t matter. I tend to have difficulty silencing my thoughts after an evening out. I have always preferred to go to bed early and to be in a calm state before I sleep. As a kid, I hated sleepovers and didn’t like staying up late, as everyone else seemed to enjoy. These days I usually read just before bed, but if the material is too engaging even that can impede my sleep. Disengaging with thoughts is a huge part of mindfulness meditation and I skill that I am always practicing. Having been with others last night, I had a particularly difficult time unwinding. Yet it was worth it to be with such a compassionate group.
Compassion For Others
A few weeks ago in one of my meditation groups (another one of my communities) we discussed Wise Intention also known as Right Intention as part of our exploration of The Noble Eightfold Path in Buddhism. The eight areas are Wise (or Right) View, Intention, Speech, Action, Livelihood, Effort, Mindfulness and Concentration. What struck me in our study was how consistent this philosophy is with other canons of religion across time. Although there are certainly differences in how one is to think about these concepts (in the Buddhist approach it is not something to take as blind faith but instead is a guideline for self-exploration and discovery), they speak to some of the same underlying principles. Broadly speaking the overall way of The Noble Eightfold Path is through compassion for others and for ourselves. Have the intent to be kind, and think and act in accord with that intention. Not only is that the right/wise/ethical thing to do, but you will also encourage peace with the world, yourself and others.
My realization that there is a connective thread of compassion across religions makes me feel more confident that we beings understand deeply in our core, no matter who we are or when we lived, that how we treat others and ourselves creates our experience of life. Being with other people and sharing loving kindness creates a rich and loving life for yourself and others. So simple and yet so profound.
Last night was a real application of Wise everything! Well most everything. I will continue to explore how to balance my discomfort around evening energy with wanting to be with other magnificent people. Six amazing women gathered to honor the cycle of life, enjoy a delicious plant-based meal and play together was a joyful expression of compassion. How lucky I am!