I have friends who are struggling. Health issues. Financial issues. Relationship issues. I’m struggling to make sense of the world we’re living in. I tell myself not to read the news. not to listen to what’s being said, not to watch what’s going on. I want to step off the merry-go-round and take a deep breath.
Many moons ago, I was on a chair lift coming down from Monte Rosa in the Italian Alps. The lift stopped. As it was wont to do. But I didn’t know this. I felt as if the world had stood still. From that great height, I watched life go on below me, detached, distanced. It was so quiet. So still. I was so present.
It was the first time in my life that I was truly present. In the moment. Not thinking about something else or worrying about someone else. Or even about me. Just there. Right there. And it was glorious.
I’ve worked with limited success at repeating this. I’m a massive fan of Antony de Mello and a regular reader of Mark Hofreiter’s blog of his writings. Yet I struggle with being present. With focusing on the now.
Since before Covid, we’ve been trying to renovate an old house in the village. We had great plans. Great ideas. A retreat centre. A workshop centre. A small theatre. An antique shop. A pop-up restaurant. Perhaps a recording studio. And then Covid came with inflation snipping at its heels.
Stuck at home, people realised how uncomfortable their homes were and decided to renovate, spending all the money they were saving by not commuting, not eating out, not indulging in fancy coffees and after-work drinks. Others decided they wanted a garden and headed to the villages in search of cheap deals, basic houses that could be revamped into something new. It was all about the land. The garden. The space. The end result? Tradesmen had their pick of jobs, often popping between two and three different sites at a time.
When one guy reappeared after a six-week absence he told me he’d gone to the other guy because I didn’t threaten him with a knife – I was too nice. Texts ignored. Phones not answered. Emails unread. Nothing. And then they came back as if they’d only been here yesterday.
Don’t get me started on the finishing and the inability to see a straight line. Or think with anything approaching common sense. But hey. It’s now half-finished. One room is completely done. And after the gutters leaked and ruined the ceiling, redone.
It’ll be a long time before we’re open to the public if indeed we open at all. With prices skyrocketing, only crumbs remain of the original budget. Thoroughly disillusioned, I’m now leaning away from workshops and more towards retreats. Silence. Refuge. Sanctuary.
I might rediscover the enthusiasm I once had, but in the meantime, we’re moving a bed into what was to be the main training/conference room figuring that with zoned underfloor heating and triple-glazed windows, we might have some chance of weathering the highest-in-Europe energy prices this winter. Heating our own house would simply cost too much.
During the week, I came across a poem that spoke to where I’m at. To what I’m doing. Or what I’m trying to do.
The most important thingI am making a home inside myself.A shelter of kindness where everything is forgiven, everything allowed
—a quiet patch of sunlight to stretch out without hurry,where all that has been banishedand buried is welcomed, spoken, listened to—released.A fiercely friendly place I can claim as my very own.I am throwing arms opento the whole of myself—especially the fearful,fault-finding, falling apart, unfinished parts, knowingevery seed and weed, every drop of rain, has made the soil richer.I will light a candle, pour a hot cup of tea, gatheraround the warmth of my own blazing fire. I will howlif I want to, knowing this flame can burn throughany perceived problem, any prescribed perfectionism,any lying limitation, every heavy thing.I am making a home inside myselfwhere grace blooms in grand and gloriousabundance, a shelter of kindness that growsall the truest things.I whisper hallelujah to the friendly sky.Watch now as I burst into blossom.