This will be my last blog until September or October since I am now beginning a summer of sabbatical/retreat which I had planned for some time.
The idea for this sabbatical came last autumn when I suddenly realised that, having left a fairly frantic career 18 months previously in order to live a different kind of life, I was beginning to move towards the same sort of frantic-ness which had marked my life previously. This was partly due to the natural felt need to get ahead and on top in terms of earning an income but partly, I suspect, simply because that is my long ingrained habit – of getting busy, starting and developing projects and feeling the buzz of activity and the feel good factor of offering something which seems to be so appreciated.
And there is nothing wrong in any of this of course. It was just that I felt I was drifting into the same mental cycle that I was in before when I knew that my longing was to know and experience something different – to more deeply engage with whatever might be behind and beneath all of this. To put it more existentially, who am I when I am not fulfilling a role as ‘teacher’, ‘organiser’, ‘leader’? Or, what is left when all my roles are put to one side and no one ‘sees’ me anymore?
These questions can feel a little scary when I realise that the answer could be – or could feel like – ‘well -nobody and, nothing’ – that perhaps I was only ever the sum of my roles. But on the other hand my sense is that discovering that I am nobody could even be a doorway to a different way of being which feels as though it could have something of a greater lightness and a deeper freedom to it. Something about coming home to myself as a very simple and very ordinary being who wakes, cooks, cleans, breathes, moves – and loves. Is it possible that this could be enough – and that if we all discovered this kind of simplicity of being then we might even start to back-peddle on the amount of the earth’s resources which we otherwise require to help us to feel we are ‘somebody’ in the face of this fear of being ‘nobody’?
And yet I am clearly getting ahead of myself here – because I don’t actually know what will come out of this sabbatical for me yet. And, indeed, that is at least part of the point – not to know or pre-judge, but to see if I can be open to whatever might emerge. And this includes what I might do afterwards. I am assuming I will go back to teaching mindfulness and meditation in some form but I don’t yet know and so am keeping my teaching plans for the autumn fairly loose.
In terms of my intentions, I have suggested elsewhere that my plan is to ‘live simply and to pay attention to the simple business of living’. I’m not going anywhere but will live at home and engage as deeply as I can with all the basic activities of living from day to day with as much awareness, presence, love and creativity as is possible for me. I shall (probably) meditate lots and also (probably) explore all that I am wondering about through reading lots too. And I shall, no doubt, spend a lot of time in our meditation barn.
When my wife asked me what I would be doing I said I would be cultivating three ‘S’s: Silence, Solitude and Simplicity. To which she replied, perhaps sensing the over-earnestness in such a scheme: ‘and what about some Fun, Foolishness and Frivolity? – there you are, three ‘F’s to add to your list!’. Ah, yes, of course, let’s not get too heavy about all this and miss the point completely.
So, fun, frivolity and foolishness, then. (Though the silence, solitude and simplicity will be there too, I think.). But no teaching, writing, organising etc. and discovering that the world will carry on perfectly well without me. And then seeing how the world looks in a few months’ time. And of course, in this case, that will not just be my own inner world but what the world will be like as we emerge from this pandemic.
Nothing is certain. Which, of course, is always the case. It’s just that usually we don’t realise how uncertain everything really is.
So, let’s see what happens …
I wish you all the very best for this period of lock-down and also for whatever emerges for you in the aftermath.