In the midst of the onslaught of emails, Facebook posts, and LinkedIn messages about all the do’s and don’ts during this exceptional time, I meditate. Each of us appears to be searching for inspiration. One morning, T.S. Eliot’s words about the still point floated into my mind from my years as an English literature major in college. I will not use his words to add to the list of tips flooding social media. I will, however, use them as doorways to reflect on these stranger-than-fiction times.
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless. Can I be a still point at least for myself, if not for the others with whom I am interacting? Of this world and not of this world? The world is turning and churning with this pandemic and economic turmoil. Roger James and I are among the vulnerable targets for Covid-19. In this way, we are definitely flesh. We are in Southern California, many miles from our home in Northern California. We will not fly home at the end of this so-called vacation time. It’s too risky. So, Roger and I will soldier through a long drive home as soon as we are well enough to make the trek. We have both been ill with bronchial infections or flu/cold. Not auspicious conditions to withstand this pandemic. Is it possible to be fleshless too?
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, but neither arrest nor movement. How can there be a dance at the still point? Intuitively it makes no sense. And yet, my experience is that the still point is a dance. It is not stopping nor is it moving. How can this be? The still point itself is a dance of returning over and over again to this present moment to observe breathing, to notice thoughts, to feel sensations in the body, to be with emotions (without letting them overwhelm me), and to rest in an awareness that is both still and silent and yet, alive and dancing.
And do not call it fixity, Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards, Neither ascent nor decline. We are ordered to “shelter in place,” to “stay at home.” Roger and I choose to do this for our sake along with everyone else’s. At supermarkets, everyone gives space to one another. The constant refrain is, “Stay healthy. We’ll get through this together.” We are living without the usual distractions of television news or movies, and are choosing to look at online news only once a day. We sink into quiet awareness and a stillness which is not a fixity, which is not the past or future, which is also not an ascent or a decline. It is a time beyond time—during which we get to witness our lives and our world from a kind of timelessness. We are privileged in this and want to stay awake to and care for those scrambling to survive.
Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance. I dance between anxiety and calm, between confident belief in my fellow human beings and disaster scenarios unfolding in my mind. We tiptoe between gratitude for those on the front lines risking their lives to save the lives of others and abhorrence for those who either don’t care or are incompetent in this multi-layered threat to our survival. We live in this dance between our lighter and darker angels. It is only from the still point that I believe we can choose wisely. We can choose kindness. We can commit to caring. We can act compassionately. We can choose to step around what distracts us from this.
Stay healthy. We will get through this together.
With warmest regards,