On the train to Salisbury I read a book that convinced me to stop trying to escape fear. There is nowhere better to be, no other time than now, no one else to become. There is an alternative to seeking refuge from fear. I believed for a long time that if I just made it through the moment there would be a better time to come. "This too shall pass" translated into "This is unbearable, but hold on, it will get better." This is true, but also true is that this will return, in another moment, at another time, around the next corner. So, this book suggests, stop trying to escape it. Stop trying to deny this fear, stop distracting yourself, stop pegging your hope that something bigger than you can bail you out. There is no bailing out. Fear and hope are two sides of the same coin, and I want to stop flipping it over and over in my palm, always wondering or worrying what's on the other side. The same dual emotion I felt when I first stepped into the rooms hit me: a parallel of certainty and terror that this is the way and the place to be.
Stonehenge was interesting. A hodge podge of pagans, druids, bagpipes, drunkards, and CouchSurfers, all getting progressively soaked as the night wore on to the 4:18 sunrise. I practiced sun salutations and meditated in the rain. In my new "accept all as it is" mind set, I sought to accept the damp and not try to change it or wish it to be something else. I succeeded for a few hours until my soaks soaked through, and then I said stuff this and went and found a barrel of coals to warm myself by. Enlightenment still alludes, apparently.
I danced in the centre of the stones, touched the moss growing on them, smelled the sweat and wet hair and pot smoke emanating from all the bodies and lungs crowded into the circle and pummeling against each other and the ground to the beat of tribal drums. I sat aways away on a mat and crossed my legs and wondered if this (or me or them) is what spiritual looks like. I slept in a fetal position under a broken umbrella for twenty-three minutes. I walked through a field of pissing men in the pissing rain. I loaned my sleeping bag to a cyclist who rode from London to Amesbury to watch the sunrise. I did not find god. In fact, I may have lost him somewhere on the way.
I spent the next two days in London at a friend's flat, walking back and forth to Tesco's and the park down the road in Kensington. I visited a homeopath, I watched some films. In one film, a man murders a child abuser, and wrestles with the guilt of killing another human while being simultaneously congratulated by friends and colleagues. My friend was aghast at the accolades. I sprung to the characters' defenses, justifying their reasoning for rewarding someone for murder. I sprung passionately, angrily. I am so surprised at my reaction - first the anger, and second the side I took. I thought I found killing indefensible, in any case, under any circumstances, and yet I was defending the idea of a justified murder. And I thought I didn't use that kind of angry passion anymore, that speed to jump and attach to a belief. A few hours earlier I read about tonglen, the practice of breathing in fear or pain or anger, of identifying these emotions as human and empathizing with all who feel them, and then breathing out calm and relief and serenity. And how quickly I forget what I read and how it is constant work to practice my beliefs.
On giving up:
So I have too many jobs, too many commitments, too much to do. I have a bank account and applied for a National Insurance Number. I'm going on the books and I'm buying into it all, again. I had some plans about a farm and moving away from everything that I've ever known, but I find myself once again surrounded by familiarity. And before I left I resolved to just stop. I'm never going to find something I keep looking for, so I'm going to stop. Stop changing, stop seeking, stop wondering if maybe I should look over there or maybe I should change that here. The inevitability of change doesn't need me to catalyze it. I can just sit back and be so present doing everything I am, from yoga in the park to buying local strawberries to washing dishes in my kitchen to clearing tables in the cafe. I noticed myself at peace today, I noticed myself being grateful, and for the first time, I distanced from that, too. It's easy to identify with calm and serenity because they feel good. But my work is to realize that they are also transient, that 'good' moves away with the same speed as 'undesirable'. So for the first time, as I smiled in the sun and loved this beautiful day, I admitted that "This, too, shall pass." And I let go a little bit more.
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