November is the cruelest month. It is the month when people I’ve known and loved have died. The clocks change and now it’s dark at 6.
COVID-19 is still rampant with no end in sight. The election may or may not be over by the time this is printed, and who knows what that will bring. Racial tensions, natural disasters and a shaky economy only escalate all of the above.
As we shift into this change of seasons and all that it carries, how do we find some light, some brightness, some joy? How do we find some kind of stability and groundedness during the chaos and upheaval of this time?
The uncertainty and unknowing around all of it is the most difficult. All the spiritual teachers are saying to become comfortable with uncertainty, just be with it. Uncertainty is actually the open quality of any given moment – accept that we don’t know what’s going to happen. When we’re present with this openness, instead of feeling anxious, we can discover a resting place. “This very moment is the perfect teacher,” says Pema Chodron. Seeing it clearly, being with it all, and not disassociating or distracting ourselves is where we can find moments of stillness and calm.
Hope is important now, too. Hope that we can get through this dreadful time and come out on the other side safe, healthy and with some peace. Some kind of action can help, even if it’s just taking care of ourselves and others.
Some wise words from author Rebecca Solnit: “It’s important to say what hope is not: It is not the belief that everything was, is or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.” Yes!
And from Andrew Mellen: “Hope opens the door to possibility and allows us to envision change, particularly change that we desire. But hope alone will not affect change – that requires movement.” Yes, possibility!
In Buddhism, hope is the antithesis of doubt. Hope and doubt relate to many desires, but they primarily relate to our desire to transform suffering into happiness and awakening, in ourselves and others. Hope and doubt are merely views and are therefore conditioned and relative.
I’ve just returned from a few days out in the canyons of Utah. Walking through the beauty and warmth of nature is one way I can find myself again. I know I have the mountains, forests and the river here to walk in/along when I need some nurturing. Many people I know are depending on nature as a place to find some balance. Nature seems to present itself right then, in that very moment, and not something to worry about that’s later in the future, or some other time. I see a lizard and look closely at its beauty. Or, a tree with yellow leaves falling all around. Beauty is another way of soothing ourselves and holds both a break from uncertainty and some element of hope. Hope that life goes on.
Seasons change. Spring will come once more – it’s the natural order of things. Strength and courage to all.
Martha McClellan has lived in Durango since 1993 and has been an educator, consultant and writer. Reach her at email@example.com.