There he was making his way through a box of carrots: chopping the ends off with his sharp knife and then placing them in the display case. Sam the produce guy and I have developed a friendship over the years. I am a regular customer of Princeton’s vegetarian haven, The Whole Earth Center; we both are of a certain age; and we share a love for all manner of music– mostly jazz.
With a gentle prompt (“Everything ok?”), he begins to dispense some some wisdom. Sam’s own synopsis of pandemic-wracked America.
“There is a lot of madness.”
“On a mass scale”, I agreed.
Sam offered two references to bring the moment into sharper relief. One Lewis Carroll, a society that has plunged into the rabbit hole. Curiouser and curiouser. The other from Bob Dylan, There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief. There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.
People like you, Sam continued [alluding to my meditation practice] are in the best position to keep their footing. Going inside. Into the body.
How do we find our sea legs with the storm raging? Although the old saying assures us that there is no storm so long that it does not end, it sure seems like this one may not; we know only uncertainty. We are suffering. If we are working we are under pressure of educating our children, with our mental health being battered. If we are unemployed, our situations bring hopelessness.
When I lay awake in the wee hours recently, my mind, as the traditional song says, wandering like the wild geese in the West, I gently nudged my attention to the rhythm of the body. It is a practice I have done hundreds of times. Letting the madness be. Coming to my senses. Into the language of sensations. Feeling. Not to change the stress reaction, but simply to turn towards it. To attend to this precious body. And in my experience it is here that I find answers. How can I best take care of myself? How can I best be of service? Not until things are normal again. But now.
This is attributed to the Buddha
I declare that it is in this fathom—long carcass, with its perceptions and thoughts, that there is the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world, and the path leading to the cessation of the world.
The Joker pines There must be some way out of here. As the T Shirt says, the only way out is in.