I borrow this post's title from Pema Chödrön, whose earlier book, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, introduced me in a formal way to Buddhist meditation practice. That was in 2000. I was walking through the stacks of the Forbes Library in Northampton, Massachusetts when I noticed the title on a reshelving cart. I repeatedly checked the book out from the library until, finally, Rebecca and Luka gave me a copy for Christmas later that year.
It is a book that I have since introduced to many others, and which I continue to consult and to keep on the small bookshelf next to my bed.
The title of her later book, When Things Fall Apart, is a sort of corollary to Start Where You Are. That no matter where you find yourself at present, this is the ideal place to begin, or to recommit to, our practice. Even if everything in our lives seems to have been blown, rather than have fallen, apart. As this is a precious opportunity to reconnect with our inherent tenderness, for our hearts to unexpectedly burst open, to let in fresh air, to consider new possibilities. And to see that all is contingent, ever-shifting, always, inevitably, unpredictable.
Such has been the situation for Rebecca and me since our springtime posts to Mindful Living Guide. A comprehensive narrative of which would be both tiresome to read and to write. However, what follows are a few of the data points on this timeline:
April: Pre-move-in 'decorating' (read: painting) of our, then, soon-to-be rented living quarters, and simultaneously packing up our belongings in the flat we were leaving.
May 1: Official move-in date.
May 2: Rebecca arrives at her job to find a hastily scribbled note from the proprietor informing her that effective immediately the business is closed.
May: Getting settled into our new place, and gardening for our elderly landlord friends. Trying to recover Rebecca's six-plus weeks of lost (unpaid) wages.
Mid-June to Mid-July: Both of us return to the private summer boarding school in Spain at which we met each other in 1989 to, again, teach English to (and to get routed in ping-pong by) charming Spanish kids.
Mid-July to Present: Still trying to recover aforementioned lost wages, plus, now, penalties awarded by an employment tribunal. Helping our daughter to enjoy her five-week-long summer holiday, which was rather filled with massively time-consuming 'horsey' affairs. These included: a four-day rally entailing to-and-fro travel each day with our horse friend in tow; a week-long Pony Club camp; and multiple-times-a-day ferrying to the livery yard and fields where the horse is kept. These latter (NOT the preparation for nor the actual employment tribunal) were thoroughly enjoyable, though exhausting and day-to-day-schedule-busting.
And intermittent throughout the summer, for two typically healthy, active individuals: sustained bouts of eye infections (me, both eyes), extended chest colds (both of us), week-long stint of food poisoning (me), constant financial concerns (brought on by above lost wages) and their accompanying marital, and thus family, tensions, and a rash of related bureaucratic nightmares (mostly Rebecca, but emotionally shared) which would seem never to end, and, in some cases, have yet to.
On the upside, and despite all this, we thrived in Spain and are grateful for our extended time with Luka and her accommodating horse, Luke. (Her previous horse was named Lulu. Both of these horses came to us pre-named as such. Go figure.)
We've also managed to read quite a few good-to-great books, in part as a way to help keep ourselves intact and inspired as human beings, as writers, and as 'thinkers', and in part to remind ourselves that there are many others who have seen through the multifold screens of deception of their day, and who continued to seek out the light of truth and to live with integrity. Thank you, Bertrand Russell, Natalie Goldberg, Henry David Thoreau, Vera Brittain, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Rainer Maria Rilke, et alli.
As these things go, we never intended to stray for so long from Mindful Living Guide. We thought that day when we turned off our computer for the last time in our old flat, and ordered the cancellation of our broadband internet service, that we would pick up where we left off once settled into our new place, and resume our work. But for myriad (impersonal) reasons which would seem to conspire against our returning to the page or post, this has taken far longer than we anticipated. For this we apologize.
But, alas, with the autumn here, and our financial situation as tenuous as ever, we have recommitted to returning to our duties, our passion, and our work here at MLG. And by this, we mean both our online and our in-person Mindful Living Guide work.
For those who have stuck by us, who are waiting in the wings for some sign, however faint, of our continued existence, and for those who may have found their way to us for the first time only upon our return, thank you.
None of us can predict when things may fall apart again, particularly for those of us who, like Thoreau, march to a different drummer; so, I won't make any heady promises as to our future reliability or sustainability. But, we'll do our best and continue to try to help ourselves as well as others on our shared journey toward living mindfully in the present, sometimes-earth-shattering moment.
Sean (& Rebecca)