The year of stillness
This week I booked my New Years plans. I’m returning to Deer Park Monastery for a five-day retreat, and I’ll ring in 2020 in stillness. Its significant because 2019 became my year of stillness. Like any self-respecting hyperactive, frontierswoman, in December 2018 I responded to heartbreak and disappointment by booking a trip to Oaxaca and Puerto Escondido. I booked a hut on the beach where I intended to launch my daily adventures to temazcals, local bars, and artisan bazaars. It was going to be epic. Because that is what I do best. Move. Since I was a 17-year old fashion model, I have been on an airplane almost every month of my life, often multiple times a month. I like to be on the road, in the air, on the rails – the romance of a journey will always be my endless love.
But a couple weeks before the trip, I called it off. There was a small urge inside of me to stop moving. To stop using adventure and curiosity as an excuse not to feel. So, on New Years 2018, I went to sleep sober at 10pm and vowed to spend the next 30 days feeling everything. I wouldn’t drink, and I would diligently meditate every day for an hour. I would attempt to be still. And I did – for the most part. I’d say my January was more moist than dry…
I had just started a new job, and the CEO of the company pointed me in the direction of a few spiritual teachers (the Tibetan Buddhism I had been studying and practicing for a few years just hadn’t taken hold of my heart), including Thich Nhat Hahn, whom I’d heard of but basically written off as a greeting card play (being honest here.) I started reading Your True Home, and the teachings wrapped their simplicity around my broken heart, and it was as if a small neon light spelling ‘yes’ turned on inside me. A soul awakened.
My experience since January 2019 has been a process of facing my addictions, letting go of my afflictions, and challenging my attachments. Stillness also brought in the development of a new muscle group – self-protection. I had to acknowledge that throughout my life I had responded to fear and criticism with self-harm and even self-hatred at times. But by August, I was asking myself, ‘what would it feel like to treat my body with exceptional kindness and love?’ So I gave up drinking for reals and got serious about up my 90% vegan diet. And as an experiment? Fucking amazing so far. (I’m not giving up the F-word for fuck’s sake.)
All this buoyed by my friends and spiritual community, and a wonderful nun I met at Deer Park on retreat in August – Sister Adorned Reverence (Sister Kinh Ngiem). She said that to be a practitioner, you have to be a meditator – yes. But also, one must be an artist and a warrior. An artist to bring presence and kindness to every moment – through poetry, art, song, dance, technology, crafting, whatever your art may be – and a warrior to have the courage to actually do it. Sister Reverence has this extraordinarily pretty face, and she’s super funny and clever. She made me cry, partly because I am emo and partly because true beauty will do that to you. I'm a steadfast, long-sitting meditator. But the other two are a work in progress.