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.
Weekly meditation with Cristina is back!
Every Friday morning at 9am, we will meet on Zoom for 45 minutes of practice, which may include some teachings and poetry in addition to guided meditation. Our intention is to co-create a space for support and connection, letting community build and sustain our strength as we look for joy and meaning in the tumult of the times.