24 Oct
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
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What Is Alive

One of the contemplative practices we did at the retreat was a free-writing exercise, which began with this prompt: What is alive for me in this moment is.... We wrote for several minutes starting with that. Then we were asked to choose a sentence from what we’d just written, and use that as a prompt.

What was alive for me in the beginning was a sense of joy and appreciation. I wrote a lot about being happy to see Mirabai, about being able to speak Italian with one of the participants, the beauty of the room, the light, the wood, the stained glass windows, but then I wrote: There is a sharp, bright, pain-point in my knee, which is also alive.

And for some reason, that’s the sentence I chose to use as the prompt for the second part. I wrote:

There is a sharp, bright, pain-point in my knee, which is also alive. But it does not overwhelm me. It breathes, but it does not consume all the air in my mind. It comes. And it goes. It disturbs me sometimes. Frightens me, even.


Death is behind the mask of this pain. No, not exactly death. Growing-Old is it’s name. I get afraid of it. Of it changing me. Making me unable to walk up the stairs without wincing. Unable to sit on the floor…or to get back up.

But fear is not alone at the door. There is also Joy — luminous, glowing, radiant, lighting the way for the others who stand sweating and itchy under their masks. All are holding bowls. They are asking for candy. Wanting to frighten me. Or enchant. They say: Here we are. Feed us.

I must open the door.

But I can choose whom to feed.

All may come in.

All are welcome to leave. 


(image from “Offerings,” by Danielle and Olivier Follmi)

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