Welcome, dear readers, to a new year of taking metta off the meditation cushion and out into everyday life.
Last month’s article found me walking away from a toxic workplace feeling certain about my decision yet uncertain about what would come next.
A life bardo of sorts.
Regular readers may remember Metta with a Twist of Lemon, a previous article about fasting practice: a few times a year, I quite literally stop everything so that my body can let go of all it needs to release and become my compass.
Out of self-kindness last month, I booked a colonic hydrotherapy appointment to pre-empt any headaches and grogginess at the start of my latest fast. The therapist soon put me at ease with her brilliant sense of humor, and we both cheered as all sorts of stuff that my body was ready to release floated past peacefully through the viewing tube. As she massaged my tummy with lavender oil—essentially to wind me—I voiced some of the harder-to-stomach happenings of the past few months. She nonchalantly asked if I was free the following week and, before the treatment was over, I had a new job as the clinic’s holiday cover receptionist.
And so I traded the night desk at a guesthouse for the day desk at a colonic center, swapping a shitty situation for a truly shit job! In other words, it’s hard to say no at an interview when there’s a hosepipe involved and—after a couple of hours of shadowing the clinic’s permanent receptionist—it became clear why I’d been asked: she was absolutely pooped after a year of supporting a suicidal son.
Elsewhere, two witchy friends who run a crystal shop were gearing up for the Christmas gift-buying season. Both confessed to already feeling depleted before December had even begun. And so I offered to pop in when I could to help in small ways, by sweeping floors, wrapping presents, and filling crystal advent calendars. Their window dressing showstopper was their take on the nativity scene with a black tourmaline Jesus (for protection and to eliminate negative energy), an amethyst Joseph (to connect with inner peace and leave the rest behind), and a rose quartz Mary (to attract and support unconditional love), complete with a unicorn!
I’ve often mused what crystal best embodies metta, and rose quartz gets my vote. That’s the reason I wear a little pink rose quartz heart pendant with a silver Cathar cross around my neck. The Cathars were persecuted in 12th century France—much as witches were elsewhere—for believing that God was both male and female. The cross is a birthday gift from my very first house-sit in the south of France at the start of my seven years combining location-independence and meditation practice—what I liked to call lily padding—in 2010, and could easily pass for a compass or a zodiac wheel of the twelve astrological signs
And so December found me quietly generating metta for 101 strangers looking to let go of everything under the Sun—as well as where the Sun never shines. Liverpool being Liverpool, that resulted in 101 comedy moments. But beyond the laughs, it was humbling to witness layer upon layer peeling away as everyone sought ways to make sense and let go in order to alchemize 2021.
The colonic clinic turned out to be more fun than expected, and it was lovely to see patients arrive looking grey and exhausted and leave with roses in their cheeks and a spring in their step. And the comfort provided by the Earth’s treasures and frankincense and myrrh incense for frazzled passersby never ceased to amaze me.
Once a week, a tarot reader named Flo—yes, really—gives readings at the back of the crystal shop. Having zero sense of what steps to take next despite my fast, I booked myself a reading out of curiosity. To my surprise, she told me that a live-in hospitality job offer from a former boss-turned-friend from my last house-sit before wrapping up my lily padding years in 2018 and moving to Liverpool would prove a very positive jump forward.
I’ll admit, I’d secretly poo-poo’ed the idea when my friend first floated it past me as it felt more like a step backward rather than forward. However, when Flo pulled The Sun as the final card and I then went for a long walk to digest the overall reading, the Dharma’s comedic dots started connecting. Perhaps I’d grown too attached to putting down roots when—or where—I wasn’t meant too? It’s easy during difficult times to become so fixated on seeing the best in others and making the best of situations that we lose sight of when our generosity and optimism have turned to turd-polishing. I kept thinking back to the woman I’d found a free room for at the guesthouse during one of my last night shifts after she’d barricaded herself in the city’s public toilets rather than return home to face more domestic violence. Sometimes our bodies know it’s time to walk away before our minds and hearts do. What freed us in one phase can imprison us in the next.
And with each step I took during that rainy walk generating metta for myself for trying to make all sorts of situations “work” in 2021, my next move became crystal clear. . . . The phone interview itself took less than five minutes, and when I asked the front-of-house manager what I’d need to bring with me, she laughed and said: “Comfortable black shoes, we’ll provide the rest.”
The colonic therapist and I soon became friends between appointments. It turned out that she volunteered at a woman’s refuge that struggled securing donations for women trying to live on their own as they understandably needed to stay off the radar. As I dissolved the household that I had lovingly assembled over the last four years, I offered what I could to her and other self-supporting women I’d met in my time in Liverpool. One had spent seven years as the sole caregiver of her mother with dementia until her death, and was now ready to create a new home of her own. Another was a young single mother of two young and a talented baker who I knew would cherish my oven even more than I had.
Wheels within Dharmic wheels, my new friend kindly offered to drive me to my new housing to make the transition as smooth and fun as possible.
And so, dear readers, as we all step into 2022 together, I’ll metta-morphize the lyrics to Paolo Nutini’s catchy “New Shoes” and share an inspiring world forecast from Tarot by Janine—a zodiac spread for all 12 months/astrological houses of 2022:
Take me wandering through these streets,
where bright lights and angels meet.
Stone to stone, metta takes me on,
I’m walking to the break of dawn.
Hey, I put some new shoes on,
and suddenly everything is right. . .
Related features from BDG
The Future of Work
Elemental Protection in Troubling Times
Resiliency: Releasing Trauma through Embodied Art
Self, Other, and the Spaces Between: Behind the Lens with Niçoise Photographer Fiorenza Menini
Accumulating Trash: How to Keep Our Minds From Becoming a Garbage Dump