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Metta’s Fourth Trimester

Welcome, dear readers, to another month of taking metta off the meditation cushion and out into the world.

Last month celebrated the often unseen and unspoken power of Metta’s Small Talk. This month found me wrapping up the growing season and downing tools for winter at the regenerative farm at which I’ve been volunteering since April.

Pulling out the spent plants I’d sown on my arrival in spring to make room for next year’s crops felt surprisingly bittersweet. Polytunnels, once bursting with tomato, bean, and cucumber plants, were suddenly back to being barren brown beds.

I silently blessed and thanked every plant for all it had provided as I unwound them from their supporting twine and prepared them for composting. And all around me, the team was adjusting to the departure of our head grower in September and planning for next season, one new decision at a time. 

Many years ago, I worked in stage management and remembered a similar bittersweetness when a production closed: breaking down sets which had felt like home for a time, and watching the actors and crew who had felt like family for a time scatter.

In French, there’s an expression for this mood of looking both backward and forward simultaneously: avoir tous les âges en même temps, which means “to be all ages at once.”

The most physically challenging job to tackle before winter set in was preparing an area roughly half the size of a tennis court for a new zero-dig plot next year. The theory was to roll out lengths of black plastic, weigh them down with old tires and wooden pallets, and let the darkness work its magic for a couple of months by suppressing all plant growth until January, when we would dig trenches for new growing beds of ultra-rich compost.

That was the theory. The practice—as in much of life—was something else. 

It took us nearly two full and very comical days to lay the sheeting flat. Every time we thought we’d succeeded, we would turn around and—with a change in direction of the blustery autumn winds—discover new air pockets undoing our efforts, like some life-sized version of the quick-reflex children’s game Whack-a-Mole! 

When the sheeting had survived every possible windy twist and turn and the sun reappeared, the now unflappable surface glistened like water. And knowing the effort and cursing and laughter and teamwork it had taken to complete, I was surprised to feel the same satisfaction walking past it afterward as I had watching seeds propagate in spring and polytunnels fill up over summer. 

The laying of those zero-dig tarps also foreshadowed similar events on my inner horizon. 

Days before I was due to take my first proper break since last December, I discovered that I was at the heart of politics at work in the wake of our head grower’s departure. I was told that I was no longer needed after being strung along with all sorts of future promises. While I usually take these ebbs and flows of life in my stride, what blindsided me was how it was done and why I hadn’t seen it coming sooner.

Dear readers, for any of you who have seen the film Knives Out (2019), you’ll no doubt remember the shady plots-within-plots that keep the innocent central character Marta running in circles.

Not unlike laying those tarps a few weeks earlier, it took a few days for the winds of sudden change to unearth every possible emotional flap left within me. And once all lay flat after many hours of sitting with the hurt and confusion and anger, the real reasons glistened back to me clearly: throughout the summer, I had unwittingly been used in a game not of my making or choosing. 

During that week, I also visited a coworker who was on maternity leave, as described in Vanishing Metta. She nicknamed her new son the Hibernation Guru in funny photo updates as he was definitely teaching her to slow down. And when I met him for the first time I understood why. Although she felt tired from the birth and finding their breastfeeding rhythm, the sleepy glow surrounding them both was a nativity play to be around, in contrast to the plots-within-plots at work. 


In her rocking chair by the fireside, my coworker reminded me of the bear on the Sleepytime Celestial Seasonings herbal tea box. She laughed at the comparison when I brewed us some tea, and reminisced about growing up near the factory and the numerous school trips visiting it. Her favorite memory was how awake and alive the peppermint room always made her feel.

She listened as I told her all that was on my mind, and all the emotions that recent events had triggered within me. It was both relieving and disappointing to unearth that I was simply collateral damage in a bigger and shadier process, but I was also the most impacted and needed to move on.

Coming from a traveling circus and carnival family herself, my coworker asked me a wise question: “All the dramas aside, where’s home? I currently have this momma bear cave time in front of the fire. How can you get your version of cave time?”

I answered with some of the weird and wonderful ways I had learned during my years as a house-sitter to trust that “home” was a frequency rather than a place, and developed a private ritual when a reality felt “done,” but it wasn’t yet clear to me how to move on. I would clean the space I was looking after in thanks for sheltering me and pack in anticipation of the next move.

The Hibernation Guru’s mother laughed knowingly at the mention of packing for a departure ahead of time, and described getting ready to go to hospital, with her midwife asking her to do one last mental sweep of her mind and physical sweep of household to-do’s so that she could truly give way to the birth. 

“Consider yourself in life-labor now: you may not know where you’re going, but at least now you know that you are going. Focus on that and let others’ dramas fall away.”

Heartened by that metta-phor, it reminded me over the next few days to be as gentle with myself as she is with her newborn son. And to give myself time while the old reality remaining in the seed bank under the tarp died to make room for a new reality in the coming spring.

This is not as easy as it sounds when you still live onsite and your body just wants to hibernate rather than make any big decisions or changes. And so, my inner momma bear thought of a compromise to get me some cave time under the tarp of my duvet until the plots-within-plots all around me died down.

I wrote an email to the team championing all I had done to support not only them since April, but seven other farms in the preceding year. I asked them to consider what they could learn from my experiences for the well-being of future volunteers, and decreed that holding space for many troubled souls over the past 18 months now required some hibernation time. 

I was retiring in every sense, and suggested that all the extra hours I had given in good faith to help everyone else thrive go toward rent of the caravan in which I was still staying. I wished them all well and drew a firm line around my cave time to emphasize that, while I would stay my friendly and authentic self in passing, I was unavailable to discuss work matters further.

It was written very much in the spirit of the final scene in Knives Out, in which Marta drinks from a “my house, my rules, my coffee” mug while wrapped in a blanket on the balcony of the estate she’s just inherited, as she watches the family’s plots-within-plots unfold down below. 

The detective who solves the mystery congratulates her for winning the game by playing by her own rules rather than the rules of others. And during that blustery inner week of becoming unflappable, my inner detective reminded me of when I’d seen this pattern before in Metta’s Long Corridor and congratulated me on winning a more sophisticated version of that previous game by refusing to play yet again. 

Pressing “send” on the message and returning all the dramas back to their sender(s) proved my final contraction. 

I slept like a baby that night for the first time in weeks. When I returned for another audience with the Hibernation Guru a couple of days later, his wise mother told me about all the ways the gestation process still continues for a fourth trimester after birth. Her midwife had assured her that she would have the energy to do things when her body was ready to do those things, rather than her mind or her will or outside influences.

And so I took this new metta-phor back to my momma bear cave while letting the Dharma decide what wanted to grow next when the hibernation tarps roll back come 2024.

Whatever dramas not-of-your-own-making may be dying off all around you just now, dear readers, please trust that some time under cover of metta will exhaust what wants to go while regenerating you and whatever new reality is waiting to be born.

Or, to metta-morphose Michael Bublé’s love song to an imaginary future wife, whom he met for real filming the video for “Haven’t Met You Yet:”

I’m not surprised, not everything lasts
I’ve broken my heart so many times, I stopped keeping track

Talk myself in, I talk myself out
I get all worked up then I let myself down

I might have to wait, I’ll never give up
I guess it’s half timing and the other half’s luck

Wherever you are, whenever it’s right
Metta will come out of nowhere and into my life

And I know that we can be so amazing
And baby your love is gonna change me

And now I can see every possibility

Related features from BDG

We Become Who We See
The Alchemist’s Bowl
The Fierce Power of the Divine Feminine: Lama Tsultrim Allione
Walking the Motherhood Walk

More from Living Metta by Mettamorphsis

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