|Hull of the sunflower seed riding atop its green shoot|
Looking back now, I see I’ve been a bit adrift since retiring from my psychotherapy practice. At first, I took up the slack by writing columns to the Concord Monitor readership, whom I view as friends and neighbors. Recently, I’ve taken a break from writing due to a perfect storm of events: an ongoing spell of ill health combined with a deadening malaise from the existential perils that confront us from climate change, Covid resistance, and escalating threats to our democratic way of life. I’ve taken refuge in solitude, meditation, and tending my garden: doing a little each day in my mind and in my yard composting crops gone by, tilling the earth and planting cover crops to protect and nourish the soil.
I ran across a blog by a wise woman, Maia Duerr1, who helped me make sense of what was flailing around in my head: "Lately one of my favorite words is a verb: tending. I find myself saying it a lot. In nearly every instance I’m trying to remind myself the importance of taking care of something, whether that’s my heart, my body a relationship, or the land I live on.” Her words awakened me into accepting how much of my life had revolved around tending to my patients. And how, since my retirement, I have been casting around looking for a suitable substitute.
Maia defines “tending” in terms of tending a fire: "giving a fire the elements it needs to thrive, making sure there is enough wood but also enough space and oxygen. Keeping an eye on it, moving things around as it begins to die down so that it can spark back into life.” That’s what I attempted to do for my patients, and it was always a miraculous sensation, watching a patient sparking back into life. It’s the same sense of wonder mixed with reverence I feel watching a green shoot spring out of the ground from a withered, dry, seed.
Maia tells us the root of the word “tending” is related to intention "to in-tend something is to hold that thing in our heart/mind with an energy that calls it into reality.” That simple statement, for me, was like turning on a floodlight, illuminating my problem and offering a solution.
Where to put my intention? That is the question. Like a ship lost at sea, I must chart a course to where I want to sail to. In Maia’s words: “What are you stretching yourself toward, what are you intending for the precious days of your life, however many you have left?” At this point, I don’t have solid answers to these questions but will follow Maia’s advice to be kind to myself by creating the space to allow these questions to unfold.
It also occurs to me that her question is universal for all of us to ponder during these difficult times, no matter our circumstances. Facing the truly monumental threats of climate change, Covid, and the unraveling of our country, it would be easy to become so depressed, we give up, pulling the covers up over our heads. But we can’t do that, any more than we can stop feeding our family or watering our garden! We have to keep tending those that we love, not only our family and friends but extend ourselves outward to tend to our country and the natural world beyond. The question isn’t if we will tend to things but which ones will they be – and with what motivation.
Intentions, positive and well as negative, forge energy that create their own reality. The best we can do, I think, is make intentions based on tending to others. Such intentions empower us, manifesting our higher selves, giving us the gift of knowing we are doing all we can to create a more wholesome and relational world.
1 October Full Moon: Tending to Your Life: www.maiaduerr.com