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We’ve heard of ‘thin places’ before. It is in such locations where communing with the deeper nature of our truth is said to be more accessible and where the veil between the animate and spirit world has a translucent quality. There are pockets of West Cork, elemental places, where ‘thin’ seems to be the constant condition; threshold places which have a transitory function of bringing those who step through, into mystery, wonder and the finery of their own creative imaginings. But right now, I think we are also living through a ‘thin time’, a pocket in our own evolution where were are getting to ask those fundamental questions of who we are, where are we going, and what is our deeper nature — for ourselves and for each other.
In this ‘planet on pause’ moment the veils of our separation are down. As the fallacy of our individualism gets exposed, we are not just seeing but also experiencing how interconnected we really are. None of us are safe until all of us are safe. But this seeing more clearly also means we are getting to see the challenging, messy parts too, the ugly side in the mirror of perception we don’t always want to face: our inequalities; our systems perpetuated with fear, mis-information, isolationist ideologies, racism, xenophobia; and the shadow of a politicised and industrialised world built on competition, all of which are, sadly, likely to be played out even more in the coming months.
I was feeling particularly overwhelmed the other day with all these layers, and the realisation that this is not going away any time soon. And then I looked over at the grass, the humble grass in front of my doorstep. A strong gust of wind had come in and the grass and trees around me shook with vigour. Watching them I had this sense that the wind- this invisible force- was a strengthening factor- helping the grass and trees develop sturdier root and support systems; that this thing that can’t be seen is a factor in their evolution. I love the word evolution. It is so close to revolution.
It might be a wild leap from here to Corona virus, but for the sake of metaphoric liberty, I indulge. The leap offers us similar questions- how can this be a reckoning with our root and support systems? How can it even be a revolution. We are being shaken by an invisible force, and it is bringing us back to awareness of our connectedness, if we let it.
You see, in my experience at ‘thin places’, the insights gained there are not a given. It’s an approach that has everything to do with openness and reciprocity. I’ve brought some people to these places who were so locked in themselves, their hearts blinkered to the beauty, that the place could not open to them either. To receive one must also be receptive. As with thin places, so too with thin time. I think to experience the lessons of this pocket in history, we must be open to receiving, not just at an intellectual level, but, essentially, at the heart. Those lessons may shake the root systems of our lives, where we begin questioning our identities, roles, vision and the life we have built up around us. But perhaps the wisdom to get through this is closer than we think. When the trees outside are shaken by the wind, they must not stiffen, but yield to the force, bend, move and root even deeper. Strong roots equals more resilience.
So perhaps this is not a time, necessarily, for all the solutions to the systemic problems, but it is a time for seeings more clearly, experiencing the shake and, at an inner level, doing the preparation work to keep our hearts open so we can approach this moment with reciprocity.
Which leads to what on the surface may seem like a simple question: How to keep our heart open? I think, in a foundational way, our own hearts know. For me, it is about noticing- paying attention to the myriad of miracles surrounding me- the way the sea is in perpetual motion, the seeds finding new life, and as I write these lines, noticing the beauty of the bird chatter in the open language of the sky. That is even before paying attention to the stories of hope and re-imaginings happening right now, in the ways communities are coming together, and the proliferation of acts of kindness (but that is whole book in itself…) Personally, this ‘thin time’ has taken me right into the centre of my life so I can see more clearly its essence, and some of its possibilities. When things feel wobbly, I know that I can go in search of a tree, or even a blade of the most humblest of grasses, and invite it to be my teacher. These are the wise ones, after all, and we the perpetual students, learning through this thin time how to be the revolution itself so we may live into the finery of our collective creative imaginings.
A Care Package for Messy Times: Evolving