This quote spoke to me and I posted it on a bulletin board next to my desk last fall. As a human who likes to walk the line of safety and adventure, tethered equally to both, this quote felt true and wise. Lingering over a cup of coffee and a beautiful sunset I could do; loitering at the hearth of the unknown–that was something I felt inspired to work on.
And now, here we are, not just Lingering at the Threshold, camped at the Doorway of a Yawning Chasm. Rather than patience, I would be happy to cultivate something three shades to the left of panic, terror and constant worry.
Clearly the Universe misunderstood my intentions by posting the quote next to my desk. I wanted to call up a deeper ability to let go of things–like my IPhone, my plans, my inner dialogue. I wanted to pause in the great mystery of stillness, basking in a sweaty glow, mesmerized and fully present without heed to uncertainty. I desired to return to the simplicity of idle conversation and untie the strings of technology. And now, as community, sacred spaces and daily rituals dissolve into thin air, I stand aghast. I didn’t ask for this kind of Lingering or this Unknown. Sometimes when I look at the quote I feel angry, a true deep down fury.
Yet, I leave the these words posted right next to my work space, and read them every day because they actually still ring true. I still desire to cultivate patience and attention and to inhabit uncertainty with some essence of ease. I now receive this as a reminder that the potency for growth on the other side of the Lingering is truly rich. Rightly so, I would not choose to dig into the rich soil of my comfort quite so deeply, but none the less, I am here, Teetering on the Threshold of the Void.
Purposeful lingering though, I have discovered, is a real talent. It is a skill that must be honed. The Tibetan Monks who create intricate sand mandalas with deep attention come to mind. When the masterpiece of the sand mandala is finished, they simply free their work, destroying it into a heap of sand. Their practice of letting go, an intentional action to cultivate both attention and non-attachment, is both inspiring and daunting.
During this most challenging of summers I have found there are three things that allow me to linger. At night, I dawdle in the twilight as the day meets the night and watch the geese on the lake. I water flowers and pluck off spent blooms, taking my time to fuss over every plant. Before bed, I lie in the driveway and watch the stars come out, delaying the moment that I head inside to sleep. These are the moments of lingering in which I am fully able to stay put and Be, content in the rhythms of Nature that know nothing of the Unknown.
Perhaps this is what John O’Donahue meant when he was inspired to pen such words. Certainly it can’t hurt to linger under the night sky and perhaps it will help me learn how to better attend to the the task at hand. And when I have mastered that, perhaps I can step away from my inbox and into the morning light, attentive to only the sound of the birds. And after that, I might be able to open my hand and release the grains of sand I just noticed I am clutching tightly, one at at time.