The idea of a pen pal caused a thrill for me as a young writer and introverted bookworm. Once upon a time there was a powerful allure in a connection to someone you might never see in person who lived in a far off place and looked at life completely differently.
Through the regular exchange of letters you shared words on a page and knew each of you touched the page and held those words. The process forged a special connection, a connection that allowed you to discover the metaphysical when you let your mind wander over it, the sense of being here and also there in one world. Of course this notion was much more powerful in pre-Internet days. Today it doesn’t cross our minds, so busy are we bridging the divide every day. It’s hard to believe that a world of such wonderment ever existed.
It still does. For nearly twenty years I’ve had a pen pal, a lovely English lady who calls herself a Luddite for her resistance to Internet communication. We’ve shared the progress of careers and family changes in sporadic letters allowing us to digest and distill all the joy and sadness of everyday life. To this day I feel a thrill of excitement when I glimpse the mark of the Royal Mail among my stack of marketing flyers, charity appeals and monthly bills!
Connected by letters as we are, we have not resisted all technology. There have been trans-Atlantic trips and cell phone calls, however we last shared a family vacation in August 2001, marking an age of pre 9-11 innocence in our communications now long passed. Our lives simply haven’t intersected since then and that’s a loss but also how life evolves. In the reassuring way of mothers helping children deal with goodbyes we used to comfort each other with the knowledge that we both look up and view the same moon.
Those letters have slowed to a very thin trickle indeed, maybe once a year if we’re lucky. I believe our connection still exists though, floating in a space bubble somewhere above, to be plucked down in odd moments like this. Recalling my English friend now is a gentle way to remember my connection to all those long-lost and not-often-seen friends who still prowl this Earth. Parted by graduations, work opportunities and endless upscale and downsizing moves, today my friends, relatives and, yes, close family members are flung all around the globe. The passage of time is as much responsible for this as the globalization of society. I’m thankful for all social media at my disposal and I make good use of them.
Sometimes though even these outlets don’t satisfy. They are only as good as the last ping after all. Sometimes the glow of the moon on a dark night is all the reminder there is of my connection to others. That’s when I have to let go of the busyness and the physical activity driving me to exhaustion. I need to be still to feel the feelings I’ve been holding at bay. I need to touch a higher order of connection in order to release the sense of loss. For this I’m drawn to the magic of meditation and to movement disciplines like yoga and qi gong. However disruptive the appointed practice hour may seem as it approaches, getting to it allows me to gather the stillness to release my burdens of thought and gain clarity.
By teaching qi gong I share the comfort and strength of connection with others. You may have your own special communities to give you this same sense of being here now.
In class we focus on posture and breath, using the fluidity of the movements to soothe our minds and put the endless to-do list on pause. Stirring the air we let the energy flow around and through the class. When we move in synchrony we are carried along to a unique inward place I think of as rest within motion.
An important aspect of the practice is the movement of the breath. One key channel is the laogong point in the palms of the hands. Visualizing the breath exiting and entering through this point, circulating through the heart, and spreading throughout the body is powerfully calming and helps focus the mind.
In spring and summer when the sun (yang) is so dominant you may feel the strong pull of demands in multiple directions scattering your energy. Cool the heat of increased activity with a full moon meditation by focusing on the moon and its powerful feminine (yin) force. On a pleasant spring evening, stand facing the moon with palms raised and extended, exhale your burdens and inhale the lunar energy. As the soft night air envelopes you so does the peaceful sense of connection to all living things.
Before you get that well deserved good night’s sleep, mother yourself with a bedtime story like I Love You to the Moon and Back by Amelia Hepworth/Tim Warnes.
According to the Farmer’s Almanac the next full moon, called the Strawberry Moon, is June 2, 2015. I’ll be watching the sky.
Photos by Claire Mauro