I read Barbara Bash’s True Nature: An Illustrated Journal of Four Seasons in Solitude (2004) today while sitting in the sun with the dog. It’s a simple, lavishly watercolour-illustrated journal of a retreat in the woods, taken during seven days in Summer, seven in Spring, seven in Fall, and ending with seven days in Winter. She’s a Buddhist (Chögyam Trungpa is her meditation teacher) who is struggling with fatigue, fear of the dark, a need to do, a certain restlessness, loneliness, self-doubt.
This first journal entry reminds me of the ‘grief’ I wrote about yesterday:
“My insides are heavy. There are voices tisking and shuddering at such laziness, but I am listening to deeper voices.”
That’s how I feel. I can hear the voices that tisk and shudder, and, I can hear voices from a deeper place, and I am listening to them.
In Winter, she says something that seemed to me to reframe the dilemma a friend expressed earlier in the day:
“Here in this cabin for six days these demons of pressure and critique can be — what? Loved? Banished? Teased? Ignored? Put down for a nap? … It has been a day of doubt. The wind of my mind blew me around. Here’s the dilemma — to articulate the confusion, describe it, know it — or to label it ‘thinking,’ let it go and return to the breath. I walk both paths.”
It seems it’s often a question of whether to engage with the confusion — to work with the pain, resentment, desire for connection, longing for affinity, fear of disappointment, hope, lack of trust — or to recognise that those feelings, opinions, beliefs, reactions, and thoughts are just ‘thinking’ — they’re transitory, they’re a fantasy our mind weaves, they can be released. Yes. We do both.