Sabbatical lessons #1: Creating new eyes

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
T.S. Eliot

After nearly 30 years in practice, I planned a break. The COVID-19 pandemic canceled travel and in-person workshops and replaced them with Zoom classes and more checking in with friends and family. Still, the purpose of exploration remained. I devoted my time to writing, meditation, and fitness. Sometimes they overlapped, as when I hiked to a spot, meditated, and wrote. I had more time for the community.

Writing classes (online) provided structure to learn the craft of writing stories–a new area for me. One class became an ongoing writing group that supports members and our works in progress. I also finished two professional articles due soon–more when they are published. I completed a mindfulness teacher certification program (begun in 2019). I continued to study and practice solo, in groups, and in formal classes, including one on the dynamics of race. Walking and hiking served fitness and entertainment needs. Yoga provided structured and communal online learning with and about the body. I returned to biking until it got cold. 

I had time to be an election judge during early voting. With other curious people, I am exploring political dialogue beyond vitriol and hardened positions. I am grateful for friends and family that stay connected despite life’s demands, even across multiple time zones and continents.

The benefits have been numerous. Here are a few. 

  • I enjoy writing — to explore ideas, share memories, reflect, create, and learn.
  • I have discovered several nature trails nearby. Nature has become my living room–a place to meet friends, share conversation, and beauty. It is the gym–the place for vigorous or mild exercise as well as a sanctuary–a place to find perspective and peace.
  • My mother and I have new rituals for sharing each other’s company, including walks in nature, shared Sunday meals, movie nights with Netflix instead of the theater. All support trips through memory, often to times and places we share from different vantage points.
  • I discovered life can be enjoyed without constant adrenaline

I appreciate moments I might have sped by such as the pain of loss–of health, leisure, livelihood, and even life for some. I connect to those losses and the joy of spring. Despite its limitations, Zoom facilitated new friendships that exist only there and allowed existing relationships to shine through the screen. I still think about how I can contribute to social change.

  • What would you explore? 
  • What is the “home” you might return to?

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