New Weather Patterns

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by Kay Peterson //

As citizens of the earth, events of the past year have certainly illuminated the preciousness of this human life and offered us an opportunity to reflect on how we’ve been living it. Now, as we find ourselves collectively navigating yet another palpable transition or “change in weather,” we have a choice: to be lulled back into comfortable, familiar patterns, or to meet each new moment with greater awareness and intention together.

You probably noticed that while we were trying to adjust to quarantine in our homes through the storm of a pandemic, nature continued to offer us examples for how to adapt, to strive toward better balance no matter what the obstacle, and in many situations, to even thrive in the space less encumbered with human confusion. With far fewer people traveling and emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, air and water quality significantly improved in many areas and a variety of species seized the opportunity to thrive in the places we’d vacated. Though this simple observation is not a panacea for the challenges we face with climate change, it offers us a powerful perspective and opportunity to reflect on our individual impact in the world.

During the past year and a half, we have been called to change our lives in ways we maybe hadn’t before contemplated, but perhaps over time we have grown to appreciate alternatives to otherwise familiar behaviors. Maybe we had the chance to realize that we could make-due with less and that we had even more to give. We may have surprised ourselves with what we could accommodate, and at the same time, we may have found a force deep inside that inspired us to act to end the violence that is harming our fellow human beings and destroying the planet.

We’ve all just been through varying degrees of grief and loss. On some level, we’ve probably experienced fear that’s made us more familiar with our reactive tendencies. The Buddhist teachings offer a path to relating skillfully and directly with the intensity of human emotions. With such a practice of awareness, we can better attune to the natural world which continues to offer us guidance for how to ride the sometimes raucous waves of life with greater ease and adaptive ability.

As an integral part of nature’s vast web, this human form is composed of the same fundamental elements that we experience in the natural world. As a result, we are intimately connected in our suffering as well as healing. This moment is a turning point and a precious opportunity to expand our awareness, embrace all of the weather that we encounter, and to thrive in greater harmony with everything in our world. At the heart of this intention is an openness to change, a willingness to shift our perception, and a commitment as human beings to living peacefully and respectfully, even with disagreement. That is true harmony.

About the Author

Kay Peterson, MA, LMFT, is a psychotherapist in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area who teaches Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). She is also a seasoned wilderness guide who has been facilitating nature-inspired retreats that integrate meditation, self-reflection, and creative group process since 1996.


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