But life goes on, we take our distance from the sufferings out there so that we don't go crazy, and then what? Well I try to be mindful of now, of who is with me or what is around me, and of the larger picture too. I assume most people do this: travel in and out, from the immediate to the larger world and back. But appreciating the moment is a vital part of finding a balance. We can luxuriate in the beauty of the day or of a painting, or kick up our heels at a party, even as we know that the dark and painful is always happening too, in places far and near...
Being present to strangers, for example to the guy begging in the market, or to the old man who collects bottles - skinny and hard-working, hauling his cart behind him down the sidewalk - having conversation with them and seeing each as a person rather than a cog in the landscape, is the place to start, for me. So the effort for me is to slow down and take notice, real notice.
This reminds of a couple named Adrienne and Rick, from Nanaimo. They have been working at the micro level for nine years, always helping children: taking money to an orphanage in Cambodia; and to Karen and Burmese refugee children on the Thai border; and to other people in need in other parts of Cambodia. They look to see what's needed, flip-flops for kids, or notebooks, or help with building a clinic or a school, and after consultation they give money and time and labour directly to those who need it. They are the best example I know of people making a difference by giving targeted mindful help and respect to others.
This is also the time of year when those of us in the colder parts of the northern hemisphere need to assert our confidence that the sun will come back and life will spring anew. For us a big part of that assertion comes through dancing. The other night we had our winter dancing party. The music was DJ'd by two young friends, Emily and Ian, who each did two sets. There was music solidly from eight until 1.30 in the morning, and it was wonderful. Lots of young people, as well as forty-somethings and up, all dancing, engaging, caught up in the moment: what better way to affirm life in the often gloomy prognostications of the coldest darkest time of the year?