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Image by SJ Objio


I hope you are all well and breathing, appreciating the stillness that summer can offer.

I am half way through a 30 day meditation practice in which I find the time to meditate daily for 20 minutes. A small group of us participates, and we email one another each day when our meditation is complete, just to keep ourselves going and relay any thoughts, physical feelings or emotions that we would like to share with the group. Its been a little easier for me to participate in this practice the past two weeks because I have been on vacation for 10 days, so the true test always comes when you attempt to find space in your every day preset routine.

The past 10 days, however, have drummed up some true deep emotions for me. Visiting family and friends on the East Coast after a long hiatus from seeing family and old friends on their home turf can be uplifting yet uprooting and unsettling.

The best word to describe the emotional pull that I am feeling is Saudade.

Saudade is a Portuguese word that means something deeper than nostalgia. It has been described as a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, not an active discontent, but a dreamy wistfulness. It can encompass a feeling toward a faraway place where one grew up, faded memories of youth, a grasping pull toward a reality that doesn’t exist anymore and potentially never did.

Although a rush of sadness occurs with saudade, it has also been said that there is a paradoxical joy derived from acceptance of fate. Like beach glass that washes on shore, the beautiful opaque dull edged shards are collected for their beauty, as we conveniently forget that the bottle thrown in the ocean years ago was refuse, trash, something that would draw blood if stepped on. Years later, we see things with a new perspective.

The wish that my parents had remained content with their beautiful retirement home, rather than divesting of almost everything and moving to an assisted living center, only to find they are unhappy there and it was a poor decision. But were they ever happy where they were?

The realization that my uncle’s health is fading just as he finishes the architectural details of a summer home he has had plans for since the 1960s.

The visit with a friend going through a painful divorce after 25 years of marriage.

The incredible surprise of seeing a posse of boys I went to high school with still all living in the same town, grown men who all still socialize together and are best friends. Living what would appear to be the American dream in an idyllic and beautiful part of the country, but one that I clearly left years ago.

Would that have been my life had I stayed?

The emotional pull of geography is strong, but what I really noticed was the emotional pull of people. A nostalgia I thought I would experience for Cape Cod never really drew me in. Something was lacking for me that didn’t resonate with my childhood memories. But the true emotional connection I experienced with friends in Connecticut makes me want to visit there every year, even though it has been nearly 10 years since I was last there.

I am reminded of this Buddhist story. A man moves to a new town and asks the local wise monk what the inhabitants are like. “What were they like in your old town?” the monk inquires. “They were hateful and spiteful,” replies the man. “Unfortunately,” the monk responds “they are exactly the same way here”. Another man approaches the monk and asks the same question, and the monk again asks what the people in his old town were like. The second man says “They were warm and loving and we had amazing friendships”. “You will find that the residents here are also warm, loving and friendly” responded the monk.

Home is where the heart is, after all. We create our own realities through our personal reaction to people, place and events. Yet we may never recreate the same existence in place that our memories trick us into believing, for memory is elusive and emotions are impermanent. Saudade.

Staying with our deep emotional pull through the anchor of mindfulness, we ride the waves and maintain our balance.

I will keep on practicing staying-20 minutes a day.




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