Pivot 54: Look for the good stuff emerging from the darkness

#FOWTY was excellent. It causes your attention to become a tickle-seeking missile in any moment. ‘Don’t like what I’m thinking about in this moment? No problem! Let’s look about our environment, or roam mentally, for something that tickles.’ It’s SUCH a good practice!

Why is self-directed attention so important in this moment? Because it’s really tough out there. Patients in hospital at the moment are isolated, alone, afraid and dying without their families. And they are surrounded by healthcare workers who are desperately under-protected, under-resourced, exhausted, and are already forced to start making those unthinkable ‘playing God’ decisions in places.  Those of us at home may be largely shielded from the acute frontline experiences, but we are not unaware of the suffering being experienced. It’s hard to know where to seek mental balance at times, especially when a ‘business-as-usual’ atmosphere sets in as we normalise being at home for work. This is helpful:

“You are not working from home; you are at home during a crisis trying to work.” Beautifully expressed.

I find I am kind of living for these writing sessions. I have to admit, my beloved G woke up just now – earlier than usual at 6.30am, when I had got up at 5.45am for the quiet time here –  and I was short with him…! I guess because I had been gripping on to the anticipation of this immersive (and solitary) time here, since about 5pm yesterday.

Shall we read today? And I really need to do the zazen practice, instead of just chatting about it. If I’d been doing more mindfulness, I would not have been short with G. That I know.

Ha! This chapter is on Calmness. I love it.


I’ll pick just one brief quote today because it speaks to me:

CALMNESS “”For Zen students a weed is a treasure.” Zen Mind p121

As the grist clarifies the flour in the mill, the weeds help us see the flowers more clearly.

Oh, God. I was just looking for something else and this popped up on my Twitterfeed:

‘The little things hit you: a book with a bookmark in, a watch still ticking, an unread text message from family.’

Yes, these are the priceless treasures or sadness or ‘weeds’ or troubles or whatever you want to call them, that show you your way in to yourself and to your true nature, which is to love.

Our true nature is to love. And we may forget that across the busyness of our lives. Anything which helps us recall the part of us which is alive to this ‘love nature’ is precious. Often it is the sad or hard or tragic elements of life which awaken us again.

Oh, heavens… This awakening time of pandemic… May we awaken softly, not in sweat-dripping shock. May we stir gently in to greater consciousness. May we flow into lucid dreaming, and not terrorise ourselves with the nightmares about what is happening. May we focus on love. May we focus, again, on that feeling of loving others. Help me, dear Voice of my Heart.

Zazen time. Go in. Just for ten sweet minutes. And focus on the sensations of breathing. Just gently. Relax. Hold yourself in this space. 


When you are in that held space, with your heart open to the experiences of others, willing their relief from suffering, it’s like prayer, no…?

Beautiful soul, today’s invaluable theme is ‘the suffering of others’.

Remember the quote from above: ‘a weed is a treasure’.

This next point is hard to fathom, because in your world ‘suffering’ is to be fled from or disassociated from, but we invite you to consider this extremely delicate and nuanced idea: suffering is a treasure. 

It’s complex, we know! In your world, it’s all too easy to idolise or fetishise suffering. And you don’t want to go there. Nor do you want to wish suffering on people – ‘for the good stuff they can squeeze out of it.’ Nor do you want to brush aside or minimise or erase the distress, pain, trauma that humans experience. So, we know. It’s complex. 

But. If you can bear witness to the gold which is emerging from the crucible of people’s suffering, you will have your attention in the right place. 

Remember how your father taught you to stay safe when walking on country lanes at night with him? If a car came towards you, he would say, “Resist the natural temptation to stare at the headlights as your means of orientating yourself away from the car. Instead, stare at the lit-up verge.” Why stare at the lit-up verge instead of the oncoming car?

  1. The verge will let you know where the car is not.
  2. You won’t dazzle yourself with the glare of the headlights, and then find yourself staggering into potholes in the pitch dark for minutes after the car has gone.

An old army trick. You found it worked. 

The same principles carry for circumstances of crisis and suffering. 

The crisis and suffering is the car. Try not to stare at it. 

Instead look at the lit-up verge – all the places where the crisis and suffering has shone light. Gaze at the places that have been illuminated by the crisis and suffering.

In other words, rest your attention on…

  • the nobility of the doctors and nurses and cleaners and keyworkers passim
  • the graciousness of community groups supporting people in isolation
  • the generosity of people sharing their resources and services for free
  • the honesty and authenticity of people sharing their experiences
  • the courage and purity and perfect powerlessness of those stepping off this planet now… 

See so-called ‘weeds’ (crisis and suffering) as treasures. This is not to ignore or dismiss the pain, far from it. But rather to implement right-thinking when you can, so you don’t become fixated (dazzled) by what is one of the hardest moments in human history. See the treasures emerging from the soil beneath those weeds. Focus on what you can admire, can hold up to the light. Touch base with your original values. See who is acting from their place of values. Be true to your values. Let your values shine forth out of the soil of your grief and astonishment. Watch others being true to their values and ask yourself what values you want to personify today. Everyone is invited, through the pain of this tragic situation, to bring forward their own personal illumination. 

Focus on the illuminated verge, not the oncoming headlights. There is the invitation of this moment. 

And… how do I work with that today?

First, be at peace with yourself. Prioritise internal peace and rest. 

Secondly, use today to look at the heroic efforts of others. Resonate with the demonstrated values that propel you. Discover the value that most lights you up – illuminates you – in this day. Can you name it by the end of the day? Make that a game. Eyes off the crisis and on to the illumination. 

Focus on the illuminated verge, not the oncoming headlights. Let the headlights illuminate the treasures otherwise hidden from sight. And relax. Really. Be soft today. More than anything, don’t run away with yourself today. See the good stuff. Look for the good stuff emerging from the darkness. 

Look for the good stuff emerging from the darkness




Good Stuff Emerging / Treasure =


‘Keeping a sense of humour is also an act of courage ..’

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