Contactless contact

Something unexpected has started happening this last week. Amid the panic and fear and isolation of social distancing.  For a while I’ve dreaded looking at my social media.  It’s all bad news, the coronavirus, the stock market plunge, more closings, more confirmed cases.

But then I started seeing some good things.  Yoga studios who have had to close were offering online classes.  Broadway stars and musicians started going live on Instagram with free impromptu concerts.  Artists started giving free drawing classes for the children at home.  The news started posting stories of young healthy people grocery shopping for at risk older adults and bringing them some nourishment both for their body and their soul, contactless contact.

And a few days later, people were coming up with creative ways to interact.  Formal Friday Dinner Parties via video conferencing services.  It was inspiring and inspired.  I started looking forward to seeing all the new and creative ways we were coming up with to support each other and fill our need for interaction.

Amid the ramping up of creative interaction there was also the opportunity to slow down.  The hours of unplanned time at home has been such a blessing.  At first it was filled with the mundane catching up of chores.  Doing that extra load of laundry, deep cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms.  Panic buying toilet paper and hand soap.  But after those chores are done, then what.

Kim and I have had the time to really reconnect.  Instead of running to work, rushing to make dinner when we get home,  rushing to workout, rushing to watch our hour of tv together before I go to bed and he starts his personal creative alone time, we now have long stretches of time to just be in companionship.  It’s created a new kind of serenity and deeper feeling of knowing and being known.

Yes, this is a time of uncertainty and serious concerns.  But it’s also an unexpected time out of time.  A time to reconnect with those we often overlook, in ways we often overlook.  In time, our lives will return to a faster pace.  This will become a story we tell our children.  But while we live it, let’s live it well.  Let’s live it with intention and calmness and surrender.  So much of our lives are out of our control.  But not the parts that matter.  Interacting with kindness, and understanding and encouragement are all still choices we make.

I wake each day with a feeling of optimism and hope and calm.  What new things will I learn today about the resilience of humanity.  In ways I’ve never encountered before I enthusiastically look forward to greeting the world.  No one was more surprised than I.  Especially during a time like this.  And maybe that’s the blessing.



Meet where you are

Christian Conte.jpegI recently read an article by Christian Conte titled “The Makings of A Peacemaker”.  One aspect of his job is to go into maximum security prisons and defuse tense, anger-filled and potentially violent situations.  He writes, “I’ve always had a philosophy of meeting people where they are.  I think that’s such a powerful phrase, and I hear a lot of people use it who don’t acually do it.  I genuinely make an effort to meet people where they are – not just in that moment – not just that one time – but in every moment.”

He characterizes the practice by saying, “I’m not coming at you.  I’m here with you.”  (Spirituality and Health, 54).

This is something I’ve consciously worked on and continue to.  And from my perspective, like so many seemingly simple things, it’s deceptively difficult to do.  Time after time I find myself judging, bringing my own perceptions and expectations into a conversation, a situation or a relationship.

Lately I’ve seen both the benefits of practicing this mindfully and the issues that happen when you don’t.

Meeting people where they are is a powerful thing.  It’s the stuff that changes hearts. It does take a maddning mix of both humility and self confidence that is daunting especially in the difficult situations where it shines.  But when you do it right, magic happens.

I see this practice as a powerful tool when used in conjunction with the Buddhist notion of “non attachment”.  In a way, it’s an elaboration of that notion.  A shift, a movement from inside to outside.  When you separate your feelings and past experiences from your current ones you create space for potential and that is the place where magic happens.


Spirituality and Health.  Conte, Christian, “The Making of A Peacemaker”.  Vol: November/December 2019.