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We’re All In This Together

Some days like willow trees, I feel draped over my life, not yet fully awake and willing to perk my head up and look at the sky. I hear the orchestra of cars and trucks doing what they do outside, along with the birds and wind. I sit in silence and wait, longing for my pillow. Where is my direction?

My early morning time has an agenda to create something to read for our community meditation. The clock ticks by. I surrender. I read. I listen.

We’re all in this together. There is no exception. The collective consciousness is palpable. There will come a day we look back with amazement. There will come a day we forget. There will come a day the rising sun will be the miracle we behold. The breath I take is a collective breath. We are all in this together.

By Karen Maezen Miller, wife and mother as well as a Zen Buddhist priest at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles.

It’s like we’re in a well. That’s what I say when people tell me about their angry and overwhelmed children, collapsed businesses, lost jobs, bankruptcy, overdue bills, sick and lonely parents, dead relatives, meltdowns and panic attacks, insomnia, and terror of going back to the classroom, the workplace, the polls. How can we begin to describe the descent we’ve taken into a darkness beyond reach or rescue?

It’s like a well, I say, we’ve fallen to the bottom of a well. I could never describe it quite right until I remembered that day in October 1987, a day I can still picture vividly.

She was 18 months old and 22 feet below ground.

No one knew how she ended up there. One minute she was in a yard of toddlers at her aunt’s house in Midland, Texas. The next minute she had disappeared down the top of an 8-inch-wide well casing. Rescue workers came within minutes and they thought they’d have her out within hours.

But it didn’t go quick.

That day, workers finished the first part of the rescue. They drilled a parallel shaft and started to bore a horizontal tunnel to reach the spot the baby was stuck. But the ground was rock, and jackhammers didn’t work when you tried to drill horizontally. The first day turned into the second and then the third. They had to come up with something else.

They weren’t sure she could make it that long.

Oxygen was piped down the shaft but there was no way to get her food or water. They dropped a microphone down and listened to her breathing. A space that small and deep is dark and stays dark. Alone and afraid, she cried and moaned and shouted. And then they’d hear her singing a children’s song and knew she was still okay.

It took 58 hours.

After an eternity, with everyone in the world watching anxiously, she was lifted up into the glare of lights on live TV and then kept a month in the hospital. There were many surgeries but she grew up like any baby to have what you’d call a normal life, with normal joys and pain, normal love and sadness, everything that goes along with life above ground. She has no memory of the events that happened 33 years ago last week, but some of us can’t forget.

We are in a well right now.

But we can remember the light. We can remember the song. People are helping, and we’re in it together.

Participants’ Reflections:

  • Thank you. I hadn’t thought about that little girl in years, and as soon as you started talking about her, I started sobbing. What a perfect analogy to what we are all going through now. She survived and thrived. Thank you.

  • I was stunned by the story. That was incredible. During the meditation, I started thinking about how we are caught in this three-dimensional world in our time. And then I started thinking about being at the bottom of the well and there’s light up there. And then I started thinking about history. During the times of slavery, that was like being very deep in the well and there was a light up there. It wasn’t until slavery was abolished that people were in less of a well. But they were still in the Jim Crow era and still in a well. And then the civil rights movement brought people up a little higher. But we are all still in this well. It’s an amazing thing to think about. There is movement in the well. Even if we can’t reach the light, we are moving towards the light. What a message.

  • People are helping. And we all breathe the same air.

  • I had an image of like fireworks, raining down goodness on us. Real sparkly.

  • I don’t remember the event, but while you were speaking, I could feel the anxiety in my body. During the meditation, I continued to feel the energy. Some days I do that, particularly in my hands. Today was one of those days where I could feel the anxiety and the energy.

  • If I knew it, I had forgotten that the toddler began to sing, that she thought of some music she had heard. We don’t know, but that certainly could have helped her survive. The power of music. We know that sound therapy is certainly something to pay attention to. The same waves in the brain that produce thought, there is a parallel vibration in the brain when we have music. I was thinking that that was so televised, we were so aware of it as a nation because that was a toddler.

  • It’s a great point about sound therapy, because listening to music can change our energy and help us with depression, anxiety, and grief. It’s not like we want to take that away, but one can get relief even for a moment.

  • As others, I’m overwhelmed by the virus. I was thinking about times in the past when I was in the bottom of a well and things were so hard, and I wondered how would I ever, ever get out. And I did, two different times I can think of. And now, I’m in a deep well with my family member and trying to get him well and find a safe place to live that is affordable. It’s very difficult, and this is a good analogy. As far as music therapy goes, I remember reading an article about scientists that took a group of children who had experienced a lot of trauma from various situations. They put them in a music program and monitored them as they progressed in the program. And the scientists could actually see changes in the children’s brains, their capability for learning, because of the music.

  • I bought a crystal bowl. On Youtube, they have extended crystal bowl vibrations videos that go for hours. I play them at night while I am sleeping to get the healing subliminally.

  • Thank you. Thank you for spending the time on yourself, sharing your words and thoughts and presence. I hope you have an authentically gentle day, and we’ll be here tomorrow.

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