spirit flows thru -- Alison Rittger's spiritual reflections on finding the holy in the daily

Being Held


Thuya Garden Path in Maine/Kate Kukro
We’re lunging around the room at Regular Exercise – it really is a step up from a gym – and Ginna, my personal trainer, and I are not talking. Perhaps she assumes I am depressed because I don’t complain or make excuses. I follow instructions but stop to stare out a window whenever I feel like it. She wants to know what is the matter. ¿Estás bien? I confirm I am depressed.

A good thing about Ginna? None of that “Come on, you can do it” crap. Of course we will do some of “it.” I pay for an hour of guided physical activity for the sake of endorphins and serotonin. This intermittent lunging will have to do even though vigorous exercise actually works better.

But I’m not sure I want Ginna in this current welter of confusion and sadness. Depression doesn’t need  reasons. Could just say it’s chemical or blame it on Dad’s genes.

I’m lucky there is comfort and trust with Ginna. Often between lunges, when neither of us is especially depressed, we share our very different lives. And despite our differences, her youth, my age, her one young son, my three grown sons, her fairly recent arrival from Bolivia and my very long teaching career on the west coast, we have developed a rapport. She says our relationship is like hamaca, (hammock in English) in which we are held and comfortable, trusting the other. I feel the same.

But I can’t hang out with Ginna all the time. She is responsible for muscles and joints, not confusion and sadness. Plus she is trying to build her clientele, and I can’t be endlessly exercising to make it worth her while. In addition to the hamoca we have together, I need my own place of safety, of comfort, and trust.

In those moments, with partial sun streaking Clement and 15th Ave., with the sounds of digging up the street and the backward beep, beep beep of road maintenance, I don’t want to think or feel, just move and move, allowing calf muscles to ache and my sore shoulder to unstiffen.

For the year has had me deep in thought and feelings. This December, a daughter-in-law gets hit by a car and dies instantly. A grandson goes back to the Philippines from San Francisco. In February, my oldest son packs his pitbulls in the car, loads up his computers and leaves his wife (and me) to live on the East Coast. About the same time in February, I opt out of a relationship to see a therapist rather than travel to Mexico with my girl friend on an Olivia cruise she paid for. Lots of confusion, sadness, and loss this year.

Wanting that place of silence and safety, I turn to meditation. As a beginner, each day I set the timer on my meditation phone app to 20 minutes until the muffled singing of the sangha bowl says times up. I came to meditation through a link to the website of Insight Meditation teacher, Tara Brach in Bethesda, Maryland. Tara’s Dharma talks and meditations can be listened to at no cost. I’ve downloaded all the podcasts.

In one of her talks, entitled “Equanimity,” she shares  the concept of Querencia. It’s a Spanish word that connotes a haven and a sanctuary, a place of renewal and safety; it is the place in the bullring where the bull goes to gather his strength, to be renewed. And it is the matador’s job to keep the bull out of that spot.

Multiple times I listened to “Equanimity,” wanting to hear again and again that word so I could begin to truly understand querencia as a place where I too could feel secure, a place within from which I might draw strength of character.

 It’s a powerful concept. And at this time in my own life, more than ever, I seek a place in the self where I know I am safe. Resting in that haven, I can allow feelings of sadness and fear. In silence I can accept that my son and four-year old granddaughter will cope with their loss together, even as I cope with mine. And I can breath into kindness for my daughter-in-law’s mother who has lost her only daughter and not judge or compete with her for “baby” time.

Thus meditating, either sitting or walking, I  experience querencia and strengthen my intentions to make relationships in which all are held in hamaca. I have yet to tell Ginna about adding querencia to her word, hamaca. Next time, between lunges, I can tell her.

What a wonderful words Alison. Reading your article have brought me peace. It's a good feeling. Thanks for sharing this peaceful moment.
12/12/2011 04:08:28 am

Gregory J Rittger
12/12/2011 05:57:56 am


JoAnn Damron-Rodriguez
12/14/2011 12:41:02 am

Words can create places for us to be, querencia,and were there ever a time to need such a safe place as there is now for you, dear one. The place is does exsist, doesn't it? I wonder if we all have a matador, who for his own reasons is trying to keep us from going to safety? It is a riddle but would true equanimity be standing calmly between the bull and the matador? I cannot go there. I want to deconstruct the ring.

Carole Schultz
12/19/2011 11:33:27 am

I stumbled upon the concept of Querencia a while ago and was fascinated and envious. I think about it often. How is it that nature's beasts can find it so naturally and we
"more evolved" species long for it, search for it and find it constantly illudes us?

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