Dear Donagh,

I think I'm going slowly mad with all these restrictions.  There's only so many times you can go out to the garden and come back in, there’s only so much tea you can drink.  I worry about our grandchildren.  I don’t know what it’s doing to them, I'm afraid to ask.  My son says they’re dealing with it better than I am, but being out of school and away from their friends can't be good for them.  I long to get back to ordinary life again – we took so many things for granted.  Have you any words of advice on how to keep going from here?  Denise

Dear Denise,

I know.  We’re all feeling the pinch.  I come back to something I've often said lightly but appreciate better now.  In happy times we learn nothing; it is when times are tough that we are pulled down into depth.  By tunnelling down I mean meditation, or anything similar – because meditation just means depth.  But don’t tunnel down like someone trying to escape from prison.  Your home is not a prison.  Think back to the times when you longed to have a home of your own.  Now you have it.  This is it.  It is the fulfilment of desire, which is much more peaceful than desire itself. 

Homes have been turned inside out in our lifetime: they have come to resemble the outside world – in fact, they resemble the most intense versions of the outside world: films edited for intensity, tv programmes that try to unsettle you and manipulate your feelings, the criminals you wouldn’t allow inside your door are nevertheless there in the corner of your sitting-room…. Switch them off and burrow down into the peace of home.  Don’t be afraid of boredom.  “Boredom is the beginning of wisdom,” a meditation teacher told me once.  It’s a natural reaction to stillness around you when you don’t feel still in your own mind and body.  “Someone’s boring me,” said Dylan Thomas, “and I think it’s me.”  Just wait for inner stillness.  Believe in it.  Think of it as turning your home the right way again.  There is no more beautiful word than ‘home’.  If you take up meditation try using the word ‘home’ as a mantra.    

Of course home is not a place where you sit still all day doing nothing.  I find it helpful to keep a structure in place: rise at the same time as before, assign various tasks to different times of the day, take up something you lacked the time for before…. Fix a time for meditation – the same time every day – and let the word ‘home’ resonate in you.  It will keep you sane – and besides, it has infinite depth: “Make your home in me, as I make mine in you” (John 15:4).    

Stay strong, Denise.


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