Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
is a field. I will meet you there.
I spent my birthday being born again. Learning again the wisdom that I knew as a 3 year old running barefoot in the grass, but forgot. Learning again the wisdom that I knew as 6 year old lying on her back staring up at the clouds, watching them shape shift and drift by in the breeze.
This moment. This moment is all we have. And attention to it, that is love.
I discovered many of the principles of what some call “mindfulness” and others might call “Zen” in the immediate raw days, weeks and months right after my marriage blew apart. They rose up like ancient wisdom I once knew, as though an angel whispered them in my ear, a miracle. I didn’t really know where I learned it but I clung to that wisdom like a life raft.
The only way I knew how to get by during those awful weeks and months was literally minute by minute, breath by breath. The only way I could keep moving forward, mothering my child, doing my work was by placing my attention — every last ounce of my attention–on exactly what I was doing right there and then in that moment. The only way I knew how to quiet the voice in my head that screamed “Failure!” was to focus on exactly what was in front of me–what was unfolding immediately and literally in front of my eyes. The fluttering of the pages of the book, the smell of the old car, the pile of dishes, the sweetness of the breeze, the voice of my boss asking me a question. Paying attention to what was immediately in front of me saved me from my self. Paying attention gave me my life.
As life evened out, became normal and no longer raw and fierce, I retreated into old habits and started to live my life back in my head. I would lay awake dissecting the day that had past. I would stumble through my morning my head on dreams and hopes and aspirations that were so very far away that I started my day full of yearning and sadness, mourning the “not yet-ness”.
And then, life would kick me in the butt, leave me flayed wide open and I would remember — just one more breath. I only need to stay here for one more breath. With each exhale the world shifts. Every inhalation is a beginning. I moved through my crises that way.
I have been on a pendulum swinging from being awake to my life as it unfolds breath by breath to sleeping through it while my mind ruminated on a future that might never come to pass. The swings have been exhausting and some might say unnecessary, even if the circumstances were inevitable. I was tired–and even more so tired of being tired.
For my birthday I went to Boston, to the Mother’s Plunge to go home to what I have always known and never stop forgetting, and always keep remembering, to return to the magic of my breath, to the loving embrace available when we offer our full attention. It was there that Maezen reminded me that we always arrive at where we need to be right on time, and that no matter how far off course, no matter how wobbly I may feel, each breath is an opportunity to move out beyond my head with its ideas of right and wrong and into the field where I live my life–where I wrap my mama’s arms around my boy, where I hold a grieving friend’s hand, where I bury my nose in the kitten’s soft fur, where I cook dinner, where I brush my teeth, where I make my bed, where I lift the clean laundry to my face and smell, where I dance like a wild woman, where I pull out the weeds, where I make the powerpoint slide, where I board the plane, where I live my life, exactly as it is. There is no other way.
And most of all, I learned that I don’t need to fall apart to remember. I can practice, every day, several times a day, just by sitting. For a few moments or more, I can practice. Its that simple. It won’t stop the wild winds of life from blowing, but it will keep me anchored like a kite and allow me to dance.
I have been silent for some time, taking in the sweetness of all the wisdom I remembered. Distilling it along with the gifts offered to me on my birthday. Like the opportunity to finally wrap my arms around a sister I had only known here, or the gift of a teacher who showed up right on time, or the peace of sitting outside and eating cupcakes with an old dear friend and a new dear one too.
My teacher hugged me and wished me Happy Birthday. Everyday is your birthday she told me. Every day we get born again. Every breathe a new beginning.
Happy Birthday to you. To all of you.