The other day, a colleague asked me how the walk was going on the path to going to school. I confided that half the time I am feeling like a strong warrior-woman, marking bold steps, striding forward and that the other half of the time I was feeling completely undone whether by fear and a sense of “What the hell I am doing?” or just sheer exhaustion from the effort.
“You mean thats not normal?” she commented with a laugh. “Sounds like a regular ol’ day for me!”
Truth is I have been feeling a bit tender lately as I navigate this swing. I have been feeling strange and freakishly fractured even as I felt strong and powerful, and I have been longing to feel whole and solid again. And so it was that her off handed comment caused a warm wave of comfort to envelope me. I had been feeling a bit crazy. But she reminded me that no–I am not a lunatic. This is the way, even if we are private about it. It is. It is. It is how we grow.
I am reminded of the thousands, no millions, of women — soul sisters all– who are right now navigating similar changes and transitions. Rearranging our lives in ways that provoke excitement and anxiety and honest-to-goodness wiped out “sleep for hours” kind of exhaustion. All of us in one way or another can feel splintered and pull apart. Whether we are transitioning into partnership or widowhood, motherhood or empty-nest, setting up a home in a strange land, or learning the curves of familiar terrain when the people we love no longer populate it, navigating career changes or discovering a new power deep inside us we all every day experience a mix of fear, strength, faith, exhileration and exhaustion in different combinations.
Taken together, while moving forward, its called courage. Extraordinary every day courage. And it, and the accompanying tenderness from the rollercoaster ride, well…its normal.
A friend recently send me a link to a post about Akhilandeshvari, the Hindi goddess of “brokenness”. Rather she is the goddess of “never not broken” as in “Broken as a normal every day state of being”. Not the kind of brokenness that leaves us helpless–but the kind of brokenness that happens when our life is shattered and as we pick up the pieces and rearrange them, we create something amazing and beautiful. Broken as in transforming. Broken as in making ourselves and our lives over and over again.
The state of being broken is not a condition of weakness but a condition of transformation and strength. I love that there is a goddess devoted to this state. It reminds me that what I am going through is so normal, so ordinary, so every day and therefor so holy that we need a goddess to help us hold the space, to inspire us and to carry us through. That is it not a negative state but one of profound and positive power. I am part of a chain of women that not only reaches across the globe but reaches back into ancient history. I am one of millions of us who are “never not broken”. It is a condition that is normal.
That knowledge helps dispel fear and helps me stand strong. I anchor myself in the knowledge that “All shall be well and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Sometimes, before I sleep, I feel a long line of wise women touch me on the shoulder, each one of them whispering, “This is how we know strength, when we allow ourselves to be broken. Only then can we rearrange our lives in a powerful way. This, my dear child, this is normal”.
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.
The bonfire from our August summer vacation
Max has been sick much of the weekend. He has a crazy summer cold. He is sick one moment, fine the next. I think I may be getting it.
Saturday was big and juicy–a ripe summer solstice full of rain and thunderstorms and sunlight. It was the new moon and when the day, full to bursting finally gave way to the dark it was truly dark. I made wishes and burnt them in flames to send them up to heaven or the universe or perhaps some place across the veil–wishes for the health of my loved ones, for my journey, for babies to be born, for other babes to come home and for even more babes to stay right where they are most loved.
Sunday morning I found myself at the rink. There were only a few of us there–a figure skater working on her routine and a couple of die hard hockey families. While Max got his sea legs back and skated himself back into wellness, chasing his friends, I dwelled in my beginner space again, and slowly worked on my “C-Cut”–the hockey style way of skating backwards. The 80s pop that was blasting over the loudspeakers fell away and for me the rink felt silent–just the cut of my skates on the ice, the whoosh of my boy whirling past. My mind was still as I worked on something so new, as I tried to keep my balance in this new way. I could not think of anything else while I was paying such close attention to where my weight was.
It still surprises me how much I am settling into things that are unsettling, choosing the unfamiliar, the new. Some might think I am rushing away from my life, searching for distraction but I know that no–its an opening, to the practice of being a beginner, to sink into the richness of life with all its possibilities. I wobble in these new unfamiliar hockey skates but I notice how different it is, how much easier I can turn, and it is fascinating to me and it makes me curious. I to wobble in a newish way of being, I see how strange I feel to let go of some old patterns, assumptions and ways. It scares me a little and it makes me curious.
Today at yoga we had a substitute teacher. She was a good teacher but she is not my beloved one. I realized how attached I had become to Karen’s style, rhythm voice. I heard myself say…”Ah…but Karen has us hold that pose for 5 breaths-not three” and I giggled and realized how todays yoga practice for me was simply being there with someone new. To adjust to a new place, to arrive somewhere else than where I had hoped and to see the beauty in it.
But making room for all this new means clearing out the old. I am diligent and its seems that my practice is to let go, let go, let go some more.
I am quiet tonight. I am here at my desk at work and I long to stay, clear papers, clean out email, let go of all the things that don’t need me. This letting go is a new exercise for me–even though I have been practicing for years. It is an onion and the more I do I continue to wobble, beginner like, letting go of what is not needed to make space for fresh dreams, new paths, fascinating journeys. I am scared to let go of too much. There is so much of my life that I love and I am terrified, even as I say yes, that the price I will pay for my dreams will be too high.
I say yes anyway and comfort myself with the fact that there is still a lot of stuff to get rid of that doesn’t serve me before I get to the rest of it, before I am left asking myself what dear and beloved bits I need to sacrifice. Right now I am sacrificing my latte’s, paper clutter and toys and clothes we don’t need. I am letting go of habits like buying things we want just for kicks. I am slowly letting go of my all to quick reactions–the ones that assume that someone meant to hurt me when they spoke–the ones that personalize. I am practicing letting go of my self judgements and my inner gremlin’s admonishments. That is practice enough.
One day I may be asked to sacrifice my financial security, my comfort, my community. I can talk a good game about non-attachment but Oh, if I am honest it terrifies me–when I wonder what my dreams will cost. Its a silly exercise really as there is no way to know. So I focus on the paper, the negative self-talk, the reactivity. I know that really there is no magical economy–no God or Goddess with a ledger book keeping score of what I have given up before I get my prize. There is no formula of suffering that must be met before dreams can be realized. I know it but I am still practicing owning it.
I know that simply the practice is the point. And it will carry me where I need to be. That I believe because there is no other way to go.
Losses will come. Anyway. And grief and letting go will be part of the game. Anyway. And I will keep breathing anyway.
On the mat I felt so stiff and sore tonight Tight in all the usual places and some surprising ones as well.
“Notice,” my teacher said, “where your mind goes when you feel stiff. Can you stay with the irritation? Can you stay with it long enough to let it teach you? What does it say? Notice without judging where your mind goes…Now bring it back…Stay present if you can and see what you can learn…”
This is a scene that replays a lot in our house these days. Max has done something he knows is wrong or disrespectful. I call him on it and he immediately looks away in discomfort. To look me in the face means having to see my disappointment or perhaps my stern face. As I talk to him I see his brain has moved onto calculating hockey stats or maybe to building legos. “Look at me,” I tell him. “I need to know you are present here with me. I know its uncomfortable but I need to know you are learning here. You can’t learn if you don’t stay with me”
The teacher is the student is the teacher is the student….
Staying with pain, with irritation, with disappointment, with fear. Whether we are 7 or 39 we rush away, rush toward anything that will dull the ache. Dreams of a sweeter tomorrow, ice cream or booze, new toys and new friends and new adventures. We leave the chores and the laundry undone while we search for the things that may soothe our heartache. Its so scary to stay here and keep going when we feel so uncomfortable…
But if we aren’t paying attention, we miss the lesson. At worst I am doomed to live it over and over again…or at very least to have lived through pain for naught.
These days I am finding myself compelled to stay, stuck to the spot like glue, to linger with my discomfort just a little. To stay with the irritation for just one more breath. To hear what it is whispering. To hear it without judgement…If we can clear away the clutter we can tune in to our silent, certain knowing
I am stripping down a lot of the things that used to distract me. I am clearing out the clutter and the things that make noise. And yes I am hearing some things–not just hearing but listening and taking them in. Some things are things I would rather not hear, but they are true and I need to absorb their wisdom. Other things are useful and helpful and I wonder how I could have missed them. And some things, some things I am learning are downright delicious. Like relearning the fact that when I hang upside down with my head cradled in my arms, it may hurt but I can stretch out my spine and relieve compression and tightness that I carry and even misinterpret as stress. Or that nothing is more healing than holding my son and hearing what his heart really needs.
If I had more than 5 minutes to write I would write a story about emptiness. About how hard it is to clear out all the junk and just sit. How the minute I feel that empty feeling I feel the need to fill it–with what…with chatter, with stuff, with something distracting, with color and music and flashing lights.
If I had more than 5 minutes to write I tell a fable about a girl who is trying to stop doing and create wide open spaces in her heart. A fable about what happens when you don’t rush to fill it with something comforting but let the universe instead decide how to fill the open spaces. But maybe it wouldn’t be about a girl. Maybe it would be about a bowl. Or a ditch or a cow.
If had more than 5 mintues to write I would spin a tale about how the universe abhors a vacuum and will fill it up with love if we just are patient enough. I would reflect though that we often are even quicker to fill up the hollowed out places in our heart with junk substitutions for the love the universe is cooking up for us because the emptiness just feels so…empty.
If I had more than 5 mintues to write I would confess that I feel chained to the constant practice of emptying my life–that I am so unpracticed and I am so quick to clutter, clog, fill. That I am realizing that I am being given practices every day, that so much of what I see are challenges are just opportunities to practice letting go, being empty, sitting still. That every day I do it for a little longer. That it makes me uncomfortable and weezy and a little dizzy but I am doing it anyway.
Tomorrow marks the start of the new school year. All across our county, yellow school busses will fill the streets and children will fill the halls and the summer will officially end.
Last year, on this night before the new year launched, I sat out on my steps full of regret. I didn’t want to let the summer go. Summer had treated me so kindly and it had felt so glorious to be in that sunny place. The new school year meant a return to routine that was burdensome and hectic, shortened days, busy schedules. The longer nights and cooler days spoke to me of time inside, isolation, quiet and I was not ready for any of it–not the routine, not the hard work, not the journey into myself.
But today I feel differently. I am excited and ready for the turn of the seasons.
This evening at 6pm I had a choice to make. Stay at the office and finish my phone calls to the west coast and make a dent in the ever lengthening to-do list or go to yoga. Torn, I asked myself the question I ask myself when guilt won’t let me roll out my mat and leave my desk behind. I asked myself the question, “Which will bring you into balance?” Tonight, though, honestly, the answer surprised me.
Hungover from a glorious vacation, chlorinated hazy days at the pool and long stretches of spontaneous parties and dinners with friends I have been feeling disconnected from work. I have begun to feel a bit undone by the leisure of summer. A power hour at work in the quiet with no interruptions felt almost decadent. And so tonight my yoga was practiced in an office –choosing to hunker down with my to-do lists and phone calls not out of guilt, but out of the joy of feeling as though I too, was back to school. And with hard work I slipped into a feeling of rightness.
As the summer season ends and the school season starts I find myself welcoming the routines and schedules and “buckle down” mentality that I always relished as a school girl, the seriousness and sense of purpose that comes from reembracing the ordinary stuff of life: stuff like making lunches and checking homework, signing permission slips and balancing the inevitably conflicting commitments. I am ready for the return to rituals and regularity. Everything has its time and I am ready to embrace this period.
I am not afraid of the internal journey that autumn seems to announce. Last year I feared the longer quiet school nights that spoke of family time. I was fearful that it would highlight what I didn’t have. I was afraid of how I would feel without the busy buzzy distraction of summertime fun. But for all my fear, for all I did to hold onto the summertime, autumn came nevertheless, bringing with it both predictable feelings and surprising revelations. Autumn and winter were everything I feared and at the same time everything I didn’t think they would be. They brought great joy, interesting lessons and wonderful connections as well as opportunities for me to sit with my ugly fears and thoughts and move past and through them.
At the beginning of this summer season visions of perfect sunkissed days floating through my head. I imagined it as paradise and held all sorts of high expectations for the three months of endless sunshine. My summer was idyllic and it was also unspeakably difficult. I faced huge fears I never anticipated having to face even in the deepest darkest days of winter. But more importantly I came out on the other side in a place of contentment and strength I also never could have dreamed I would know.
My summer’s lesson, indeed the lesson of the past year was that nothing is simply one thing. Nothing is really good or bad but always something marvelously mixed up. It all is at its best and worst, complex, difficult, miraculous and beautiful.
So I stand here–at the doorway to a new season newly clothed with an understanding that I move through it all anway–just as summer gives way to fall and the icy days of winter inevitably turn into the warm, long days of June, the challenging gives way to the joyful which gives way to the peaceful which gives was to the crisis. Transition, change, a new moment is just a breath away. It is indeed the only thing we can count on.
Tomorrow marks a transition, a change in seasons, a movement from one place to another. But it does not, cannot predict whether the next few months will be good, bad or ugly. They will just be, as I am. And I will stand ready to embrace them with the gifts and challenges that they offer.
I stand at the doorway welcoming schedules, routine and regularity and all the chaos and surprises that the new season will bring. Welcoming a new phase and letting the old one pass.
After a month’s hiatus I went back to yoga tonight. March was a busy month for me–my Mondays were otherwise occupied. There was the Pogues show at the 9:30 club, my trip to the desert, a migraine and then the project deadline I needed to crunch on because I couldn’t sit still all day. But today I was back.
As I headed down in the elevator in my workout clothes, a colleague looked at me with admiration. “Going to yoga?” she asked. “Yeah” I said in a voice that was weak and less than enthusiastic. She looked at me quizzically. So I explained. Four week not on the mat, my butt will be so beat, its going to hurt, I just got to slog through the first class back blah blah blah. “But just think,” she said trying her best to encourage me “How virtuous you will feel when you are done!”
I do a lot that I don’t want to do for the virtuous feeling I will get when I am done. I was raised to be a results oriented girl. And its true, all too often I catch myself being caught in the middle of doing something to get to the other side. Slog through the day to get to the ending where you get to hug your boy. Get the laundry done so you can look fabulous and clean. Eat the healthy vegetables to get to the dessert. Its a lot of work this passing through.
On the mat, my butt did get kicked. Big time. I feel like every week I don’t do yoga sets me back two or three weeks. My body complained, ached, wobbled and gave up. I tried desperately to stay in the moment the now when I felt miserable instead of the time in the distant future 30 minutes hence when I would feel virtuous. I watch myself feel uncomfortable and tried to just be aware and present to all that was coming up for me. And a lot of it was about wanting to hit the fast forward button.
I am that girl who when the book gets too suspenseful sneaks ahead to the last page–just to see. I am the one who can never wait to hear the ending to a story. When my mother in law and I used to watch novelas I would get obsessed, dying to know what will happen tomorrow or the next day. If I was watching one in the US that she had already seen in Mexico I would call her and beg her to tell me the ending. Yesterday I watched the Caps game that I had taped from the night before (For all you non-hockey fans–It is a Cinderella story right out of Hollywood. It makes this girl sigh and swoon…) I had to force myself NOT to fast forward to the final score. I felt I would be able to enjoy the game more if I just knew how it ended. But I knew that wasn’t true, really. I asked Max to hide the remote.
There are lots of little adventures percolating in my life. Small things–not big ones. But I am wondering–Where will they take me? I am curious. I am excited. Thankfully I am not anxious or worried. I know it will turn out exactly as it should but I want to know–HOW? I want to wrap my arms around that glorious conclusion so I can just look forward to it. Its a joyous feeling of not being able to wait until Christmas morning, I wish there was a crystal ball I could peer into to see how I will be surprised. I just can’t wait.
But wait I must. And like yoga tonight–its causing a bit of ummm….therapeutic irritation. As I play out all the scenarios in my place I am missing that sweet feeling of being simply somewhere between here and there. And someday, when its all said and done, I will wonder what it was like to be here. And the only thing I will have to say for myself is that I should have paid better attention.
So as I move into “down dog” for what seems like the 100th time, my calves and hamstrings on fire, I practice staying here. Not moving into the next phase. Not rushing ahead to find out the ending, but breathing in and letting the story unfold, slowly. At an excruciatingly slow pace.
Sometimes I feel as though I am slowly coming apart at the seams. Dissolving almost, like a sandcastle being knocked over by the waves. Bit by bit, being washed away.
Single motherhood can do that. So can chronic pain or heartache. After years of standing strong, sometimes I long for permission to just let it all go–to fall apart and give in.
Lately I feel it happening alot–these slow motion melt downs. I feel I have no reserves. That I am spent. Exhausted. Empty. Easily pushed around by life’s winds. I feel I am just so easy to knock down.
It could be the January grey and the bitter cold that seeps into my toes and stays there. It could be the constant on again, off again migraines this winter. It could be car who’s engine siezed up this morning. It could be the rollercoaster of my finances. It could be the colds that are sweeping in one after the other–different little viruses who are lining up to line my throat.
It could simply be that I feel as though I am moving in slow slow motion while the rest of the world zooms by on hyperspeed.
It could be any or all of these things that knock me out of balance and leave me there to slowly fall apart, grain of sand by grain of sand.
It crept up on me again this feeling–the slow unravel. As the day upfolded it occured to me that life is happening too fast, that I can’t keep up, that it is all slipping away from me. That I am trying to run on fumes and am failing.
I wanted to run away and crawl into bed and not get up. To sleep a long sweet sleep. Instead, I went to yoga.
I came into the conference room we use as our studio. My teacher was sitting cross legged on her mat meditating. The class had yet to assemble. So I unrolled my mat, the tears started rolling gently down my cheeks. Tears that would have been so hard to explain if anyone had asked me why. It was simply the feeling of blowing away that had me all undone.
A few minutes later, it was time to set our intention for class. “I need to feel the earth under my feet. I need to feel solid. I need to feel grounded and strong.”
It is always amazing to me how yoga and breathing and moving my body can set me right. It never fails to surprise me.
Class was challenging today. My legs shoke through each of the standing poses. These bold triangular moves–they make me feel so solid and strong–a warrior princess. But today, these moves I love were unusually difficult.
As I sunk into the poses I became aware of how gauzy and insubstantial I had felt all day. I realized I hadn’t been connected to my strength, that my breathing was shallow. So I sunk into those poses and I breathed. I felt my feet touch the ground and root there. With each deepening stretch, each breath, each shift back into downward dog, I grew back into myself. I knit myself together.
I left the class feeling no less tired, no less annoyed with the migraines and the car and the bills. But I felt the scales had tipped back into balance.
The substance of me is weighty-I am a granite boulder not a mound of sand. These problems are not mighty waves–they are simply raindrops. They may run along my face, they may even shape me some but they will not wash me away.
This past Saturday my dear friend Renee’s daughter became a Bat Mitzvah.
Renee has been one of the strong and steady people in our lives–there for Max and I in a quiet but ever present way. When I was struggling through the first few weeks of motherhood, Renee invited me to her house and fed me gourmet meals, enticing me to get out of my pajamas and back into the world of the living. In the horrible months right after Juan moved out she invited us to her house and fed us. We sat at her Passover table and breathed through the prayers, the questions, the stories and she held my hand under the table each time my breath got shaky. Just a few months ago when we went to a wedding in Massachussetts and I wanted to stay up and dance all night, it was Renee who bundled Max up and took him to bed, who read him stories so that I could experience joy. Renee has been a friend who has been a witness to the most poignant moments in our life.
I was so charmed and touched when Renee invited us to this special day for her youngest girl. This was not a huge gathering and I felt honored to be included. When she handed me the invitation back in November I immediately said yes.
I started thinking ahead to that day–What would I wear? What lovely gift would we bring her precious child? My head was spinning so far into the future–thinking of this day. My future-focused head was busy with all the preparations.
So where was I on Saturday? I was nowhere. Nowhere to be seen.
For the last several months I have been so focused on the future–whats coming next, hopping over hurdles and fast forwarding onto the next blissful event: my party, the holidays, some trips I have planned , my wonderful new year and how it would surely play out all flowery and blossomy. No sooner was I in a moment, was I immediately planning what joyful thing would happen next, next, next!
While my head was dreaming of the future, I have done a terrible job of keeping track of the present. Alot has fallen by the wayside. The past couple of months, insurance claims have not been submitted. A bill or two has been paid late. I got a bad cold and slept not nearly enough.
And then the Bat Mitzvah. I lost the invitation in a car that needed to be cleaned. I got mixed up on the date. I asked Renee but didn’t listen carefully, didn’t write it down right away, had moved on to the next item on my to do list. I wrote it in my calendar wrong. I told myself it was next Saturday. In the future…like everything else in my life. Happening sometime soon.
I was so far ahead of myself, I didn’t question why Renee was out of work last week instead of this one. I just assumed she was taking advantage of the end of a short work week to make preparations final. I kept plowing ahead, unaware, unattentive. No pause. No breath. Instead of being now here–I was nowhere.
And I missed it. I missed sweet Hannah’s ceremony. I missed the party my dear friend had so carefully planned. The special event she had called us to attend. She had asked me to be present–to be a witness to the magic of her girl growing up. And I was nowhere.
Sometimes the Universe just has to hit me over the head with a very heavy club.
Last week, the amazing Jena wrote this post about the difference between nowhere and now here being a simple small space, pause, a breath, a moment to be present. In this post she quotes Sue Monk Kidd’s Firstlight:
Someone pointed out to me that the words now, here, and nowhere have the same arrangement of letters, but differ when a small space is inserted. Likewise a fine space separates us from experiencing our life as nowhere or now here.
Attentiveness is entering fully the moment you are currently in, no matter how hassling or mundane, and simply being present with it.
“Ah yes” I said. The words resonated with me. They made sense. They settled into my heart even while my head was spinning-on fast forward ever still. Skipping the pause. I missed it even as I got it.
This morning, before the sun rose, before I realized my mistake, before another friend told me that I had missed the blessed event, I was taking a long walk, a walk I am now taking most mornings. This long walk is part of my plan to get to a healthy weight. The last few times this walk has been an exercise in speedwalking into the future. I walk and I immediately start praising myself for getting up so so early and think I proud I will feel when I have done it all week! I start thinking about how come spring how healthy and strong I will be! I walk and I am thinking about bathing suits and feeling good in them again, about sitting in pools and jacuzzis, about sexy little sundresses.
I caught myself this morning–half way into the walk–when I realized I didn’t even notice much of what I had seen, had missed the birds, the change in the sky. Somewhere out of the buzz that was in my brain, Jena’s words, Sue Monk Kidd’s words stopped me cold in my tracks.
Now here…nowhere…Now here.
One fine space. A pause. A breath.
What had I missed on my walk while I was focused on how beautiful the future would be? I thought about how I couldn’t get that bit back. Those moments where I was lost in planning a future that may or may play out–those precious moments were gone.
I thought back to a time when life was falling apart. When being present, when living in the now wasn’t a choice. It was the only way to survive. In the days and weeks after Juan announced he was leaving, in the months after he had moved out I was anchored in the present because it was all I could take. When I allowed myself to think of our past, I fell apart on the spot, tears flowing, the grief of all we had lost overwhelming. When I started to think of the future, of the next hour, next week, next month without him I was so terrified, so paralyzed I couldn’t breathe. The only thing I could do was get through this minute in front of me, this breath, now the next one, and the one after that. It was a gift that came from the pain, this mindfulness, this practice. But it is one I have packed away, like a forgotten wedding present. A once cherished treasure now shoved over to the side in the chaos of life.
Last night, as I was logging on to check my email, Max came and sat on my lap. “Mama,” he said “Read to me.” “In a minute babe…Mom’s just got to do this one thing.” His answer was strong and clear. “No mom…NOW. I am tired.” Yes. In a few minutes he would be asleep. The moment to read would be gone. The email could keep. “OK” I said, much to his surprise. He was emboldened.
“Mom, you are on the computer too much. You need to stop. You need to be with me. Now. I am grounding you from the computer–at least while I am awake.” “Yes” I said. “That would be fine”. From the mouths of babes…
Tonight at yoga class, as if to drive it home, my teacher was guiding us through an opening meditation. Before asking us to set our intentions she asked us to be aware of the thoughts, the plans, the worries that were buzzing around our brains. She invited us to put them in a box in the hall and to be present. To be in the now. To be here.
And I did. I finally did. I was there through each uncomfortable stretch, through each difficult balance, through each impossibly difficult move to build core strength. And when my mind began to wander I reminded myself that each breath was a chance to begin again.
Each breath calling me out of nowhere and into the now here.
one of many amazing Cairns built by the multi-talented Eric on our labor day camping trip in West Virginia
Monday night and I am back to the mat. Back to yoga. As though she read my mind, as though she can look right into what I needed, my teacher says, “Tonight we are going to work on our balance”.
As a former ballet dancer I should be masterful at the balancing poses. But that was a long time ago and my body has shifted and changed. Fighting the old body/muscle memory that is no longer relevant now that I have a bit of padding, now that my shape is decidedly more maternal, always means that the balancing poses are an exercise in “shift, adjust breathe….shift, adjust, breathe.”
Monday my teacher threw in a doozy. She had us get into Tree Pose facing the wall. “Easy-peasy” I smuggly thought to myself. I am always best able to find my balance facing the wall. I can find a spot right in front of my nose and then just glare at it. But then, my sweet teacher threw us for a loop. She had us close our eyes. I immediately lost all sense of balance. I had to put my foot down, I had to open my eyes, I had to wiggle alot. I fell out of the pose again and again. Try as I might it all fell apart in the dark.
Balance is a tricky thing.
I am working on finding balance in my life outside of yoga too. I have the job, so big and wonderful it could take over ever minute of every hour if I let it. I have the son with a heart and needs so big that he could take over every second of every day if he could. I have the house which needs sweeping, decluttering, and fixing, the bills that need paying. Oh and I have the things I like to do to make my heart breathe and sing, writing, practicing my guitar, sitting with a good friend and a cup of tea or glass of wine and telling stories. The friends, the family, the loved ones who need bits of our time, the things we need and want to do to help build our community.
Having all these things is a blessing, I know.But holding them all in the air without them tumbling down on my head is a challenge–a challenge that seems often impossible. A challenge that seems as unlikely as balancing a heavy stone upright on a tiny tiny point.
Max is having a tough week. I decide to focus on him. Work is not getting enough time or attention, things fall through the cracks. I shift, adjust, breathe…
I am working late, bringing work home, trying to catch up on or actually hit a deadline on time. Max feels left out, he is crawling on my lap, he is hitting the delete key as I try and write and drawing all over my notes. He is begging me to cuddle him, lay down with him, sing him a song, tell him a story. I shift, adjust and breathe…
I am feeling so exhausted, so used up, so tired of being dutiful. I schedule a series of mama’s nights out where I stay up late and dance. Now I can barely keep my eyes open.
My search for balance often feels more like swinging on a pendulum than finding a resting point where all the impossibly heavy hangs perfectly in alignment.
The yoga teacher is not giving up on us–on this experiment. Blinded by this exercise we fall out of poses again and again. Without a reference point to gaze at, all of us, even the more accomplished students are struggling a bit.
She urges us to search within for the balance point, to find it not on the wall but inside. She urges us to trust our inner knowing of our own body, what parts are heavier, what parts are lighter, where we are stronger and weaker and find the balance on our own. To close our eyes and trust we will find it. And then, after failed try after failed try I find it–there…I stay only a second or two but it is there however briefly. I am an amazing tree, strong, upright and balanced.
I leave class vowing to take this lesson into my life. To do more closing of my eyes and trusting that I can find it, the place where it all hangs together perfectly. Yes, its true, I have that knowledge deep inside if I can only trust myself and listen long enough to hear it.