A Fresh Dawn

IMG_6311My bookclub met via Zoom on Wednesday. The book up for discussion was Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart. It was published fifteen years ago but the gifts it offers are timeless. In these extraordinary times we would be well served to keep a copy nearby to dip into when life teeters on the precipice.

Something that was said last night has stuck with me. It was one of those observations that takes us from one point in the conversation to another. Just a toss off – nothing that we lingered on. In the book Pema advices us to breathe. We all agreed it’s easier to watch the news or scroll through Facebook or find a hundred other reasons why sitting still and taking a simple breath is not an option. This morning it’s the plaintive mews from Bruce the Cat.

My alarm rings at 5 AM. Bruce the Cat receives a bit of attention and a dollop of Oh My Cod or Salmon Enchanted Evening.  I’m at my desk with a cup of coffee by 5:15 AM. Five mornings a week I gift myself this wonderful hour of quiet solitude but the truth is that, until today, it’s been wasted on me.

My intention is to use this hour that glows with the breaking dawn to write or meditate or do both but as I sip my brew I’m reading daily briefing emails from Huff Post, CNN and the New York Times. Then I’m responding to messages that landed during the night. I cuddle Bruce the Cat for a moment and the next time I look at the clock that golden hour is gone. It’s time to say good morning to Ben the Human, to strap on my running shoes and begin my day.

Distractions. The emails, the social media, the news – during the first hour of my new day they fill my brain until there’s no more room for what fills my heart the same way eating candy before a meal leaves no room for nutrition.

What distracts you from the calls of your heart? 

My morning cruise through the news is nothing but a habit. The solution is simple. Break the habit. Create a new routine. Answer the call. Breathe.

We can find the motivation to do this by asking ourselves why it’s important. When we lost the structure to our days a few months ago we laid a new foundation and built a new structure. The foundation for my new reality is this hour. When I choose to scroll through emails the foundation weakens. When I answer the call of my heart – when I write – I feel strengthened.

This dawn hour is important to me because the discipline of writing sets the tone for my day. What do you do to set the tone for your day? To keep your foundation strong?

The 5:40 train to San Francisco rumbled through ten minutes ago and Ben’s alarm just rang. Red finches are spreading their wings and with raucous chirps are bullying their way around the feeder outside my door. The world is waking up and my hour is winding down.

It was a good hour. I think I’ll do the same thing tomorrow.

Emotionally Bypassing Joy and Sorrow

Shadow Bridge IEach week I open and close my yoga classes with a reading.  I try to choose passages that have heart and meaning in my own life.  I hope that if the words I share touch my emotional center then they may have resonance for others.  It doesnt matter to me where I find inspiration.  Over the past month Ive read quotes from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Martha Graham and Albert Einstein.  This past week, however, I was reading from The Pocket Pema Chödrön.  Each day last week, sometimes several times each day, I heard myself deliver Pemas thoughts on our desire for certainty and happiness.  I heard myself, through Pema, encourage my students to touch the center of their pain and to be present with it.  In that way, rather than becoming weaker through our endless craving for security we might be opened.  We might find strength.

These are powerful ideas.  Not only does she want us to sit in our own discomfort, she wants us to sit with the suffering of the person to our right and to our left.  She wants us to take on all suffering so that we can learn to find a way to be at home in our own.  Pema wants us to be still in the suffering.

Yet I cant help but believe that we must also be still in the joy of each moment.  I dont know that its true we brush by suffering in order to find our happy.  What I see in my life is this:  I brush by everything (the joy and the sorrow) in order to tick one more to do off my daily list.  I wrap myself in a façade of good intentioned optimism that functions as an emotional bypass.  And so, while I fail to touch the center of my pain I also dont touch the center of my joy.

This week I will hold space for both sorrow and joy. I will resolve to not rush by the sadness I feel for a friends suffering.  Instead I will notice how it feels in my breath and my body.  I will resolve to not rush by the joy I feel for life – for the birdsong outside my window or the sweet stubble of the nasturtiums seeds I planted that are just now beginning to break out of the soil.

There is suffering all around us.  But there is joy, too.  Take time for both.