On days when the temperature is above frigid, I don’t protest the dogs’ favorite habit stopping to gnaw at every single stick they encounter during our noontime walks. Instead, while they ravage the broken arms of trees to top off their stomaches already filled with lunch, I study the language of trees.
Winter is the season of dormancy, but also of exposure. By mid-February only a few stubborn bunches of withered brown oak leaves hang lifeless from the trees that bore them. The floor of the forest has long been taken over by the element of water, suspending time in its frozen form in a mosaic of matter in various stages of life and death.
The artful practice of mindfulness is everywhere in winter, urging the walker to slow down. To breathe. To be still and observe the state of stasis. I love winter because of its offering to be still. The other three seasons can overwhelm the senses, but not winter. Winter pulls the mind inward and begs it to find the magic always held within.
There are days when I think winter is ugly and dreary. It stretches time here in the northeast in a way that tries patience. Yet, when I look closer, while the dogs feast on their finds, I find the magic of stillness revealing itself. Lately, this magic has taken the form of the language of the trees.
In truth, it is not the language of the trees itself that I read, but the story of the insect life that feasts upon them. I am in awe of the patterns. When I stop to read their art, I marvel at how each one is unique. It is a language of pictographic script that only the insect scribe understands, in truth, but it doesn’t stop the wondering mind from making an attempt.
It doesn’t matter who says it these days. As soon as the expression escapes someone’s lips, the dog comes running, filled with the promise of a dropped morsel. “Oops” is all it takes to make her feet race with joy as quickly as they can carry her into the kitchen. One person’s mistake is another [dog’s] victory.
When my husband dropped a few grains of cereal this evening, sending the dog running to the kitchen to clean up his mess, it got me thinking about this simple cause and effect conditioned response we have created. It did not take long for our Zelda to learn that an error for us meant a reward for her. She’s a smart dog, highly motivated by food.
Food pretty much rules Zelda’s life. She’s an opportunist, ever-ready for the chance to snatch up a meal, whether it be her own, or the remains of someone else’s. When my husband dropped some of his evening snack, I got to thinking about how subjective the meaning of “Oops” can be. Even, you might say, for the person who utters it upon impulse.
In this example of food lost from one mouth, only to be retrieved by another, the idea of a loss equalling another’s gain seems quite simple. But, most of the time what is dropped in our kitchen and retrieved by the dog is mere crumbs and is not really missed by us. The dog, in this case, is doing us a favor by sweeping the floor with her mouth.
At other times, though, the loss is greater. A quarter, or even a half of a meal might be lost with a careless swipe of a hand, resulting in the dog’s gain becoming more of a costly indulgence not just for us, but also for her health. Then, perhaps you could say the “Oops” is a genuine oops.
But I’m more interested in the subjective nature of the “Oops” and how the impulse to utter a word of mistake can, upon deeper reflection, become a gain for the person who might at first glance be thought of as a victim of circumstance.
When an event occurs that disrupts the status quo, it is in our nature to react. Our reactions determine our emotional response to the outcome, and sometimes it is unwavering. For example, if we return to the instance above, the dropped food may be perceived as a careless action that results in self-reprimand. No thought for gain may be considered, aside from the dog’s.
Yet, when we take the time to consider the cause behind the cause and the result beyond the initial result, we might arrive at a different conclusion. We might take a moment to realize that maybe our thoughts had influenced our carelessness, causing the food to be dropped because we had not been fully present and invested in the present moment, or task at hand. Therefore, the dropping of the food becomes an opportunity to reflect and pause. We can consider what has caused us to be distracted and why. We can make a choice to let it go and become more mindful as we carry out the rest of the meal preparation that is underway.
A mistake, then, becomes an opportunity to learn and to grow, even one as simple as an “Oops.” As we do this, the amount of “Oopses” by nature decreases, and the opportunity is seized not by someone else (or the dog), but by ourselves. The reward becomes our own to retrieve if we choose to. And, most likely, with enough exploration, we will find that the gain outweighs the perceived loss.
I chose the above photo as an image for this post because it reminded me of a big “Oops” I recently read about regarding the writer Ernest Hemingway. Early on in his literary career, his first wife, Hadley lost his entire collection of unpublished manuscripts. Deciding that she would gather all of his work to bring to him while they were vacationing, Hadley misplaced the briefcase containing the contents of his creative work on the train. The briefcase, assumed to be stolen, was never to be recovered. It took months, if not years, for Hemingway to realize, with the help of a writer friend or two, that perhaps Hadley’s “Oops” had actually been a gift. His writing, you see, had only benefitted from his loss, becoming stronger and more refined because the page, like our floor, had been whipped clean by a perceived mistake. He had no choice but to start over with nothing to lean upon. Hemingway’s creative hand took not only adapted to the loss, it grew from it.
Since the writing of my last post, my thoughts have turned often towards empathy. And, specifically, how our world seems to be starving for lack of it. It is not that it is gone entirely. But it has become endangered, and more so in certain areas of the globe than others. I live in one of those areas.
In many Scandinavians countries such as Denmark teaching empathy in the classroom has become a normalized part of the curriculum. The results are obvious: less bullying and more compassion. Happier students and teachers. It simply makes sense. Although we consider ourselves a progressive country here in the US, we are often slow to follow progressive-minded methods of educating our children. We are a country founded upon colonialism. I live in a place of stolen land build upon the backbones of slaves. Children are taught to strive to their highest ideals, without too much regard for the child that may be struggling beside them. Here, we still cling to the notion that the more successful you are in life, the happier you will be. Yet, our standard of success is still measured in the highest GPA, the number of goals scored, and the most money earned with the highest educational degree. I know plenty of people who are not happy and can click off all of these boxes.
So what is missing? We can look to places like Denmark, or we can simply look inside and around us. We need not travel across the globe to realize what is lacking. We are a nation of souls starving for love. Not just for ourselves, but for each other. And many of us, I suspect, do not even know how much we hunger for it.
Yesterday, I treated myself to a facial. It was the first one I have had in my 46 and a half years on Earth. Not because I cannot afford it financially, but because I never before allowed myself this gift. Last year, like this year, my husband and children gifted me a certificate for a Spa. Last year, I gave my certificate to my daughter.
I rationalized the reasons why. She was struggling with acne, and I knew how hard that struggle could be for a teen. I told myself I didn’t really need any of the services the spa offered, and if I could gift my daughter with one of them, I would. You might say I responded to my gift, in part, with empathy, but at the cost of the self. Maternal guilt had replaced self-love. I struggle with giving my children what I never had, as many parents do. Perhaps you will understand why when I take you with me to yesterday.
Despite this, I have been working on a personal vow this year. There is a mantra that plays from the muffled speakers inside of my mind. Sometimes it is loud. Sometimes it is soft. Its words are, “I am worthy.”
Yesterday, I entered the doors of the spa alone. For the past year, I had visited several times, with my daughter and/or my son. But never just me. It was my turn, and no guilt followed me inside the room where I was met with the promise of an indulgence that had been gifted to me.
I was nervous at first. I wasn’t sure what to do with the wrap, and got it all wrong. No big deal. It was soon in its rightful place around my shoulders. A pillow was slipped under my knees and I lay back upon a bed that felt like heaven. Blankets nestled around me as an almost hot and moistened towel wrapped my face.
I began to sink into bliss. Soft hands lathered with warmed oils moved rhythmically down the sides of my neck and onto my shoulders where they found my knots of tension, pressing gently into surrender. Although the hands that touched me barely knew me, they felt like love, and I was over-whelmed momentarily with the impulse to weep. I thought of my mother. I thought of my children. I thought of all that my body longed for, and what I never wanted my children to miss. This body that still remembered the last embrace of her mother, years ago. A mother who had pulled tight with a desperation for my love. My body still remembered who she had chosen, long ago, to give her love to. Not to herself, or me, but my stepfather. Long before she decided never to hug me again because she wanted to believe I had written her a hate story instead of a love story. Yet, I was being reminded, in that moment on the massage bed, that I was still worthy of receiving love.
It is not easy to give when we are not used to receiving. And as I lay there on the table, feeling the foreign hands of love, I realized what a gift I had been given. The woman who had been scheduled for my facial held an innate ability to heal and give. Her nature was compassionate and maternal, and I had no doubt she had both an empathic and empathetic soul. She didn’t know my history. She didn’t need to. She simply read my body’s needs.
And as I lay there, receiving, I thought of my children. No wonder, I thought, they both love coming here. Even though they are teens, and no longer run to me for hugs, their bodies still hunger for the touch of love. They need it, as we all do. And sometimes we need an excuse to receive it. With a twinge of remorse mixed with guilt I made a vow to hug each of them more. Adolescent indifference would no longer be an excuse. Their bodies need the regular touch of love. As all bodies do.
When I began to teach yoga to young children, I worried about how to respond to their touches. Children, by nature, are tactile beings. They use touch to figure out the world, and themselves. They also use touch to express love, and I didn’t want to shy away from their expression of it even though I live in a culture that is riddled with fear around touching a child in any way that can be deemed inappropriate. Hugs can be forbidden. Yet, I knew there is more damage that can occur if a child hugs you and you don’t hug her back. They learn through our actions, and I am discovering that I want them to know that they are loved above all else. That it is okay to give me a hug and I will return it with as much love as they gave to me.
It occurred to me this morning, as I was thinking about empathy and children and what the world seems to hunger for, that perhaps I had a new mantra to share. The word “Namaste,” used so often in yoga, is often translated, “I honor the light in you that is also in me.” This phrase is more easily understood by older minds, and I have not quite found the words to replace it. Until today. The simplicity of the solution, I realized, is not just in the replacing of the word “light” with “love,” which is what I have done before, but in the emphasis that this love is ever-present. And that it is for you, and also for me. And so, I think perhaps we will share these words upon greeting and parting:
“I have love in my heart for you and also for me.”
I was going to devote today to writing. My WIP, that is. I’ve written a few lines, and changed the structure and wording of others, yet my mind is drifting elsewhere. Instead of staying inside my fantasy world, my thoughts are sneaking back to the world surrounding me. The here and now, you might call it.
Yesterday I was going to write about the booming business of “Mindfulness” and found someone else had. I skimmed the heading of the article and thought maybe I’ll save it for another day. Except I can’t stop thinking about how easily we fall prey to false hopes and beliefs, and the magical cures that are promised by another looking to reap profits from our fears. Did you know you can get a master’s degree in Mindfulness? There’s billions of dollars held within the simple concept of staying present in the moment, wholly open to the truth that is you.
It seems we have so far removed ourselves from this truth, that we are, in essence gasping in each breath, cut off from the vital life-force that feeds us. It’s a suffocating existence. I’ve got a fridge filled with organic celery. Not because I’m planning to juice it each morning, but because, I suspect many of those who jumped on this would-be-cure-all promised by some medium-not-trained-in-medicine have moved onto the latest best thing that will magically cure all that ails them. And, so, my Misfits boxes have been filled with this cast-off craze and I find myself searching for new recipes…
Not that I haven’t fallen prey to these promises either. I have. Until I start to question, pause, and return to the voice of truth within. Yesterday, I got a vaccine because Hep A is running rampant and I know this simple action can help prevent my getting it. I don’t regret my decision. I consider myself fairly learned in the world of science. I have a degree in biology, and studies and work experience in the sciences beyond undergraduate. I tend to ask questions when I don’t understand something and look for reputable resources premised upon facts and not biases.
The very word vaccine, though, has become akin to a swear word in some circles, or even worse. It’s viewed as a device filled with a deadly poison created by the hands of the devil’s own subjects. Pharmaceutical manufacturers. Yet, millions are paid for alternatives. Millions reaped by eager hands promising to cure and save those that shun any and all conventional medicine.
There exists corruption at both ends of the spectrum. Yet, there is often too little question of the source of our fears. Anger and accusations fill the pages of social media and certain news channels. It’s become cool to point fingers, and lauded to raise one’s voice in rage.
Last night, I watched part of the democratic debates out of Iowa and kept asking myself who would stand the best chance against our current leader. In this day and age, it seems, timidity is intolerable, but so is truth. Force and anger are awarded the titles of victor. It’s a troubling reality, and I know this is not a happy post. I have promised on this blog, with its title, to search for the light inside each story.
The thing is, though, the light is you. Each of you. And, all of us. It’s not what someone else tells us we should be. It’s not the fear that makes us react with aggression and anger. It’s not the temptation to mistrust and doubt who we are. It’s the pure, simple voice of compassionate reason that is truth. It’s not the ideological belief that there is an “us” v. “them” or an “I” v. “you.” It’s the heart-centered knowing that in our essence we are all one. And that in this oneness we can temper the impulse towards greed. We can keep in-check our anger and accusations knowing that fear is our guide to love. We can take a deep breath and reside “mindfully” in the present moment and look around us with our own fresh eyes and say, “Maybe what I once thought is not true. Maybe this judgement I have held onto is not mine to hold. Maybe the answers I seek are best walked through the path of the heart. And maybe, just maybe, I can find words of love instead of hate when I react to myself and the world around me.”
The words took hold of me while I scrolled through Facebook, that place where I can only spend so much time before frustration builds. The words came from a woman responding to a post about the climate crisis.
I sit here, a day later, thinking about the convenience of this claim. How often it is used to excuse our personal actions, or inactions. This letting go of control and giving it up to whatever name we, individually, call the divine force that moves through all of us. It is a false claim. An untruth we choose because it’s convenient. To put up our hands up and declare that something is beyond our control is to give up the truth of our existence. We are not puppets in some divine play, we are the directors, the actors, and the story-tellers. We exist to be active players in this game we call Life.
We are God’s hands.
God is not responsible for the mass extinction we are facing and the rise of our oceans. God is not responsible for the fires ravaging the face of Earth or the hunger in the bellies of children whose parents cannot afford food to fill them. God is also not responsible for our individual and collective greed. Our hoarding of wealth and want for more. God is not responsible for the felling of our rainforests and the bleaching of our coral reefs. God is not responsible for our choice to burn coal and fossil fuels over harnessing the power of sustainable resources. The responsibility is ours. Alone.
If we are going to claim to be children of “God,” or whatever name we call the creation that brought us here, we must also realize that as children, someday we must grow up and take responsibility for our individual lives. We must step outside the shelter of convenient excuses and realize that our hands are pulling up the roots, stripping our mountains bare, and turning the ignitions in our vehicles in the name of convenience. It may be an “inconvenient truth,” to admit that we are the masters of our own existence here on Earth, but it is the truth, nonetheless. We can either face it, or suffer the consequences of denial.
There was one workshop at the fair I attended last weekend that I found to be truly genuine. The speaker wasn’t trying to sell us anything other than the belief in ourselves. He was an unassuming man. A geriatric physician dressed in understated clothes. He had no props, not even a poster. It was just a man beyond middle-age, standing before us talking about death. And life. Mostly life. Life that goes on despite death. That inner Life that is ever-present but not often heeded amid the cacophony of every day “life.”
He had pretty much seen it all. As a caregiver of the elderly, this sixty-five-or-so-year-old physician had born witness to many a death, but also the transition stages before the body dies, and to people who had “died” and come back to life. Despite his work experiences, the doctor was not there to convince us about any specific type of afterlife, instead he was there to demonstrate that we all have an essence within that is never lost.
An essence that comes from the place of a wisdom and greater knowing that many of us choose to forget to access. As a proponent of meditation, the physician did nothing more than demonstrate the inner wealth that can flow from a mind stilled into the place of greater knowing. There is no cost, but much to gain.
It was a breath of fresh air.
Thousands of individuals had flocked to that fair over the course of its two days, and my guess is that most were seeking some sort of outer validation, a special elixir to fix what ails them, or a message from outside of them that they could, if they chose to, find the answer from within.
The night before the fair, I had a dream. I was in a room with a healer who told me three things. First she told me that my body needed more calcium and magnesium, and then she demonstrated how I could energetically heal my thyroid. When I told my husband the next morning that I needed more of these two minerals in my diet and why, he laughed. “At least you’re listening to someone.” You see he knows how stubborn I can be, and he also knows how wise the body is. The wisdom we seek is always within, we just need to learn how to listen to it.
The answers I seek or need often come to me in my dreams. My higher self, or inner wisdom, which took the form of the “healer” in my dream, knows how to reach me. Yours does too, or at lest it’s trying its best to. As the physician at the workshop demonstrated to us, that wisdom is always there, but the mind needs to tune into it. It needs to quiet the outer chatter and find the frequency of the truth that is you. Amazing things can happen when you listen to it. Miracles unfold. Life becomes not only meaningful, but magical. It all just starts to make sense.
I’ll confess, I don’t always tune in. Every day. Mediation is not a habit for me. I have dreamtime, but in the waking hours I’ve learned to listen to. When I go for walks, nature speaks to me with birds and animals. Even plants carry messages. So do our computers, TVs, phones, and radios, which can be tuned into the frequency of our inner wisdom. Have you ever turned on one of them and found the answer you were seeking in a song or image? Or maybe it was a word spoken just at the right time.
Although there are oh so many benefits to engaging in a daily meditation practice, where the body and mind are sitting in silence, open to receive, life itself can be a mediation. Each breath, when breathed with awareness becomes open to receive. Each moment, a lesson to learn and engage in the classroom that is life. Your life. Not your neighbor’s, yours. That inner voice is speaking to you, always, trying to get you to tune into it and listen. It is beautiful and wondrous because it is always in the frequency of truth.
It kept me up three nights ago. My mind became busy and I got to thinking about mindfulness. I’m sure you’ve all heard the term by now. Mindfulness. “Paying attention to the present moment.” “Living fully in the present moment with awareness.” Sometimes “without judgement” is added. While searching the Internet, I came across this video on the Greater Good Magazine website featuring Jon Kabat-Zinn defining mindfulness in his words.
In the video, Kabat-Zinn talks about living the “story of me” without the realization that there is, in actuality, “no me.” Although I am not a follower of Kabat-Zinn, or any of the many mindfulness gurus out there today, I like what he has to say in this brief video. It’s not a new revelation, in fact it’s very old. His words echo the sages of long ago who carried forth the wisdom that there is, in essence, no “me.”
Three nights ago, I let this mind that inhabits “me” process the concept of mindfulness in terms of “my” perception of the current state of the world. Not so concerned with the “me,” but the “we,” my mind thought about the mindless actions that permeate our collective existence. In particular, I was thinking about the consequences that result from a mindless existence, or, rather, an existence so focused on the “me” of the ego that all else is neglected. The president of the United States is the archetype of this type of existence. The mindless ego unchecked by self awareness.
Last night, I had an hour in the car with my fourteen-year-old son, who initiated a conversation that, in essence, centered around mindfulness. He, like me, is deeply troubled by the world we live in and the mindless movement we have spiraled into, despite the current attempts to make “mindfulness” the “in thing.”
What’s the purpose of mindfulness if we can’t get passed the concept of the self as all important?
Since my eye-opening experience attempting to teach mindfulness to Montessori school teachers, and later yoga to their equally unmindful students, I’ve given a lot of thought to what “I” think mindfulness truly is. Simply stated, a mindful existence includes the realization that there are consequences to our actions, words and thoughts. The law of cause and effect is nothing new, but it’s been essentially forgotten in favor of our “me” obsessed world.
Am “I” breathing properly? Am “I” paying attention to the bird outside my window? Am “I” living in the present moment with full awareness?
This is a start, but not an end. This “I” living in the present moment must, eventually become aware of the “I” that is trying to live. Who am I? The I must eventually ask to fully understand itself. What am I doing? What am I thinking? What are the consequences to these thoughts and actions? How do I effect not only myself, but the world around me?
Until, eventually, the I realizes that there is no I, but a vast, limitless “we.”
The day before my sleepless night, I had been in a waiting room eavesdropping in on a conversation that was occurring at the front desk between two educators. When I over-heard one of them mention teaching in the town I live in, comparing the students to inner-city kids, my interest was piqued.
What I heard, in essence, was the frustration of an educator trying to teach in a classroom without consequences filled with kids living in the myopic world of “me.” And, I thought, it’s not only me, before I thought, how pervasive this disease of “me” really has become.
When I attempted to teach yoga to the Montessori children who exhibited rudely defiant behavior, I inquired about whether there was anything I could do to thwart their disrespect. What I discovered as that we are living in a time when, despite our obsession with “mindfulness,” there are few, if any, consequences to our mindless actions. How can we teach mindfulness behavior if we don’t teach the law of cause and effect?
When trying to discover the root of a group’s behavior, we must always look to the leader. It’s rather obvious that the leader of our “free” nation is living the antithesis of a truly mindful life. Instead, he exhibits all the rude, self-centered, and dangerous behavior of the ego out of control.
While I was not sleeping the other night, I thought about how the majority of the teachers at the conference I was invited to present at where not interested in, and in fact seemed to harbor a severe aversion to, engaging in self-awareness exercises. I realized that there really was no point in me trying to return to teach yoga to their students. Before yoga asana, must come a deep awareness of mindfulness and the laws of cause and effect.
I’ll admit, it’s not a “fun” process to really and truly examine the self and the self as a part of the whole, but it can be a deeply rewarding and enriching process. When one realizes that the self is simply a conglomeration of experiences and reactions to those experiences, folded into a cellular body, a process of detachment and non-judgement can result that leads to fascinating and enlightening discoveries about not only the “self,” but the self as a part of the whole.
The “I” easily forgets the “we,” as exhibited by the pervasive self-obsessed behavior that predominates our world at this time in history. We’re living a time that is artificially sped up and controlled by the false screen of the outer. With the tap of a screen a photo is taken of the “self” and then altered by another tap or two, to be artificially enhanced so that the “self” can appear more outwardly attractive than the “self” really is. Then the self awaits, mere seconds it can take, for the “likes” of the self to pile up. With a few short taps, the self’s words can be tweeted around the world and read by millions of followers. What a heady power trip that can be! Making the “self” feel all-important.
Then there is the flip side of this. The self that arrives at the self-realization that his or her individual self is not good enough. Will never be pretty enough, when compared to the false images of beauty held in front of it, or thin enough, successful enough, etc. And, so the self decides that its life is not worth living.
There is a desperate need in my own self to try, in whatever way my self can, to bring true mindfulness back to a world that appears to me so desperately in need of it. Behind the ego’s need for self dominance is fear. Fear of the self’s discovery of its own imperfections, and the often even greater fear that those imperfections will be seen by others. In the striving for the perfect self, the self fails to realize that perfection of the self will never, and can never be achieved, because the perfect “self” is, in actuality, the no-self.
When we realize we are beautifully imperfect, here to learn and to grow ever closer to love until the self becomes only love, life becomes filled with purpose and infused with the beautiful existence that is Life. We realize that each piece of life, our life, in fact, is a part of an intricate whole. No more than, or less than another, but unique in its conglomeration of parts and experiences. Our essence, in fact, realized, as equally important as our neighbor’s whether that neighbor is a fellow human, an animal, insect, stone, or plant. When a stone is removed from the earth, a hole remains. We are each, individually, part of a vast and intricate web of life beyond the comprehension of our individual minds. Each of us with a role to play, a life to live, that is infinitely more enriching for the self, and the whole, when lived mindfully with an awareness of cause and effect.
It was a rather dreary Friday afternoon in mid-March. Spring had arrived days before by the date on the calendar, but New Hampshire doesn’t follow the rules of the seasons. Patches of old snow still piled in heaps, even in the city, and a cold rain was falling from an ashen sky.
When I arrived at my destination, I found a tired building. The gymnasium, where the conference was being held, was equally dreary as the outdoors. Perhaps more so. The floor, scuffed and dusty, looked as though it hadn’t felt the threads of a mop in months. Films of unswept debris lined its edges and I hesitated before I released the weight of my heavy bag and winter coat. I didn’t belong here.
I felt it immediately. I was conspicuously out of place. The over-dressed outsider with a bag filled with treasures that I would soon discover were only treasured by me. I had, it seemed, set out on this day to play the role of The Fool. My face lifted to an unseen sun as I skipped fumbled to find a place in the circle I had asked approximately 45 Montessori school teachers to create.
A fool-hearty mistake, it would seem, as I had severed their zone of comfort before I had even begun. We don’t always like to feel open and exposed. Equal, you might say, to one another. The teacher is used to leading. Standing above and before the pupil. I had created a circle on purpose. I didn’t want an end or a beginning. I didn’t want to break the illusion of unity. I didn’t want to appear as their leader for the afternoon, but their equal.
They had, though, expected to be taught. Lectured by me as I stood on a podium before their lines of chairs. Here they might hid in their expected roles, as I donned the mask of teacher. Instead, I continued to play the role of The Fool, determined to open before this tired group now circled around me, my bag of treasures.
The carefully typed words started navigating in a clockwise rotation, and I watched as the turquoise and white organza wrapped crystals, tea, and chocolate offerings were reluctantly selected from the basket that held them. What care I had taken, I thought, to gather and wrap these unwanted gifts.
What a fool I had been to think they might be eagerly received.
I have learned, for the most part, to let go of expectations. What we may dream up in our mind as a wondrous play of events rarely plays out in reality the same way as our imaginings. Instead, we seem to get what we need, more than what we want, in that moment of arrival.
I had thought, or rather hoped, that my approach to talking about mindfulness might be eagerly received, or at least curiously welcomed by a group of professionals who were tasked with the role of instructing young developing minds. What I found instead was a room mostly filled (there were the few semi-eager minds) with tired minds inside equally tired bodies who just wanted to go home and call it a full day.
It’s likely whatever I had chosen to offer them that afternoon would have been tepidly, at best received. Unless it had been a check for a million dollars, for the air in the room held the feel of being over-tired and under-paid, as teachers often are.
Yet, I had committed to being there for two hours to talk about Mindfulness with the intention that my audience might discover tools to use in their own lives and to incorporate into their classrooms with the young minds they were tasked with nurturing. The mindful journey, though, appeared to be mostly my own.
As I stepped out of the circle and into its center to fully don that role of The Fool and demonstrate Donna Eden’s Daily Energy Routine, I felt the full glare of the invisible sun shining on me. In the shadows of the circle, figures elbowed each other and snickered. Was I in eighth grade? It sure felt a lot like I was. The same adolescent insecurity was being mirrored back to me.
Look at me, playing the role of the fool. Look how vulnerable I am being. I may appear different from you, but I am just like you. I know your number. I’ve walked in your shoes. That pain you are trying to mask with mockery, was once mine too.
We cannot expect those who most resist the new to gaze in wonder or in awe through the door we try to open for them. We cannot expect them to walk through it and see what is on the other side. We must all become The Fool in our own time, stepping off the well-worn path and out to the cliff of the unknown. We might show them the cliff, but we should not push them off.
How wrong I had been to think a group of Montessori teachers might find what I had to offer engaging or enticing. Whereas my yoga students will most often eagerly embrace the new and yet to be discovered, not all of them do. I had walked on that afternoon into a room mostly filled with people who had no intention of learning something new or different that day. Their intention, instead, appeared to be to get through the Friday of required workshop hours as quickly and effortlessly as possible so that they could begin their weekend. Fair enough. That’s okay. I can accept that. There were the few. The one or two, who lingered after to get another glimpse through the strange window I had tried to open. Offering their own stories of emotions trapped in their bodies, and techniques they had tried to feel better and live more mindfully in this challenging life we are all tasked to live.
I’m okay with going home having realized I perhaps learned more that day than they had. There is always a lesson for us when we choose to learn what it has to offer. If I want to try to bridge the road of comfort and help others find a new way that may be more mindful than the one they have walked longed walked with rote footsteps, I will need to explore some new paths of my own. I certainly have my work cut out for me. We all do. These are not easy times. What I saw in that room was not up-lifting. Bodies and minds disconnected and filled with pain and fear. I saw Trump’s America in a place I had least expected it and it left me a bit jarred and unsettled.
The washer is dead, the kids are back in school and the new neighbors are murdering felling all the trees in their front yard. The tears are simmering just below the surface, but I’m feeling the urge to rant more than cry. It’s one of those lifetimes days when you find yourself asking (over and over again), What is wrong with this world?!
Here’s the thing with the washer: I had a feeling it had officially kicked the bucket, but we decided to pay the $99.95 service fee to find out that it is not only dead but unfixable. Even if we wanted to repair its multiple issues (there was talk of the display board being broken, as well as the motor), we can’t. It’s ten-years-old, apparently long past its predicted lifetime, and its parts are no available to fix it. I’m really wishing we had not bought that new dryer still sitting in a box, waiting to replace our still-working, albeit-not-very-efficient, yet rarely-used-because-we-let-the-sun-dry-our-clothes-for-free-dryer that is at least forty years old, even if it is a fire hazard…because you see, there was a time when we built things to last, and not consume and throw away.
Yesterday, while emptying the dishwasher that is only a year old, I found myself putting more glasses in the sink than in the cabinet. Spots. Tiny spots, all over them. Thoughts of going back in time and living the life of Anne Shirley (my favorite childhood heroine) danced across my mind while I hand-washed glasses, and later, sodden laundry that smelled like gym shoes after being stuck in a locked, broken washer for two days. I could see myself in a gingham dress, my hair braided and tucked behind my ears while I sat with my bucket of clothes. My arms felt the satisfaction of racking the dirt free across the imaginary rippled back of the washer-board. And, I was smiling. It was a happier day in my mind. Life simple and unblemished by the advances in technology that distract us and push our minds away from the present moment. There is a certain satisfaction that comes with doing a job yourself, instead of letting a machine do it for you. I thought about how much I enjoy hanging laundry on the clothesline and pressing my face to the dry cloth that’s been kissed by the wind and the sun before I fold it away; running warm water in the sink and watching the bubbles multiply before I scrub clean the pots and pans I have used to cook a meal for my family.
Where do you think a washer goes when it’s time to bury it? I Googled the question, and actually found this article in Scientific American, “Where Do Old Appliances Go After They Die?” Since the author sounded like a kindred spirit, I decided to read what he had to say. I was already feeling a bit lighter after the first paragraph, which is actually a question posed by a concerned consumer who does not want to “add to the waste stream” and would rather repair her old appliances. Good luck finding parts, I smiled wryly before I continued on.
But, there’s hope, the article reveals. Utility companies will sometimes recycle your old appliances if you buy a more energy efficient one (at least when it comes to fridges and freezers), or you can go to Earth911.org to find a recycler near you. Aside from the annoying pop-up asking me to subscribe, I’m already loving this Earth911 site, which I’m pretty sure I’ve visited before. It appears to be updated regularly with great articles on how you can reduce, reuse, and recycle, and find more Earth-friendly products. It’s Lupe’s kind-of site, and I think I’ll dedicate this post to him.
“Each time his peers showed off their newest smartphones, Lupe thought of children in China walking barefoot through acres of discarded electronics, picking cadmium and copper from metal circuits with bare hands. He thought of poisons leaching into the porous tissues of skin, coursing through blood with oxygen along pathways to hearts and brains.” (chapter 5, The Labyrinth)
It literally takes two seconds to type in your type of dead appliance and zip code to find a potential appliance recycler near you. I found one in the neighboring town. Looks like they take washers & dryers, so I’ll be investigating this a little further. There are also links on the Earth911 website for recycling a whole host of other products including yoga mats and nail polish. Yep, things are looking a little brighter around here (there’s also a LOT more sun in the neighbor’s yard).
The grinding of machines crunching tree limbs can still be heard, though, and I am doing my best to breath in the possibility of new life forming to replace what has been lost. I know we will soon need to take some of our own trees down that are dying and diseased, and top others to provide enough light for our solar panels. It will not be easy, I will be blessing the Earth and the trees once again for their sacrifice. If you have a moment to add a personal blessing to the trees and the Earth, adding with it the vision of new life flourishing next door, the elemental spirits, (Lupe), and I would be very grateful.
As for the kids going back to school. There’s not much I can say about that aside from this: I feel like I didn’t sleep at all, but I must have because I can recall having a dream that I was their age, struggling to decide what to wear, and then missing the bus. They both made it to school on time, though, and it’s rather quiet here, aside from the machines next door. It will likely take me a couple of days to get used to it, but I will. Maybe that’s why I agreed to have a tooth filling replaced on my birthday tomorrow. A little pain distraction is sometimes welcome.
Wishing all kids and parents much happiness at this time of year, and if you’re in the market for a new washer or dryer, don’t buy one “made in China.” A word of advice from the serviceman who declared my washer offically dead. May she rest in peace and be repurposed into some new form. And, may our new washer last at least as long as she did.