Winter is coming here on the east coast, which means the light is diminishing and it’s colder. When I wake up in the morning, I talk to myself wondering if I can snuggle in a bit more under my blanket and meditate without falling asleep. The answer usually is “no” but I try anyway, secretly giving myself permission for a little more time under the covers and promising myself that I’ll meditate later. This never works unless I pick a specific time to do it and mentally commit to making it happen. It is not always easy to juggle meditation with exercise, work, and home life but I’m committed to do my best. This is often challenging. I am more irritable and actually accomplish less when I forgo practice.
Throughout the day, I automatically note tensing and contracting and pause, take a breath and exhale but this is no substitute for sitting quietly and doing nothing for a block of undisturbed time. I find on the days I don’t sit, my ability to prioritize, pace myself, and sort out what is really important gets skewed. Spending time answering emails rather than sitting quietly with my breath is not renewing.
When I ask myself what is really important, it is relationships, but even this can be tiring if I over schedule myself. As I age, fatigue has to be considered when I plan my day. I want every moment to count–”yes to life and all that’s in it” is my motto. For that to happen I need to be awake. To be awake I need, more than ever, to care for my body, get enough sleep, meditate, eat well and not be too hard on myself. Life is practice. Mindfulness is continuous–when I remember to pause, stay in the moment and not rush into the next thing to do. Even traffic on the highway is another remembering to practice “being here”. I can notice my mind wanting to maneuver for position and have the car change lanes to get ahead. When I let my breath be my object of attention rather than how slowly my car is inching along, I can remind myself that there is nothing I can do, take a breath, relax, settle in and focus on what is really important: liberation. This requires a commitment to being awake, noting reactions free of judgment, and being able to calm myself.
Meditation doesn’t always bring calm. It does bring acceptance and helps me see more clearly what I do that contributes to stress rather than equanimity. I accept that I make mistakes. I accept that I like good news and not bad, and there are some very tragic events occurring in our world. There are times when I realize that my blinders are off and I notice more and feel more. I find it is stressful to hear the news. My stomach tightens, my breathing becomes more shallow, and my resistance to what I am hearing seems to locate itself in my chest or a rapid forward motion of my hand to turn the dial and terminate what I am hearing. This is a choice, but turning off the radio does not end trauma or sadness. A wise pause, however, helps me cope. I want to stay present to life and all that it brings. After all everything changes,..the good, the bad–and me.