Grateful May, Day 1

Satya and Kaspa have started a new writing theme for the month of May–gratitude. Each day on their website, Writing Our Way Home, they share the small and big aspects of their lives for which they are grateful, and they invite others to do the same.

I signed up for their inspirational emails to keep me going; I’ll admit, I tend to let my mind run along some very slippery, downward slopes.  Having a bright note in my inbox reminding me to look up at the blue sky encourages me to pay attention to what brings me joy and happiness.

May 1: After a long drive in rush hour traffic and teaching a three-hour writing class at the community college, I came home to a sink full of dirty dishes, the counters littered with dishrags, coffee spills, and crumbs. The dogs were whining to be let out. I was feeling tired  from the work day and disappointed that no one in the house had cleaned up the kitchen mess.

But when I took the dogs out to the back yard, I looked up at the canopy of tulip poplars and hickory trees hovering over the house, shifting in the twilight breeze. I was still tired, still disappointed that I would have to go in and clean, but for that moment when I stopped at the fence and looked up, I felt the peace that comes with pausing and paying attention to what is good.

Wordsworth writes in his poem Tintern Abbey,

                                    These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet… .

Just as the poet’s memories of nature help to restore him when he is alone in his rooms, even my small moment of looking into the veil of leaves at dusk helps smooth the rough edges of anxiety and sadness, emotions that have built up in me over the years.

The trick is to pay attention, and to be grateful. I’m grateful for the sea of trees that sways in my backyard, for the birdsong that wakes me each morning in May.

Tree

 

 

Meditation on Sounds

Click-click, a metal zipper taps against the drier drum.

Click-click, the house birds have come back to reclaim

their timeshare above my window.

A fledgling creature clicks and mewls from the upper branches of a tree

outside my window.

A crow creaks a greasy call across the street.

The whoosh of tires on asphalt, wind parted by metal hulks.

The cool swish of air on the in-breath, the warm puff on the out-breath.

Drawing air up to clavicles, I hear the click-click

of spines expanding along my upper back.

A thin click as lips part then close.

The muffled click of a wooden bead as a mala passes through my fingers.

***

Many beginning meditations instruct practitioners to listen to the sounds that come and go outside the room where they are sitting. We notice the sounds rise and fall away, without labeling them or trying to find out what is making the noise.

We then focus our awareness on sounds in the room where we are sitting. The point is to notice how sounds come and go, just like feelings and thoughts come and go. In between the sounds, feelings, and thoughts, we continuously draw the mind back to the breath.

I found that today I kept labeling the sounds. I knew I was going to spend time writing after I meditated, and so my mind kept sifting through the sounds and placing words on them.

But when I think back to all these tiny moments of small noises, I remember a gentle popping, clicking, humming– these are the continuous sounds of life. They are always there, rising and falling like waves in an ocean. We swim in a broth of sound waves.

Day 13: Mindfulness Writing, Writing Our Way Home.

A Clear Stone for a Clear Mind

Yesterday, Elizabeth started yoga class with a meditation. She asked us to think about our “feeling-tone” and to notice how it felt to be us at that particular moment. She said she was referring to lessons she learned from her teacher, Erich Schiffmann, who writes about levels of stillness in his book, Yoga, The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness. 

In this book Schiffmann advises the yoga practitioner: Immerse your conscious awareness into your own unique feeling-tone, the feeling-tone of the Universe expressing Itself as you are. Do this deliberately in order to experience the truth of who you are. (7)

Elizabeth put her instructions to us within the context of the New Year and the Western tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. She suggested that we learn to accept our current feeling-tone, to even celebrate it, while being open to the potential for change. This is a much different way of looking at goal setting and resolutions. A gentle, self-accepting approach.

In yoga we often refer to sankalpa, a sanskrit term that is roughly translated as a resolve or an intention. During a state of deep relaxation, the yogini forms an intention, and then keeps that intention alive in her heart until she realizes it.

At the end of class Elizabeth recalled us to our initial feeling-tone, and again asked us to think about our potential for change. She asked us to think about an intention for the coming year that would involve our feeling-tone, and then she offered us a talisman to keep as a physical reminder of our sankalpa.

She had drawn symbols on smooth glass stones of different colors–the OM symbol, flowers, a peace sign, a cross, etc…, and she then had us choose a stone from her selection.

Image

Om Talisman

I chose a clear stone with the OM symbol. My sankalpa  is to cultivate a clear mind, clear speech, and a clear heart/body. I intend to meditate every day to tune into pure, clear awareness, to dive beneath the waves of mind chatter and to listen for the deep hum of primordial sound.

Peaceful mind, peaceful heart, peaceful speech, peaceful actions.

Mindful Writing Day 10, Writing Your Way Home.