Live Life as though everything is rigged in your favor. Rumi
I’m thinking of my father as I sit here in the stillness of a house not yet beginning to stir. He was the early bird in our family, up before dawn, like I am today, this first day of a new year. He claimed the quiet hour, the precious newness of the pre-dawn morning for himself, and for his writing. I inherited his natural optimism, his buoyancy, but not this propensity for early morning rising. Today though, it comes naturally. I’m dwelling in a different time zone, Pacific Time, here in northern Idaho, in a rental home with our kids and grandkids on a grand lake surrounded by mountains and a ski resort where we all will be playing later in the day. I want to wrap myself in this silence, wear its spaciousness as I move forward into the bustle of a day filled with toddler and pre-school busyness, with skiers waiting in lines and whooshing down hills and filling the lodge with the clunk clunk clunk of heavy boots and jolly banter. It feels huge to me, this universe of possibility contained in a single moment of quiet. And I know that sometimes it is all we need, just a moment or two to settle ourselves, to breathe deeply, to tap into what my father must have tapped into as he tapped away on his manual typewriter, that it dwells within us, this ocean of quiet, and it is ours to claim not just in the freshness of the early morning, but anytime, even in the midst of a noisy frenzy.
Just two weeks ago, with the holiday season moving forward at full-throttle, my days packed with to-do lists and packages to mail and family obligations and commitments to keep, I found myself there, in that inner frenzy place, my mind charging forward like a train out of control. I found myself there as I opened the door and stepped into an evening as yoga instructor at Joy Center. There hadn’t been a moment to spare in this day, in this week, or so it had seemed to me as I rushed around lighting the candles, filling the water pitcher, setting up mats. I babbled to yoga friends who had arrived before me. I couldn’t help myself, couldn’t fake a calm that didn’t seem anywhere in sight. And frankly, it felt good to babble, to expose the inner frenzy to the welcoming atmosphere of Joy Center. And so, I brought it all to the yoga mat, my harried self and out-of-control mind, brought it all to the moment where we passed around the singing bowl, shared our names, a singing bowl chime, a breath, brought it all to those next few moments of lying still, allowing the words to flow through me, words that rose from somewhere deeper than the frenzy. “Well-being abounds. Light surrounds us and is within us and permeates all the cell of our bodies. We are spacious beyond measure.” I said these things. I felt these things. For almost two decades of guiding yoga sessions, I have said these things over and over and over again. And they always ring true. Yoga always brings me to a deep place of inner calm. But this is what I want to tell you. I don’t think I’ve ever been so stunned by it, by the way that I — that we — can allow a mindset, a mood, a jumble of body sensations to transform from frenzied-panic to the knowing of well-being in such a short time.
I include a pose in almost every session of yoga, a great sideways stretch in half-circle, first on one side, then the other. “There is always another way to look at things,” I say, as we turn to experience the stretch on the opposite side. “There is always another perspective.” And then we include a counterpose, a gate we make with our extended bodies, and I ask, “What gate is opening inside ourselves? What new possibilities are rising up, possibilities we have never considered before?” And now, in the wee hours of a new morning, I sense that it is all wrapped up in the same package, a reminder gift for us, that when we claim the spacious breath of a moment, when we stretch ourselves into it, wrap it around us, when we remember that it is always within us, too, then the gates can relax and can open, and the new possibilities — they can present themselves to us.
I hear a rustling upstairs, the pitter-patter of tiny footsteps skittering across a hardwood floor. And the dog in his kennel, he is rustling too. My father whistled when he walked, woke us up with a chipper smile. No matter what the outer weather, no matter what our resistant response, he brought sunshine into our waking and I see this now as a great gift. Soon my arms will be filled with a raucous bundle of grandkids and the kitchen will be a bustle with coffee-making and breakfast eating and ski-boot packing and my moment of outer quiet will be over. I am not usually a morning person and I can’t whistle for the life of me, but I, like my dad, will carry the spacious stillness within me, and greet this new day and this new year with a chipper smile, open to a sleighful of possibilities.