After 25 hours of car, Metra, walk, Amtrak, shuttle, car…this is where I will be.
I have a small bag of clothing and personal items, a pillow with a blanket stuffed into the case, a cooler of food and my work bag containing my computer and purse. It didn’t seem like too much, but looking at the pile now I feel the need to reduce my load by half—just to feel lighter.
I have started to do this with my thoughts. Our beautiful, talented brains are skilled, providing a constant flow of thoughts, ideas and emotions for our consideration. Often we don’t consider—we just accept. We take off running. We are used to our spilling over the top minds and we create days like this, so loaded with activities we forget to breathe.
Today I am leaving for a week of yoga therapy training at Svastha Institute in Taos, NM. I will be the houseguest of two dear friends. I have what I need to travel and I am leaving the rest behind.
There is no space in my suitcase for fear or worry. Burdens of past actions won’t fit on my arm with my computer bag and cooler. Undone work will remain undone until I return.
Getting clear on my commitment to travel lightly makes me feel lighter—weightless and starlight bright.
A pile of leaves is an opportunity to live joyfully.
And so is the pile of work on the desk, the laundry, and the dishes. We may choose to feel buried under all the necessary tasks of the day, or we can choose to feel joyful. It really is that simple.
The challenge comes when we attempt to change our thought patterns.
When we look at a sink full of dishes, do we feel joy? Or do we decide to avoid eating so often and thus limit the amount of dirty dishes we make each day? Or do we get pissed at our spouse for making complex meals that require the use of every pot in the house? Or do we do the dishes reluctantly while thinking about tomorrow’s work meeting we have not yet prepared for?
It is fair to say, we often let our mind run off with the moment—our moment. This practice can leave us feeling anxious and frustrated with how busy we are all the time.
Mindfulness is our way to retrain the mind.
We can learn to take each moment we feel buried and make it a moment to find joy.
Bury your body up to the chin in fallen leaves.
Take it all in.
Breathe the crisp air heavy with the smell of autumn.
Something inside needs to die.
Learn from the trees.
Just because the hill is there doesn’t mean we need to push the boulder up it.
I am generally a grateful, passionate person. I live an inspired life to the best of my ability—most days. But this week I have been angry, sad, frustrated and deflated. I had been staring at the hill and at the boulder and then back at hill.
Boulder, hill, boulder, hill, boulder, hill…
Play this game long enough with our mind and it is all we see. Then I remembered. We don’t need to be burdened by the hill or the boulder.
We are not Sisyphus.
We are not condemned by the gods to an eternity of repeating the same absurd action again and again. We can walk around the hill. Or we can climb the hill and leave the damn boulder right where it is; the boulder isn’t our business. We can stand still. We have a choice.
Take a good, honest look at the hill.
Leave the boulder alone.
Plot a course of action mindfully.
Or just stand still.
The sky is constantly changing.
Focus too long on the boulder and we might miss the blue sky, the weather-worn building left over from a simpler time, the sound of the wind whipping the long grass, the power lines scratched across the sky marking time.
I woke early to the tickle of Jack’s whiskers brushing my right eyelid; he has no respect for my personal space. Atticus’ right leg was draped across my left; the blanket wrapped around and under me was pulled over his far shoulder.
For a moment I felt trapped and had a urgent desire to free myself.
Then I remembered today is Saturday. I had nowhere else to be. I was exactly where I was needed. I exhaled and relaxed back into sleep.
Our lazy morning of responsibilities flew by, the lines between cleaning and play intentionally blurred. As we dressed for Karate Atticus announced, “Today is the best day.”
Isn’t it always?
Make today the best day.
Fall has slipped into winter. We could choose to feel cold and disappointed. Or we can light the fire within, let it burn and keep warm.
On Sunday morning I used a composting outhouse with separate heads for poo and pee. Monday I drank a Bloody Mary out of a real glass in First Class on a flight to my home in Montana.
Stepping out of our comforts and familiar environments to experience ourselves in a new place give us the opportunity to transform—to see more clearly.
We take so much for granted, moving through our days on autopilot, getting frustrated when our web browser is slow to load. We pee and poop in the same toilet, flush and forget about it. We have much more important things to worry about. Right?
My mother, Atticus and I attended a Peace Day celebration at Echo Valley Farm; it was my birthday gift to myself. We spent the weekend talking about peace, listening to music, eating delicious food and making new friends, effortlessly.
On the car ride home on Sunday morning we talked about the weekend. The discussion eventually came to this question: Why would a sane person choose to live so simply when these conveniences exist for us?
That evening my mother sent me this text, “sit down pee wipe drop paper in the water life doesn’t get any better than that.” I smiled. We all returned from the weekend a little more awake—a little more alive.
Living simply (even for the weekend) is a doorway to self awareness, if we choose to step through. Life is not the planning and the worrying or the brooding and the regrets.
When we celebrate life in the tiny moments we leave worry and fear behind. We step into the light, into lightness.
Be grateful for toilets.
We can have this experience of awakening close to home, too. We just need to slow down and pay attention.
What value can a hot meal and an evening of dignity have for a person struggling to survive?
Watch this video.
Each of us has the opportunity to change the world—one act of kindness at a time.
It maybe something small, like a kind word; it may be a grand gesture like redesigning the dining hall in a homeless shelter. It doesn’t matter. What matters is our intention to spread kindness (not hate) and treat our fellow humans with dignity.
We do this in our thoughts and our self-talk. We do this in our communication and actions. With every breath we choose—and in this way we create the world.
Narcissism is a challenge in our society, as many as 6.2% of Americans are said to meet the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. We have become so obsessed with ourselves we are loosing our ability to empathize with the experiences of others. We focus on ourselves almost exclusively and then wonder why the world is so fucked up. We pass judgment and issue blame, we rage and wage war.
International Peace Day is September 21, 2014, founded by The United Nations as an annual day of non-violence and cease-fire. The theme this year is “Right of Peoples to Peace.” We have the right to be treated with dignity.
Selfless service is an excellent practice for healing the spirit of the planet—and for healing ourselves.
Act kind intentionally.
Expect nothing in return.
Celebrate Peace Day every day with every breath. Start now.
Thank you MJ for sharing this video and inspiring me with your constant warmth and kindness. We are all students. We are all teachers.