“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.” ~Etty Hillesum
I wake up and roll over. My bed vibrates like a drum—thump, thump, thump. Willow’s thick tail bangs out a greeting from the floor. Thump. Thump. Thump. She moves closer. When I open my eyes, she gives my hand a gentle wet nudge.
I throw back the blankets and pull on sweats and a fleece. I open the shades to the south and welcome the frost, the bluebirds, the deer grazing in the field.
Next comes the moment of choice I face each morning. Do I hustle downstairs to begin another busy day, or do I pause to create a circle of inner quiet?
Mediation practice has been sporadic and often brief the last few months. Even though I’ve meditated since 1970, who wants to be mindful of a jumpy, jagged, agitated mind? It’s easy to blame the outer world, but blame won’t change the inner turmoil. I know what will.
Be with what is, as it is, without forcing anything. Just sit and breathe and accept my thoughts and feelings.
I take a deep breath and choose to stay upstairs. Politics, my mother-in-law’s needs, and pressing writing projects can wait a few minutes. Peace is more important.
I fill the altar cup with clean water as an offering and rearrange the images on my dresser top to make space for the exquisite Ganesh given to me by Ann Adams, a friend in North Carolina. Ann and I made heart contact at a family wedding in 2013. I’m grateful for the beauty of the image, but also that Ann remembered what I love.
I light a red beeswax candle and catch a faint scent of honey. I look deeply into the eyes of Anandamayi Ma whose gaze can hold the suffering of the world. I arrange my meditation cushions just so and sit. Willow sighs and returns to her bed. She knows the signals and doesn’t beg to go out or insist on food. She’s learned the art of waiting.
I look out the south windows and rest my eyes on the tallest white pine in the forest, the tree that rises above the canopy and reminds me I’m connected to both earth and sky. I remember the four directions, another way to ground my agitated energy. New beginnings in the east, light in the south, endings in the west, and darkness in the north.
I give thanks for this life and breathe. Usually breath deepens and slows as I sit, but sometimes I can only witness my tight chest, shallow breath, and wild thoughts–and try to love myself anyway.
Today, my breath relaxes and my belly softens. Random thoughts and worries slow a little. I sit within a protected circle of quiet and, for this moment, all feels right with the world.
How could I think there’s a better thing way to begin this sacred day? Chaos will crowd in soon enough. My mother-in-law will have a new crisis or another shocking political event will demand attention and action. Life will press in and challenge, the way it always does.
I hold this silence just a few minutes more so I can remember and take it with me. Even as I read about the latest political catastrophe, listen to a friend’s anguish about her dying mother, or take in another senseless tragedy, I recall this circle of stillness.
So, here I sit. Just a few minutes more. Rooted to the earth the way that white pine is rooted, even though we’re both temporary.
For now, I am here. Breathing in. Breathing out. Listening. Watching. Being.
Do you have morning rituals that protect you throughout the day. Many read scripture. Others light candles, listen to sacred music, or simply sit with their morning coffee and watch the birds. Does your morning routine stay the same or does it change over time the way my altar changes? For other posts about creating inner calm, you might enjoy 10 Ways to Create Sacred Space Every Day or Tending the Spirit.