Protecting Inner Resources, Remembering Beauty

Another sleepless spell overtakes me and I churn around in a strange fog of lopsided semi-clarity, trying to hold the pieces of sanity and joy in life together.  Sometimes, the truth is brutal.  This time, the truth absolutely stings.  When I squarely consider my condition, I am akin to a fish out of water or a dying ant on a sidewalk.  (Clearly, I need something to snap me out of this!)

“How far can I stretch myself before dissolving?”  It’s a recurring question for those of us who are tending from pre-dawn to pre-dawn again and again with no reprieve of sleep lasting longer than 2-4 hours at a time.  I often consider what keeps me going: a determination rooted deep in my heart and gut to do what feels unabashedly right for my particular child.  A profound love impulse to not turn away.  A muddling through confusion – but coming out with certainty that yes, this indeed is the right response for my child.  Up again, down again.  Sleep on the floor.  Sleep on the couch.  Midnight. 2am. 5am. 5:30am.  A day never ends.  A day simply blurs into the next day.

Given my parenting choices aren’t lending themselves to the perfect sleeping toddler (and I am not complaining, actually!), it is entirely up to me to delineate the markers of rest and recovery for myself – because they are certainly not a given.  Herein is a great lesson: We as caregivers with multiple responsibilities in life must take heed to delineate the markers of rest and recovery for ourselves.  With this in mind I work to combat the inner fogginess of busy exhaustion and find the following gems feed the spirit of sanity and joy.

Protect your resources.  All that patience and grace and good will and love impulse: those are precious resources to be guarded with one’s life, lest we let them turn into more run-off for an even larger dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.  It’s high time to start treating ourselves as the precious resources we are. The dire nature of hitting a wall peels me out of my habitual tendencies to leech my most loving, energetic life energy.  I have no choice but to regroup or dissolve. Without compassionate maintenance of our deepest intentions and inner resources rooted in spiritual practice and self-care, we begin to leech (albeit slowly, sometimes invisibly) our most precious gifts. It does one well to clarify (again and again) what it is we most want to cultivate in our lives – and then, do just that:  cultivate and protect what you’ve grown with intentional care.  

Remember Abundance.  An experience of abundance has a difficult time taking root from a place of depletion.  It feels I’ll never get enough rest, no matter what I do.  I get trapped in a cycle of ‘not enough this,’ ‘not enough that.’  Rather than dwelling from this place, cut back where trimming is in order. Trust the re-growth. Just like a houseplant needing to be trimmed, we can pare down and do less – remembering new growth often emerges only after we’ve cut away what needs lightening.  Abundance doesn’t mean more, it often means recognizing more in less.  An experience of abundance often means simply doing less. It often means shifting how we ‘get things done.’ Even in a simple breath we can experience abundance:  a slow, full breath accompanied by drinking in experience with delight (rather than snatching that sigh as if you can hardly manage to get that in!).

Be aware of beauty.  As Krishnamurti reminds me, “For most of us, beauty is in something, in a building, in a cloud, in the shape of a tree, in a beautiful face.  Is beauty “out there,” or is it a quality of mind that has no self-centered activity? Because, like joy, the understanding of beauty is essential…”

The experience of beauty is a sensitivity born from gratitude, curiosity and awe.  It is a quality of one’s entire experience that can transcend the so-called ‘mundane.’ Find the inner lens that recognizes beauty and practice seeing through it, regardless of external circumstances.  More importantly practice feeling through the lens of beauty.  “Whatever you encounter, join it with meditation,” the Buddhist Lojong cards say.  For me, the meditation is to simply remember to see and feel beauty.  The beauty of this life cuts through my fog like a gentle knife cutting back overgrowth.  It brings me back onto my knees, remembering my place in the divine order of life.  This too shall pass – and how poignant a truth!  So waste not a moment drinking in the contours of color, the sweet little hands eating juicy beets, the foggy wakeful moments in darkened rooms – a blessed chance to feel the hush of silent night and cool breeze bringing the smell of sage… What is the problem, really?  Nothing!  A tired fog is drenched in a beauty beyond comprehension simply waiting to be recognized.


Get Out of the Line and Back into a Circle

Struggling against the ‘scarcity model’ – I pancake myself into the grass and let loose. Wind blows, trees rustle, clouds drift and air cools my skin.  Summer drifts into Fall, and I try to rub the panic from my face that says things like “not enough time, not enough sleep, not enough space for this or that…”  Instead, abundance!  Age old wisdom repeats itself in my mind, reminding me of slow saunter of gaze and breath – even if I only have these 20 minutes for THIS – this is enough and more.

Really, I want hours of “retreat.” How to make your life a retreat?  Retreat in the best sense of the word:  sacred, following calling, noticing beauty, not living dictated by time or schedule but by whims of inspiration and spontaneity – with time for reflective appreciation of time’s passage and time to connect with those we love… Days keep passing and the great question is whether I am living in alignment with my reverence for this Life – not only relishing life’s moments in all their variety, but also living lightly and mindfully – driving less, cloth diapering more, farmer’s market calls…

Lifestyle. Lifestyle. Lifestyle.  It all comes back to how our values are translated into the ‘ordinariness’ of a day:  Eating mindfully, hugging Rowan mindfully, being present (fully) with what arises.  Chris and I were listening to a podcast last night about the greatest gift you can give your child: Presence.  That is, giving your full, undivided (yes, non-multitasking) presence.  This is what translates into self-esteem: an experience of knowing and feeling you’re worth someone else’s full presence.  How often do we not give this because of the myriad of directions we are pulled in a day?

Today, I am called to reassess what is really important.  (By the way, those dishes can wait).  I am called to take Rowan along with me in moments of relishing and resting.  A question becomes how to bring slowness of gesture into all movements, even with deadlines and timelines?  The trick is to get out of the line and back into a circle. Nowhere to go, nowhere to be, but right here:  sitting in the center.