Mornin’ Joe

My morning cup of joe is what compels me to get out of bed. Sipping on my first cup of coffee is admittedly one of my favorite moments of the day, and I savor it. I’ve turned it into a whole ritual and while it’s brewing, I typically do some minor chores like make the bed, or empty the dishwasher, while anticipating my first cup. This morning, I change my routine up just a bit, and I like the change. So instead of doing my chores while the coffee is brewing, I practice yoga for 15 minutes doing a series of asanas in Sun Salutation.  And then, instead of getting on the Internet with that first cup, I grab my blanket, my steaming cup of coffee, and I head outside to enjoy this beautiful fall morning.

The air is crisp and cold. I settle in and take my time to be present with what is. I take a moment to focus on my breath as it enters and exits my nose. So cool going in, so warm, almost imperceptible as it leaves. Breathing, just breathing, in and out. I notice the warmth of my coffee mug as I cup it in my hands, and it’s steam rising in the air and mingling with my breath. I feel grateful for its warmth and the warmth of the handmade blanket I’m wrapped in, smiling at the memory that it was a gift from my grandsons. I notice my sense of gratitude for this perfect moment and a sense of longing for Chris, wishing he could be here with me. I’m reminded of this quote by Rick Hanson:

“By taking just a few extra seconds to stay with a positive experience—even the comfort in a single breath—you’ll help turn a passing mental state into lasting neural structure.”-from Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence.

I notice the trees and the rooftops glowing in the morning sunlight. I notice the powerful singing of the birds chorus with the noise of the distant highway traffic serving as a kind of harmony. It sounds like thousands of birds and sometimes more like a cacophony than a choir. I notice how it suddenly becomes quiet for just a few seconds, and then the singing starts again, first with just one solo voice, and then the entire chorus. I notice my curious thoughts. Why so many birds? Do they sing at this time of day every morning? What time is it? I glance at the time, 8am. I know this singing happens in the spring, yet here it is, late October in Western PA. Is this typical for this time of year? I notice the squirrels scampering in the trees. I watch them climb and stop as if navigating their next step and evaluating exactly how to make the leap to the next branch. Do they have fear of falling? I wonder if all of this Life is preparing for the coming winter months. I settle and practice half-smile. I sit up straighter, I reach the crown of my head for the sky. I relax my face. I turn my lips up gently into a half smile. I take a minute to smile with my eyes and observe the feeling of serenity that fills my being. A feeling of contentment and acceptance washes over me. Sitting. Breathing. Worry thoughts arise. Almost a dread of being robbed of these leisurely moments of contemplation when I get a job. I notice the thought and how this worry thought of the future is itself robbing me of this precious moment of the here and now. I focus again on my breath. In and out. In and out. I notice my breath. I notice this moment. I notice a sense of oneness and belonging, of simply being.

As I sit here and mindfully write of my morning practice, it seems to deepen my experience. It is a good feeling. It furthers my resolve to keep journaling, to keep blogging, to keep practicing mindfulness.

Sweet Reunion

I let out a small shriek when someone grabs me from behind at the Las Vegas baggage claim. Imagine my delight at seeing my sweetie after a whole month. He goes the extra mile for me by coming in to see me when it would have been so much easier for him to wait in his car at the curb. We hug, it’s hot, but bearable. I’m really happy to see him. We see a rainbow from the Santa Fe Station hotel window. A sign of good times ahead. I feel joy, genuine joy. I’m glad. I missed him more than I knew. Being back in PIttsburgh with my family, especially my kids and grandkids was better than I expected. I feel blessed. I already miss Pittsburgh and it’s green lush beauty, and parks, and eateries. But I especially miss my family. I am glad I got to spend good quality time with all of them and to have them all together in Pittsburgh was such a joy. I have polar opposite home sites, that have both grabbed my heart. The land, the people, the beauty! So yes, there will be turmoil as I leave one to join the other. I fall in love with both places even more as I see it through the eyes of others….Darwin through the townspeople that have made it home, and this last visit to Pittsburgh even more so as I viewed it through the newcomers, my daughter and her husband.

Now I’m back in Darwin, the place that is the ‘Back of Beyond’. Flew from Pittsburgh on Wed via SW, with a brief layover in Chicago. We are greeted by burro’s as we arrive in Darwin and make our way to Patti and Michael’s to let them know we are home. They invite us in for a glass of wine or 2, and even offer us dinner, which we accept. We’re tired after a long drive through the sweltering heat of Death Valley. It’s cooler here in Darwin, and Chris says it’s cooler than it had been. Chris has done some work and cleaned the place. The windowsills are stained. The washer is hooked up. The petunias are still alive. The windows and floors have been washed….better than I ever did. I am happy to be home. We wake early this morning, I reorganize a few cupboards to make room for our groceries. We enjoy our coffee in the cool shade outside in front of the house. We watch the jackrabbits. We talk. We sit in quiet comfort. We take a hike out to meditation hill and the burro’s watch us carefully, pawing at the earth, and braying on occasion. They quiet and stand like sentry watching us as we do our mindful moving meditations.

I face them as I stand in mountain pose and allow myself to take them in and all that surrounds me. I notice the dry air as it fills my nostrils and sinks into my lungs. We are happy and content. We’ve already easily fallen back into our routine.

The Joy & Angst of Leaving My Job

It’s the new year and Chris and I leave for our road trip soon. In the meantime, I’m still working long hours at my job as a clinical director for a non-profit organization and it feels rather bittersweet. More sweet than bitter, as you can see from my photo as I jump for joy in our beautiful local park. Bitter because I so love and believe in the mission of our work and I will miss it along with all of my amazing and dedicated colleagues and the bravery and inspiration of the women we are so honored to serve. Sweet because I will not miss the frustration I so often feel from working with challenging systems. Chris and I have been planning our ‘gap’ year for some time, and the process we’ve gone through to make this major change in our lives reminds me of  stages of change that one goes through when changing a behavior related to their health, such as stopping smoking, or exercising more. We’ve been stuck in ambivalence for awhile. Things feel very serendipitous, and it feels as if the universe is speaking to us saying there is no time like now. It becomes apparent to me that Now is the time for me to leave my job. I’m not handling the stress with my typical equanimity, and somehow lost myself somewhere along the way. My health suffers and my heart hurts, literally and figuratively. So like the stages of change, the universe helps us to see the pros of making this major life change now. It really is related to our health, both physical and mental. Now is the time to strengthen our mindfulness practice, something we’ve been practicing and teaching for twenty years, but that seemed to fall by the wayside. In preparation of our trip, I’m doing an 8 week online  Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, now in my 4th week. I’ve been wanting to do this course for years, but have found it too cost prohibitive, so I’m thrilled to find this course for free. My intent is to strengthen and deepen my daily mindful practice. You may want to check out this free online MBSR course for yourself. There will be much for us to explore and share on this exciting journey. Until next time, enjoy the NOW. ~ Diane