Anchoring in The Storm
When the squares of the week fill
with musts and shoulds,
when I swim in the heaviness of it,
the headlines, the fear and hate,
then with luck, something like a slice of moon
will arrive clean as a bone
and beside it on that dark slate
a star will lodge near the cusp….
is that Venus?—I think so—Let’s
call it Venus, cuddling up to the moon
and there are stars further away
sending out rays that will not
reach us in our lifetimes
but we are choosing, before the chaos
starts up again,
to stand in this particular light.
~ Marjorie Saiser, “When Life Seems A To-Do List”
I spend a brief morning time in contemplation and reflection as the world swirls all around like a furious storm, a tornado. I cherish this time of silence and quiet and being with myself, setting aside my troubles and worries to cultivate a small garden within, my refuge which fortifies and sustains me. And as with any garden, I can always tell when I have not been tending it, allowing it to fall into neglect. It used to be months, then weeks before I’d realized that things were dried up, near-death and needed watering. Then it became days. Now it’s only a day at most.
I need this time cultivating the inner garden as my greatest daily commitment to myself, and as a responsibility to others as well, before the chaos of the world starts up again. And when time seems unavailable in the morning hours, I am learning to “press pause” in the middle of the day, to stop and simply breathe, bear witness to what’s really going on inside myself while in the throes of the “musts” and “shoulds” of the day. What is it that I need? Water? Nourishment? A brief walk? So often these are not metaphors but actual physical necessities.
I’ve been thinking about these blog posts and all that’s going on in the world and that I often don’t talk about all of that here. It’s not because I’m not thinking about it all, or engaged in action and remedy. I simply believe that what we most need, in addition to our busy days and hearts rushing to meet justice and correcting the wrongs of the worlds around us, is to cultivate spaces of rest that sustain us, revive us. Where our imagination might be nourished in aerated fertile soil, and some new thing can emerge which we might harvest and bring to all of our musts and shoulds. To the howling storm.
Moments with our eyes away from electronic screens of any sort and our gaze instead feasting upon the sky. Moments of pause to consciously embody our lives, feel the air on our skin, hear the sound of birds calling one another, the smell of trees and falling leaves. Doing nothing more for a brief moment but noticing, simply noticing, the rich and vibrant life that we are a part of, co-creating with our breath and our presence. All the life that is worth saving within us and around us.
The chaos is ever-present it seems; this we’re coming to understand and grieve and so we do what we can out there in the world. But let us give our inner life the depth of attention it needs as well, so that our heart remains soft and resilient when the impact of the world would see it brittle and hard—might even prefer it so, sucking us into the howling chaos.
We can instead choose to cultivate our heart— it only takes a few minutes of the day—nurturing it to become a resilient and compassionate anchor in the storm, trembling yet persistent and steadfast. Thriving and flourishing from within, right there in the middle of all the chaos and rising waters. A conscious beating of our hearts for the world we’re bringing into being.
What’s Sustaining Me
A resource for explorations that might sustain you:
What I’m reading: A Year of Living Kindly: Choices That Will Change Your Life and the World Around You, by Donna Cameron. Being nice and being kind are not the same thing.
What I’m watching: Finding Your Roots hosted on PBS by Harvard historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. I’ve been watching the 7 seasons of this show about genealogy which is such a fascinating and, for me, often heartbreaking look at our history as Americans.
Listening to: Notes for the Future, I am so loving this new LP by cellist Yo-Yo Ma! We know he’s an outstanding musician, but he also fearlessly transforms any limiting ideas we might have about cello music by creating with musicians from genres and cultures all over the world--like Middle Eastern hip-hop and Native American chants, among others .
Who I’m learning from: Nikki Mirghafori and Marc Lesser, the profound and highly skilled instructors of a class I’ve been taking called Mindful Leadership Training.
What’s giving me joy: Prepping for the arrival of my great-nephew, Liam Jr., who just arrived into the world as I’m writing this! He’s joining his sister Isla in our family’s newest generation of life. Yep. We’re still here, all four generations of us.