Slowing Down-Breaking the Spell of Constant Doing

Tonight I am writing, cup of tea already finished and the house is quite. I’ve been off work most of the day, had a lovely lunch with my Mama, cleaned the hen house and pulled some weeds. Sun was shining today and though cold wind whipped and gusted being out of doors and not damp was a delight.

As I settle in to my study, letting the day settle around me I am just quietly content. My body tired, my heart full from love and laughter, an easeful feeling in my bones. Such a simple day, fulfilling for me one of my needs, unstructured, unscheduled time.

In my pursuit of a simpler and more spacious life I have been actually creating some of that space, working less, saying no to functions or requests, making simpler food. It all feels quite radical. And I am learning how much I need this- down time- see? we even have a phrase to name this, uncommitted, self directed time. It’s a rarity in our culture and must be guarded fiercely.

I am not a huge new years person, not reveler nor resolution maker, yet I found myself early last month, thinking about my life, my time, joy, commitments, mortality and what the fuck I am doing here…you know the everyday existential  dilemma. In response to all this swirling around in me it seemed the only solution I could find was to slow down. Slow down my schedule, my commitments, spending, consuming in all forms.

I said earlier that this feels quite radical, and you know it really is. Our whole society is telling us constantly in everyway to hurry up, do more, be more productive, spend more, earn more. Madness. Absolute madness. It is no great wonder why so many of us are sick, stressed, spiritually bankrupt and exhausted. How could we not be??

I want to take a moment here, to acknowledge that me having the space to consider such things and the implications in my life, is inherently a sign of my privileged life. There are so many women who’s lives do not bare space for such questioning. Let alone for working less and spending more time with their families. I bow in gratitude for the space and the safety I have in this life.

What does it mean to live a life of simple purpose? What does it mean to give up the pursuit of “becoming” something, anything…wealthier, more lovely, as long as it is something you have to work towards, something that makes you not actually – here.
I don’t actually know yet, because you see I am just beginning to discover, one choice at a time. And its easy to get distracted, and thrown off course. For me it is starting with paying attention, choosing rather than reacting, looking at what actually brings joy, and what resilience means… this is enough for now. It is an awful lot actually.

It’s winter, and my mind is tumbling around all sorts of things, my body snuggling in warm wraps, a hot cup of tea in hand and a good pile of books. I let myself enjoy some space, some time to rest. A period of calm before roots and shoots start clamoring for my attention and the evenings are filled again with birdsong and muddy boots. I just want to enjoy this thing called life, trust in the goodness of it all. Another day will come, and God willing I will greet that dawn, humble and quite, no words are needed when the chickadee speaks so well…
I’ll just feed the birds and go muck the hen house, simple work is good enough for me.

 

 

Mine is the Morning

Rising before dawn, greeting the day to come, a steaming kettle, my pen and ink, real writing on real paper. The air is sweet and cool still, Autumns turning feels fresh on my skin, I love edge times. When seasons bleed into each other, chilled mornings and bright afternoons, the potential for change is ripe.

Morning has always been my time, when Alice was young it was the time I had to spend a few minutes alone, frequently writing, praying or a combination thereof, with my morning coffee comfortably beside me. My ritual is much the same, now, Alice may be readying herself for work, or sleeping in. I no longer wake her and ready her for the day. Our relationship is no longer one of hands on parenting in that sense, at 19 she’s now her own morning maker. I find myself with more space for quite goodness, reconciling with the day to come, more writing, some yoga and perhaps an extra cup of coffee some days.

I have this image in my mind of gathering back together, like pieces of a broken mirror, or rough edges of quilt patchwork being lined up before stitching. I feel this way, I am unstitched. Sleep seems to separate me somehow, it is hard to put into words, morning gathering time. All of me arriving in one place, as if perhaps I travelled elsewhere through the night and only now arrive home. Maybe it is so, dreams seem to hold a power and purpose of which I cannot claim to begin to understand.

I have read about the idea of a “power morning.” A purposeful start to the day, early morning achievements to set the tone for positivity and productivity. I have even been accused of this practice by some well meaning folk. This is not so, my morning ritual is one of habit rather than one of virtue. As often as I find myself in simple contentment  I find myself in a fractured sorrow and wondering what the meaning of this all is, if there is a meaning at all. Quiet reverie is lovely and all, but this is real life, and real life hurts.

What I notice in my experience is that this time, be it in joy or in sorrow, connects me to myself. Mornings of bustled busyness and podcast listening as a get ready for work, feel like an attempt to not feel me. A scattered escape into the worlds demands, a diversion from really feeling. Stephen Harrod Buehner, one of the great thinkers of our time says that Descartes got it all wrong when he famously said ” I think therefore I am.” Stephen’s take on this is that ” I feel therefore I am” would be much more accurate portrayal of what it means to me human. We feel, some of us feel a lot. Unless we keep ourselves too busy, distracted and medicated to allow the feeling to enter.

I am a feeler. Sometimes to my great detriment, or that is the perception I grapple with. Sometimes feeling a little less would seem to be an easier path. I often wonder how other people do it, by it I mean make it through the daily deluge of human sorrow, and non human sorrow that surrounds our lives. Yet, I guess I make it too. I am here after all, writing these words as the sun streams in and simultaneously rain falls. A wonderful image for me as a look deeper into the many waves of feeling and being that make up my experience.

My morning rituals help me to bring presence to my life, and create space for the feelings. I settle in the same spot most mornings. A little nest I create on my floor by the bed. A blanket over my legs and a cushion to rest my journal on. A bookshelf serves as my coffee table. I have a view of the oaks from there, and one splendid Big Leaf Maple. Often a cat is resting his head on my shoulder as he sleeps on the bed, and my old Jasper dog curls up beside me. This is my perfect space to think, feel, and write. Sometimes the words I put on the page are beautiful, sometimes a list of fears and worries. It is not so much what I write as it is that I write that makes meaning of my morning time. I have these journal all the way back to my teen years.

I learn myself through writing. I see my patterns, my thoughts, my fears and my beauty. Sitting and sipping a hot creamy cup, breathing and looking out at the trees. Until the words come, and spill forth on the page just as they are meant to. This is my first act. From here the rest of my day grows, and in a sense from here the rest of my life grows. Quite time, then movement, then what ever else may need to happen.

I am in general not a very consistent women. My interests change, I fly off in new directions of fascination and inspiration frequently. I start and do not finish many things. Yet I always find myself back here, pen in hand, and a full heart waiting to pour onto the page. This feels like grace. A small wonder that holds me together, the pieces fitting back in place, a renewal of some sort, or an offering…to who or what I do not know. Perhaps it is an offering to myself, this ritual act of writing. If so, I accept it, and hold alive in me the wish that 70 years from now I will be still sitting and writing, and that birds will still sing to me as morning arises from the dark earth.