“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 68: Gentle Monday Mantra

When I first moved to the North Country to begin my job at the university, my friend Robin visited me from Alabama.  She was--and still is--a wonderful poet and writing professor, and although we're the same age, she had been teaching longer than I had.  She happened to be with me on the very first day I met my very first group of students.  I had been so excited and scared, I barely slept at all.

She took one look at my bloodshot eyes and electrocuted hair and said something that will always stay with me.
"Sometimes when I wake up, I just decide today is going to be a gentle day.  Especially if I haven't gotten enough sleep.  I try to move through the world in small steps.  I pay attention to small things around me.  I try not to rush even if I have a lot to do.  I'm gentle and patient with myself and with others.  Then everything seems to go better."
Looking back on this, I think she was talking about mindfulness. 

At Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh's community in France, every day is an opportunity to have a fresh start.  Every day is Monday:
Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing. We bring our body and mind into harmony while we wash the dishes, drive the car or take our morning shower. 
This fall my Mondays were full.  I would rise at 5:30 to meditate and write in my studio.  Zoe would wake up with me and assume her position on the balcony.  When she came inside to go back to the house for breakfast, I would hold onto this image of her outside, looking in.

Whenever I can, especially on a busy Monday, I try to take breaks to go outside, or go to a window, breathe slowly, look at the sky, and refresh my energy so that I won't be too tired later.
In writing class at 8 AM, we would start our day writing for ten minutes.  I brought my meditation timer and the sound of that gentle gong leading us in and out of the day's session helped me approach writing and teaching and being with other people with the same spirit of calm and peace that my dog and I shared in our pre-dawn communion.

If I had a different job, I think I would still try to do this.  I would arrive early at my office, bring a meditation gong (or program one on my computer), and sit quietly and write for the first ten minutes of my work day, just to clear my mind of clutter and prepare for the day ahead.

Teaching at 8 AM, grading, meetings, the gym, dog walk, office hours, then yoga class until 8 PM, dinner, reading until bedtime: the day was always rich with different kinds of activities, different groups of people, varied settings.  When I could, I brought my set of papers outside and entered the worlds my students had created while looking up now and then at the clouds skittering past, and the squirrels chasing each other at my feet.

I am lucky that I have to go outside and see the sky and feel the wind against my skin before I officially start my day.   Winter mornings really wake me up.

I try to bring the best part of the outside inside with me again. 

These winter mornings, I can devote most of my time to writing.  I am so grateful for this time.

I work long hours.  But I try to remember to bring some of the outside in, and the inside out, as a way to pace myself.

Have a gentle Monday, gentle readers. Namaste!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Natalia! Exactly what I needed this morning.