Awaken gently, lovingly, embracing the warmth of the morning light as it glistens on your skin, and celebrate your day’s first conscious breath.
Yeah, who can do that really?
Maybe you can, and that’s great—just realize it’s also exceptional. Many folks may aspire to it, but they rarely, if ever, can do it.
I’m honestly not even sure what all that means.
The majority of us wake up congested—sometimes metaphorically, sometimes physically. We have various aches or pains that living life has blessed us with, as we have used or abused our bodies over the years. Some of us are confused by last night’s dreams, or confused as to why we can’t remember last night’s dreams. Still others awaken full tilt, verging on panic or in a panic about what they expect will be the course of the day, plotting it out like generals at war.
As I write this, I am fretting about a beautiful, red cardinal that has crashed through my pool cage. The point is not the pool or the cage, it’s the bird. I’ve opened the screen door, put water out for it, and strewn sunflower seeds in a trail to the open door.
Caddie-corner to what could be the bird’s egress, he sits, crying for his mate, jumping from the deck and flying into the screen. I have walked toward him gently, and with sheer terror in his heart, he flies into the poolside pygmy palms, but nowhere near the door. After I leave, I see him through the windows, back in the corner exactly opposite the door. My hope is that he calms down and finds the door before nightfall. Unfortunately, his mate is on the other side of the screen where he sits, calling back to him from the hedge. He is so set on trying to get to the hedge through the screen that he doesn’t even look for another way out of the cage—the open door.
We all have the time we have, and that time, in reality, is the only time we have right now. Right now, the cardinal is thinking, “Oh sweet Jesus, that primate is chasing me around this cage, the love of my life is over in that hedge, and I can’t get through this screen, no matter how hard I fly into it…how did I get here? Why me? Why does this primate torture me? For years, I have come to this yard with my love, we raised children here, and he never once bothered us. Now I am trapped, and what was a happy Florida get-away has become a nightmare. I was not supposed to die this ignoble death with this primate.”
I could hear him, but he couldn’t hear me. I don’t speak cardinal but I could sense his fear and pain. Countless times, I have been that cardinal, whether at work, or with my family, or simply in a conversation where I wasn’t actually listening like I should have been; and because of this, I knew I needed simply to leave that pool deck. I needed to leave him alone so he could see I’m not the problem; that the cage, because it is open, is not the problem.
He’s like all of us. How often has it been in retrospect that we realize a door was open all along and yet, for panic or fear of the unknown or sheer stubbornness, we were keeping ourselves from really looking at and knowing our surroundings? We were missing that open door.
A lot of people talk about being present, but I can’t say I am always clear about what they mean. Here’s what I mean:
In martial arts, when I am not in the moment—not present—there are immediate, often painful, consequences. To be present means to not let my fears take me away from the situation at hand. That is not to say I don’t understand what could happen, because I do, but that I’m focusing on what is happening. In a heated conversation, I have to hear what is being said rather than thinking about what I need to say while others are saying what they need to say. I constantly have to practice. My instinct is to fly headlong into the cage.
Like the cardinal, I am not always the best door finder, but by not letting my fear and anxiety about what could happen take over, I’ve gotten better about being stuck on one path or another. Maybe I am getting to know the path well enough to see both its perils and beauty. I’m not sure because it’s an everyday thing, but I do know that I need to start the day acknowledging that each day and every step is a new day with new steps.
Glancing out the window, I can see that the cardinal is eating the sunflower seeds two screen panes from the open door. He may find his way out by evening.