Start and stop. Begin and conclude. We tend to focus or hear a lot about beginnings and endings, but what about all of that time in between? What about the space that fills most of our life? What about the mundane that doesn't get talked about, because - well, nobody thinks it is exciting enough to remark on? I find that as I grow older the more I recognize that each time I get to inhale and exhale with ease, it is an opportunity for gratitude, and coincidentally, the less I see anything as mundane. If we must stick with mundane as a word to describe the time that exists between start and finish, then the challenge that I live with is to bring the remarkable into the mundane - the every day, the "hum drum" of our days.
Maya Angelou is credited with saying:
“This is a wonderful day, I have never seen this one before.”
This is what I say when I wake my children up in the morning. I pull back the shades and challenge them to see the day with fresh eyes. I may have written about this before, but it continues to bring meaning to my life and I believe that it can for you too.
When we look at nature, we can observe beginnings and endings, cycles of birth and death. When a season begins, it hardly stays the same from the moment it starts to the moment it ends and the next one begins. There are changes that take place the whole season. Animals are very in tuned with the changes that take place all season long as their survival depends on noticing and taking action at the right times. Fortunately, our lives aren't likely to require as much adaptations to accommodate for the changing seasons other than swapping our wardrobes. If you are someone that experiences seasonal allergies, you likely have responses within your body to changes that are occurring in nature. Isn't that interesting?
I have lived a lot of my life linking my worthiness to accomplishments. Challenging myself to reach for the next goal, extend myself toward the next rung on the ladder, and run the next race, was how I planned my day, my month, and my year. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with setting goals and accomplishing those goals - but be careful. If you notice that you never really feel satisfied, like you left a rock unturned, criticizing yourself, and only seeing the things you have not yet done or the races that you have not yet run, then you are in trouble. You're missing everything. All of the life that exists between those big events, those big goals, crossing the things off of the to-do list, is being trampled on.
Imagine you are standing on one end of a room and you can see the exit, a doorway on the other side. You know that you need to get to that door because then you will have reached something that you desire. Yet, scattered on the entire floor before you, between yourself and that door, are innumerous jewels. They are beautiful. At first glance, they all look alike. They all seem to be the same color and relatively the same shape. However, when you bend down to get a better look - they are actually different in the most subtle of ways that make each of them quite unique. The colors are not exactly alike as you had first thought. There are many different hues and the cuts are different and the way the light bounces off of the rough edges brings a contrast to the jewel that you would not have witnessed had you not stopped to get a better look. If you start collecting these jewels as you walk toward the doorway and arrive at your exit with a handful of beauty, think about how different you'll feel holding this bounty compared to if you hadn't even looked twice at the floor. If all you saw, all you'd allow yourself to see, was the exit - the finish, you'd miss all of the jewels right before you.
Life is like this floor of jewels. Those jewels represent all of the days we wake up and decide to witness what is before us with interest and curiosity. If you are dealing with something heavy in your life right now and it clouds your vision and ability to see anything outside of your suffering, then I invite you to pause. Give yourself permission to just step aside for a bit. Even a few minutes will be beneficial to revealing those jewels that you've lost sight of. Sit down on the floor, a chair, or even better yet - on the Earth itself. Give thanks for the support and close your eyes. Put one hand on your chest, and the other against your abdomen or resting on your lap. Breathe. For as long as you are able, even if it is only for a few minutes, that is all you need to do. Notice your breath, feel your breath, and the pulsing of your heart. These are incredible jewels that can go completely unnoticed and unless we intentionally decide to pay attention, and be curious, inviting in times of stillness, whether in the midst of something wonderful, something tragic, or simply the mundane - this is where life is lived.
If you've made it this far, you are one of the curious ones. I applaud you and I am grateful to experience this life with you.