Friday, 25 March 2016

to stillness and mornings

Happy Good Friday everyone!

Today I woke up to my alarm and when I opened my eyes, I was welcomed by the sight of a solid streak of light coming through my window splaying itself across a wall of my room. For some reason, that sight really emboldened me. Perhaps it's because I haven't seen such a strong streak of light for a long time. At the usual time I wake up in the morning for work, the sun's still a gentle thing wrapped up in a cocoon of the night, very slowly peeling off its layers. Everything is bathed in a muted light. Or perhaps it's my fuzzy brain that registers it that way. Today however, I could feel the difference right away. It felt so good, just being able to enjoy that for a bit, before pushing my face against the comfy pillow and heading straight back to sleep. ;)

I think one of the best parts about setting your alarm on a public holiday is the knowledge that even if it rings, you have the option to completely, blissfully ignore it. Though having said that, there is something special about the morning and its quiet. I've never been a morning person by any means, but it's something I'm trying to work my way towards. Because on the rare days that I have been able to enjoy a quiet, unfettered morning, it has always been so expansive. The promise of the hours ahead completely within my grasp. Quite magical actually.

One of the things that I've found such mornings to be most conducive to would be that of reflection. Of going through the things that have been circling in my mind and somehow finding a way to pin them down into concrete thoughts, opinions...hopefully insights. Throughout the week there are so many things we are exposed by virtue of the 24/7 connectivity of the phone and for me, that includes videos/podcasts that I listen to while on the road. It's become such a habit for me now; making use of those moments in transit to learn about something else not quite related to work, but purely of interest to me.

Recently it's been the amazing podcast series, On Being, hosted by Krista Tippett. I think I first discovered it from youtube while listening to some of Brene Brown's interviews and Krista Tippett's voice just struck me as incredibly riveting. She has a voice that exudes intelligence. Compassionate intelligence. On her shows, she interviews a whole gamut of guests ranging from poets, to physicists, to psychologists... all sorts of incredible people, some involved in cutting edge research in their fields. Some of it has a more spiritual or faith-based slant to it, as it was originally something she had envisioned as a radio conversation about 'spiritual and intellectual content of faith'. At the center of her interviews run the themes of faith, ethics and moral wisdom. "What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live?"

I've been so drawn to so many of the interviews with their fascinating topics. I highly recommend checking out the On Being website where there are transcripts of the interviews and a weekly blog on related topics (which I haven't managed to peruse yet but am looking forward to that soon). Best bit though would be the On Being app which I downloaded and has a catalogue of all the podcasts available for download or streaming which makes it easy to listen to on the go.

One which I loved was the interview with Pico Iyer, novelist, journalist and travel writer. I'd first come across him through a TED talk of his on The Art of Stillness, which, at the time, I had thought was such a lovely meditation on the importance of stillness as a means for reflection and contemplation and of course, an antidote to the whirlwind stresses in our lives. At that time, I think I hadn't gone further to dig deeper into his work because, well, I was probably younger and hipper lol and lusting for more travel! more adventure! Now however, after listening to his interview with Krista Tippett, his words really struck a chord.

"I sometimes think, we're living so close to our lives, we can't make sense of them. And that's why people like me go on retreat, or other people meditate or do yoga, or other people go for runs. Each person, I think, now, has to take a conscious measure to separate yourself from experience just to be able to do justice to experience and to process, as you said, and understand what is going on in her life and direct herself."

More and more, I've found that relevant in my life. There are days when I could be listening to a few great podcasts, read a few great articles online that I feel wow, these are really applicable to my life and I want to start doing more of these things. But then the day goes on and in the hustle and bustle of whatever we need to do, those flashes of insight don't seem to be rooted enough for me to fully make use of. A lot of times, I find there are ideas that are floating around in my head or floating by but haven't fully taken root. And without times like these - beautiful, uninterrupted mornings, I might not be able to take the time to think things through, to fully internalize it to the extent which I feel satisfied with at the present moment.

"Everytime I take a trip, the experience acquires meaning and grows deeper only after I get back home and, sitting still, begin to convert the sights I've seen into lasting insights."

This is another great quote that I liked from his book, The Art of Stillness - Adventures in Going Nowhere. It's a thin book and only a few chapters long, but beautiful in its reflections. Last time I used to plan my holidays to make maximal use of all the time I could to be overseas travelling, so much so that I might plan to get back home the night right before starting work again the next day, in an attempt to not waste any precious vacation time. Now though, I'm starting to think that maybe one day I should just stay home. Dedicate one week to maybe having a daily ritual of waking up to a glorious morning and spending some uninterrupted time with myself. With my brain and my heart. Because after all the rushing around on a trip and feeling wow there is so much great stuff that I want to think more about or read more about when I get back or that I want to incorporate into my life, once I get back, we inevitably get back on the moving track of everyday life that we had only just gotten off awhile ago. There's little time for reflecting, and distilling the best parts of all that we had experienced. I think by allowing ourselves the time to gain something from that, we can really grow as people.

So here's to more pockets of stillness in life.

Probably the first step to that? Sleep earlier. Every night. So that when the weekend comes, I'll be able to wake up earlier and enjoy that glorious expanse of time. Ahh, a perennial goal.


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