Sunday Mornings

Sunday mornings always had a feel to me of a new dawning. No matter where I’ve been on a Sunday morning, I have felt a certain vibe in the air that the day is even fresher than the Saturday and weekday mornings before it.

 

In cities coffee shops are just opening, few cars are in movement on the streets, and most stores are closed. There is a certain quiet in the air. Softer movements. A slower vibe.

 

In suburban and rural towns, the atmosphere also has a peaceful quality. The strip mall lots and main streets are mostly empty except perhaps for a convenience store, gas station or breakfast shop.

 

Sunday morning is not quite as exciting to me as Saturday morning. Saturday morning is about chores, shopping, making plans for the evening. Sunday for me is more about taking time to wake up; enjoying my cup of coffee longer, mentally and physically getting ready for the week ahead, and having a whole day ahead of me to do so.

 

This cloudy, albeit beautiful morning is so very typical at this time in my life. I am up before anyone else at the moment. I came downstairs to the main kitchen/living area and it looks like (what we like to say) a bomb. But it is a bomb that I love. This scene is a snapshot in time; my life at almost 43; my family; where I happen to be in the world.

 

On Sunday morning my house often has blankets strewn about the couches, the floor and perhaps even a kitchen chair. Yesterday’s paper is usually lying about in a neat heap still waiting to be read. The cats are milling and meowing like crazy for their morning meal of a little wet food. The counters and coffee table will often have mostly empty popcorn or snack bowls. A cold tea bag sitting in an empty Starbucks mug from one of the cities we have visited. More often than not there is an espresso cup somewhere with a small circle of the dried, dark remnants sitting at the bottom. An open, unfinished bottle of wine sits on the counter with an accompanying wine glass or two in either the sink with an amount too small to finish lying in the lowest nook of the glass, or haphazardly rinsed and left in the dish drain to dry. It’s not difficult to see what we did before bed, be it a puzzle, a card game, or just some movies, since the TV remotes or pieces of whatever we were doing are mostly left where we had them when everyone retired for bed.

 

I will either be up alone or with the hubby. The first order of business is to start the coffee. Then we quiet the little milling lions who get increasingly vocal by the second until they receive their ever-so-desired wet, stinky cat food. Either alone or splitting up the tasks, we will start to load the dishwasher, open the blinds, fold the blankets and put the house back in order.

 

Today I’m alone. I woke up before Daren, excited to begin a new day and continue to work on a painting that I am in the midst of completing. I cleaned up the house and then sat on the living room floor with two pillows beneath me facing the East to do some morning breathing and meditation. It’s a cloudy, dreary and gray morning; but beautiful none-the-less. The sun is still making its way up and about and brightening the day, even though we can’t see it.

 

I couldn’t help but take a picture of the scene I was looking at. Every morning it looks different. Even in its drab form, this morning was picturesque to me. I stepped outside to get a closer shot and the air felt SO fresh and cool, I didn’t want to go back in. But I did – simply to get a chair and two blankets to take my morning practices outside.

It feels like Sunday. Even in February, birds are singing. I can’t see the town or even much of our neighborhood from the back porch, but none-the-less it has the Sunday morning vibe of serenity that I enjoy so much.

 

Nothing exciting, but I am feeling intense gratitude and oneness with the world at the moment. A snapshot in time. It’s just a beautiful and precious Sunday morning.

 

The page has turned. The week, day & month are fresh. We write the story, whether we do so intentionally or not. Be mindful of your thoughts.

 

Namaste.

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On the Fluctuating Gunas (The What???)

Today I woke up anxious. Physically I had a slight tightness in my chest. My heart felt like it was a little heavy, but the worst was my breath. I couldn’t help but sigh every few moments. Obviously releasing some kind of tension. I felt slightly lost. Not sure where my life is going. Not but an hour later I was laughing and feeling like wherever my life is going it doesn’t matter and I’ll get there as I need to.

These are the “Gunas”. Fluctuations that are normal in the universe. They are everywhere. In the weather, in our moods. It’s a universal law. What goes up must come down. What swings one way will swing the other.

The Gunas are a term I learned in yoga teacher training and were often discussed. It’s now a part of my regular vocabulary and thought process. We don’t stay in one mood forever. Nothing stays in its state forever. We are supposed to feel good and bad. It should be expected that good things as well as bad things will happen. Fighting it is what leads to suffering. In Buddhism a key tenant is that any attachment causes suffering. Even attachment to feeling one way (like happy), being attached to an outcome you want, or any objects/feelings/desires/etc. The Hindu tradition (yoga’s roots) describes the same concept but in a different way.

From Yogapedia: https://www.yogapedia.com

A guna is an attribute of nature, according to Hindu philosophy. In Hinduism, there are three gunas that have always existed in the world in both all living and non-living things:

• Tamas (darkness, destructive, death)

• Rajas (energy, passion, birth)

• Sattva (goodness, purity, light)

Here in our Western world we are not taught to think in this way. We seem to feel that if something goes wrong or we don’t feel well (mentally, physically or spiritually), that something is wrong with us. Imagine we were taught that both elation and depression are normal and to be expected? Neither will stay. Both are an experience of being alive. The more we attach to any experience (the good or the bad ones), the more we will ‘suffer’. Suffering really meaning anything from disappointment to despair.

I’m signed up for daily emails from Richard Rohr. He is a Franciscan priest that wrote many books on spirituality. I recently finished “Falling Upward” which was amazing! Much of it was about how we need to fall in order to learn and grow. How opposite things are complementary and part of life. I will paste a quote from the Tuesday mediation.

“If we are going to talk about light, then we must also talk about darkness, because they only have meaning in relation to one another. All things on earth are a mixture of darkness and light, and it is not good to pretend that they are totally separate!”

Understanding the Gunas is one of the many ways I am learning to accept life as it is. When I remember them when I’m feeling down I almost embrace it as the full experience of life. Not always, but more & more often.

They have helped me- and if you have read this and are willing to try, perhaps that can help you or a loved one too!

Peace & Namste

 

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On New Pathways

 

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I don’t know if it’s because I turned 40 this year. Or because I started yoga teacher training. Or because I started taking Lexapro. Or a combination of those and other things, but I’m a person going through a transition. I’m sort of on a new path.

One of the many new things in my life that I’ve been taking advantage of is the new trail that was recently built between Jarvis and West Main Street in Cheshire. It’s not officially connected to Southington yet, but it’s walk able and no one tells you to get off. It’s not connected to Cornwall Street either, which would make it possible to not get off the trail all the way from Southington to New Haven, but the small road that connects West Main and Cornwall (Willow) is safe and short enough that it’s no problem at all to do the whole route without getting too far off the path.

It’s a new pathway. I ran on it for the first time about a month & a half ago. It was the same day I put on a Fitbit. Daren got one at the conference I joined him at in Vancouver. He had it on his dresser for a few weeks until I asked him if he was going to use it. He said no and that it would be ok if I did. I put it on that morning and ran the 1.25 miles up to the new trail. I didn’t know what I would soon be embarking on. As soon as I stepped off my usual route from Lancaster onto Jarvis, I felt a little scared and excited. I’d never really been off my usual path (A.K.A. rut), and the excitement of being on new territory without a car just felt sort of freeing. I turned the corner and really didn’t know how long it would take me to get to the trail. I knew it by car, but being on foot was so much different. It turned out to not be that far at my jogging pace. I looked down at Map MyRun on my iPhone and saw that I had already run 1.25 miles when I hit the entrance of the trail. It was kind of exciting to see it live in person. I mean I drove past it every day, but to be standing in front of it, in the bright morning sunlight; it felt a bit magical. I stopped to take a picture of the new sign. I thought when I left that morning I might start walking once I got to the trail; but I wasn’t tired just yet, and felt the strong desire to keep running.

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Where the new portion of the trail starts on Jarvis

The path is flat compared to the hills in my neighborhood that I’m accustomed to. At times those hills kick my butt and I need to stop and walk; and other times I can just run on the balls of my feet and lift my legs little higher to somehow to run seamlessly up them. The flatness felt novel and good. It felt like I could run forever.

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Cheshire’s new prom pose spot?

I ran a little further into the trail and saw the Prom? sign that I’m now very familiar with graffitied into the mountain. Where did that come from? Is it the Cheshire prom pose place? Did some romantic high school boy do that for a girl while the trail was being built? Who knows… but it’s kind of nice. It is right across from a bench. I stopped to take another picture. I felt the warm morning sunlight on my skin and just wanted to soak it in. I ran further while breathing slow. It’s an old trick that also sometimes works for me and other times does not. This particular day it worked. The slow breathing, warm sun and shadowy trees created the perfect jogging conditions for me. I continued down this new path not really having an idea of how far I’d run or how far it even was until West Main Street. I just knew I wanted to keep going. Running waters, green muck, many benches, beautiful trees… It was all breath taking. I felt so alive. And before long when I heard the sound of cars in the near distance I knew I was getting close to the end; and almost without warning – there it was. I had to stop and just look at the familiar site of West Main Street. I had never seen it from the side of the road and vulnerably out in person without the armor of a car. A person without that protection is just exposed to the elements; but at the same time, so close to them. I could smell the greenery, touch nature, feel the heat, smell that green muck. It was beautiful. I took a picture at West Main and turned around, now having a baseline of how long it might take to get home.

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Where the new trail starts on West Main right next to the Lumber Factory

Again, I thought I’d get tired and walk. To my surprise on the flatness of the path I never did get too tired to keep running. I took many more pictures and reveled in how it felt to be outside in a new territory. I loved it. When I got back to Jarvis and had to run up the hill, I continued to push myself just up to the next mailbox before I decided I would walk. Then it was going to be the next mailbox, then the next one… and before I knew it I was at the top of the hill and didn’t have to stop! As soon as I rounded the corner onto Lancaster, I was back to my very familiar territory. I felt a little new. I had left the familiar path for a new one and was able to come back with new eyes. I ran down Brigadoon and turned onto Dundee when my Fitbit buzzed around my wrist. I knew I hit 10,000 steps already for the day. I also knew from my Map MyRun experience that is about 5 miles. At that point I knew my round trip would be about 5 1/2 miles. I got home to check and it had been 5.55. I was so excited. I had never run that far in my life. It wasn’t that hard! And it was so much fun.

Over the past few weeks I went out onto the new trail as much as I could. I took Koji for a walk 2 days after my first venture out the other way toward Southington. That part isn’t officially opened yet, but Daren had run on it a few times and assured me that many others were using it. It wasn’t quite as finished, but it was just as paved and pretty. I started to combine the new route with my old one to get up to 9 miles without running anywhere dangerous.

One Sunday after yoga training last month, I don’t know what inspired me; but I got on my bike and decided to bike to and then down the path alone. I hadn’t biked alone since I was a teenager heading to a friend’s house. Biking was equally riveting and exciting. The cool thing is that I was able to move so much faster. I was at the path in no time, and then at the end of the trail at West Main before I could imagine. I didn’t want to just turn around and go home so quickly, so I decided to actually go off the path and see if I could find my way to the entrance that is on Cornwall Avenue where it connects to New Haven on my own… without a map app (who could imagine such a thing?). It was easier than I thought it even might be. I knew that a street parallel to Mountain and Route 10 must eventually hit Cornwall. And it did, like fast! Before long, I was on the very familiar trail from Cornwall to Higgins. Once I got on it, it felt so much older, but older in a good way. It had history and spirit that I could just feel in the air. It was different from the newness of the portion that connects Jarvis to West Main. The trees were more grown in, the road a little more broken in, and nature just in fuller bloom; as if the habitat was more comfortable with it’s surroundings. I biked all the way down to Brooksvale Park in Hamden that day, crossing many familiar roads that Daren and I biked over the years. I stopped at the park and checked Map MyRun. I had only gone 6.7 miles but it was so far from my house. I realized how this path could get me to where I’d like to in an alternative way sans a motor vehichle. It felt so good to do this on my own too, without the comfort of another human and without having to rely on technology to find my way around. I felt so independent. My round trip that day was 13.4 miles. Two weeks ago I actually biked 29 alone and all on the trail.

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This new path has opened up my world in so many ways. It helped me to realize how strong I am, either on foot or on the bike. It’s given me the power to go places without a car, which is something I have been aching to do for quite some time. It’s connected my part of town to other parts of Cheshire and neighboring towns so much more quickly. It’s connected me to nature. It’s connected me to myself.

While biking on the path a few days ago while coming back from a yoga class in Southington; I couldn’t help but marvel at the coincidence of this new path with so many new changes in my life, and compare it to the same process of creating new neural pathways in your brain. On the Cheshire-Southington portion that is still being worked on, the workers had their trucks out and were building the brick areas around the concrete stanchions that stop cars from being able to get onto the path. I have been watching this portion of the path being built and change day by day. Like me. I’m changing day by day, just a little at a time. I’m building new neural pathways. Each day, one change at a time I’m creating new routes, improving them and making them a little deeper so they eventually will be the automatic default reaction instead of the old patterns and ruts. Just like the path.

As above, so below. Pathways are pretty amazing, whether in our minds or in the physical realm. I couldn’t help but think about history and when the Romans started building roads. It opened people’s worlds. It promoted trade. Suddenly there was less constraint and more possibilities. Roads, highways and paths do get old though. Sometimes either the path wears out or the place it leads to is not a place you want to go any longer. It happens in our brains too. It’s a lot of work to create a new route to somewhere else. It’s often scary too, because there are so many unknowns both in the construction of it and the destination (especially if you aren’t familiar with the destination). Who wants to do that work when every inch is unknown and the default old route just feels so darned comfortable and familiar? It’s work, whether mental or physical. It’s scary and painful. There does need to be some level of destruction to create something new and beautiful. But once you step out of that rut and into the unknown, it’s exciting too. It feels a little dangerous and your level of alertness is also much higher. But that level of alertness also helps you to stop and appreciate what is around in a way that you don’t normally see your world because that world feels familiar and safe, so we get lost in our thoughts and don’t even pay attention to what is around us.

When you do revisit old familiar ways, thoughts, patterns, or pathways after being on a new one; there is often a level of appreciation and/or awareness of what is no longer serving you and what needs to be let go. A combination of what is good from the old and an exploration of the new is what creates new possibilities and the ability for us to grow individually in our minds, in our lives, physically to a new place with a better way to get to a possibly better destination; or as a society just as the Romans started.

New pathways both mentally and physically makes life more exciting and helps us to grow by changing patterns in our brains so we can experience life in a better way. That sounds good to me! Thank you Cheshire rails to trails projects. It’s just one of many physical things that is changing in my physical and mental world these days and I want to honor it by sharing it’s beauty with the world. Love, Peace & Namaste.

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On a Disjointed Life

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This blog is mostly in response to one my husband Daren wrote a few weeks back https://darenamd.wordpress.com/2016/07/23/on-the-value-of-rituals/

We did chat that day in the coffee shop, and I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks now. One of the reasons rituals are so awesome is because it traces something back to it’s roots and honors something in it’s entirety. Well, there is nothing alone in its entirety. Anyone who is Facebook friends with me (IF they paid any attention to my page) would know that for the past 7+ years the main quote sitting on my profile is: When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. – John Muir

I love that quote. I’ve used it in many conversations and presentations in a variety of formats. We can trace everything almost continuously including ourselves back to the stars. We and everything around us is made of star stuff (thank you kindly Carl Sagan for coining that term in my head forever). If we do actually think about this & how we are all nothing but star stuff; it’s easy to see nothing at all or just outright chaos. But if we ignore everything else and only focus on one piece of the universal pie we miss understanding and appreciating the beauty of the tie in. And feel very much alone.

Our human brains need to draw natural lines to understand something so it’s not all chaos or nothing at all. We also need to stop those lines in a place that we as humans can understand something and make sense of it. What I would argue is happening in the world today is that those lines we draw around something to make sense of it are becoming smaller and smaller.

Take for instance a shoemaker 150 years ago. He had a little shop in the heart of a town. People who lived in that town acquired their shoes there. The shoemaker knew his customers well. Everyone had a role in the town’s functioning and everyone supported everyone else to keep that town running through trade, bartering or monetary exchange. They were all they had and likely felt a sense of community and oneness. Mr. Shoemaker made the shoes from start to finish. He knew where the material came from, how they were put together. He literally created every stitch and hammered every sole. When he walked through town and saw others, he saw his creations on their feet. He felt connected to the product he made and the people who benefited from it. He appreciated the art of his work, which helped him to inherently understand and appreciate the products and services of his fellow townsfolk. Making shoes was a ritual and the universal lines were drawn around the whole shoe and the tie into the community and other humans.

At some point in history, machines and the assembly line were developed and broke up shoe making and nearly every other previous manual whole process that we could as humans possibly get our hands on. The universal lines broke down even smaller. Instead of making shoes; one stood on a line and mechanically made just a sole, or hammered in the same piece of stinking shoe over and over. The pride and ritual of the shoe in it’s entirely was lost. It became harder to connect with the final product. Supply chains were built up and one would no longer see the product they created on the feet of habitants of their town. In fact today, no one really knows any longer where things were created or how they were put together. People started working outside of their towns and traveling alone to jobs on long commutes to do things they don’t feel a part of. While our world is becoming more and more connected, humans are becoming more and more disjointed from the origin of their being; and their own worlds are becoming smaller and smaller.

I love Daren’s example of the record player. It was a ritual to play a song or album. The anticipation of hearing a song would build up as you went through the process of getting all set up. Manually making that happen while we wished it were faster felt very satisfying. Now that I have every song I have ever heard or could want to hear in my life at my fingertips, I just don’t enjoy music like I used to. Daren’s example of the coffee making process is simply beautiful. Making a cup of coffee in the morning was a means to true enjoyment. Manual effort was put in. The waiting made it all the more special. Do we really enjoy the k-cup, drive through, or 7/11 versions of coffee in disposable containers as much? As we gulp them down without thought? …several times a day for most.

Our on the go life style has started to suck the pleasure out of life. We aren’t connected to the things we do, the food we put into our body, or the people we run into during the day. We see ourselves as separate, and not part of the whole. Unless you own your own business, most of us who work have little to no connection to the mission of our jobs. We feel like a part in a machine with no connection to the outcome or even our own humanness. I march through the VA facility where I work and see the patients hobbling down the main corridor as road blocks to the next place I’m heading and already late to. Every so often when the bathroom on my floor is being cleaned and I need to walk down to the floor below, I see patients in the waiting room and checking in. It’s only then I remember that I even work in a hospital. That is sad and a symptom of something gone terribly, terribly wrong.

I wasn’t around back in the shoemaker days, but based on my experience with record players (and cassettes and CDs), and when my mom ground the beans at the end of the line at A&P and then percolated the coffee; I much more enjoyed the older, more manual versions of these and many, many other products and services. We don’t have time to do things in a way that are truly enjoyable any longer. How uncool is that? Why are we trying to do more and more faster and faster? It necessitates a quicker, faster, and smaller means to an end. It’s harder to appreciate the whole when you and everything you take part of is such a small cog in a larger wheel. What’s the rush? What are we accomplishing? Are we happier as a human race? I’m not. Am I alone in this feeling? Even if I am, I want to step out & slow down. I want to know the bigger whole. I’m a bit tired of the disjointed feeling of my being. I miss manual processes and rituals. I want off the treadmill. Anyone care to join me?

 

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