Almost every morning, I wander out to the glorious gardens that my late landlady designed and nurtured into her nineties. These pre-dawn forays find me gazing serenely, yet ardently toward the heavens before my eyes close into prayer. During the past few mornings, this ritual has been overseen by the bright, yet soothing glow of a Harvest Moon, along with two companions, Jupiter and Saturn.
These communications with God and the Universe (and recently, with the Moon) are my cup of coffee: I awaken, feel strengthened and sustained, and my being settles into balance. Always, I am aware of the great blessing to be free, to be attuned, to breathe, and to feel the presence of that which is Eternal. This year of pandemic, of social upheaval, of personal physical challenge, and of familial concerns has only heightened my gratitude for these minutes in the wee hours of each morning.
And yet, the rest of the day can so easily succumb to grievances, short-sightedness, and self-centeredness. For many of us, this can become a mental set point if we do not train ourselves to extend the spiritual bounty of the wee hours (or whenever your personal “in-touch” time may be) throughout the rest of the day… and onward into Life.
These thoughts come on the heels of a week during which “small” blessings seemed to flag my attention: a lovely note from a friend, continual offers of help and support, a surprise flower delivery, and countless other moments that turned quickly from potentially deflating to beautifully uplifting. It was the arrival of the stunning autumnal bouquet that brought a favorite passage from a favorite poet to mind:
…[F]or one moment, quit being sad. Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you. God….
Although I would not describe my recent mood or outlook as sad, the reminder to stay alert to the blossoms of blessings was welcome. Further, it brought me back to the time when I first became enamored of and curious about Rumi, his writing, and his life. While waiting for a yoga class to begin on a frigid, dark Winter evening during massage school in Ithaca, NY, 2004, I began to leaf through a book in the lounge area. It was The Essential Rumi: I opened to a poem entitled, “Burnt Kabob,” read it, and stopped in my tracks upon reading the line quoted above.
Worn by the rigorous schedule of massage training and in need of spiritual stillness after being surrounded by 80 other students each day, the anonymity of yoga class at a town studio was my bit of respite. Rumi’s words spoke into my fatigued physical body, my overstimulated energy body, and my hungry soul. At that time as in this, I felt the sweet, yet pointed call to find the blessings that are everywhere, always, despite heaviness and strife.
And then, upon re-reading the poem yesterday, I noted a line early in the piece: “Thirst drove me down to the water/ where I drank the moon’s reflection.” As so often is communicated in Rumi’s work, light and dark intrinsically co-exist: One without the other is impossible; we only know light because of darkness, and only recognize darkness when light seems to disappear.
In meditation, with eyes closed, we perceive “darkness”: However, beneath the closed lids and veiled from light resides an environment conducive to producing Light, to “hearing blessings dropping their blossoms.”
For today’s practice, begin in a seated pose, hands on knees, palms down. (As always, a short set of various spinal is a good preparation for a period of sitting.) Consciously allow the face to soften: unlock the jaw, release the tongue from the upper palate; let the brows move out toward the temples; feel the neck elongate as the shoulders drop.
Then, begin to wiggle the fingers of each hand; let the movement be fluid, like seaweed waving in the water. Gradually add wrist rolls, and eventually, let the arms move into a free-form dance of their own making. If your head moves, if your body wants to twist or change levels, do so. Remain rooted in your seat while the torso, arms, and hands find a natural, creative flow. Continue the “dance” for 3-5 minutes.
Next, lie on your back, legs and arms in the air: As you continue the arm dance, add the legs; again, the movement comes from within, inspired by your innate rhythm, emotional state, and physical ability. Dance the arms and legs for 1 minute; then, rest the arms on the ground by your sides, and continue with the legs only for another 3-5 minutes.
Now, roll to your side, and help yourself return to a seated posture. Bring your hands briefly into Prayer Mudra (palm to palm, fingers flat and aligned with each other). Then, rotate the right hand 90 degrees, keeping the palms together: Curl and rest the right fingers onto the back of the left hand, and the left fingers hold the back of the right hand.
Begin to pulse the hands softly, keeping the gentle squeeze and release inside the palms; do not let the wrists or arms participate in the movement. It is as if the hands are slowly, softly beating like a heart. Begin to connect your breath to the pulse: Inhale as the palms open away from each other; exhale as they draw together. Continue for 1 minute.
Then, consciously reverse the pattern: Inhale as the palms squeeze lightly together; exhale as they open slightly away from each other. This shift may be uncomfortable at first; recheck that your face and shoulders are soft and relaxed. As you continue this breath/pulse meditation, begin to recognize the ongoingness of Breath and Heartbeat despite discomfort, despite the darkness of your closed lids.
Become increasingly immersed in the unusual rhythm, deepening into the Darkness that will usher in the Light. Connect yourself to the blessings around you: Regardless of whether you are able to feel them or conjure them, let the mudra movement remind you of their presence. Continue for 5-7 minutes, and then move into Svasana; allow the hands to quiet, and the breath to rediscover its natural depth and pace.