Silent Sundays: Rejoice In It

Yesterday was a lovely day.

After more than a couple of years (years!) of ever-increasing and -isolating pain, I was able to host a get-together to thank my generous friends—my intrepid helpers during the most physically challenging and depleting phase of my life. 

What may seem simple and easy to most (and once did to me) was instead an unusually affirming experience, and one that tickled tears of gratitude as I went about preparing for the event: several trips to the grocery store (on my own!); a stop at the wine store (carried the bottles myself!); cleaning my apartment (washed the floor on hands and knees!); and finally, preparing food and trays (stood comfortably in one spot for an extended period!). 

By the time my friends arrived for the garden party, I was tired (and admittedly achy), but happy. As soon as I saw their faces and exchanged hugs (actual, physical hugs!), my energy returned. And as the afternoon went on, I watched, absorbed, and marveled at the open hearts spreading their energy amongst each other, most of whom were meeting for the first time.

When the day was over and I went back up to my apartment, I reveled in the quiet space, and also in the energies that had permeated the afternoon. I was acutely aware of God’s presence, both in that moment, and in all the moments of ferocious pain and despair that had driven the formation of this group of caring friends. As I slowly put away trays and food, and then showered and changed into sleep clothes, I offered my thanks to God and the Universe. 

Upon waking this morning, I recalled the abiding awe of peace and gratitude from yesterday. And I thought of my grandmother, Fanny, my mom’s mom, and a conversation we had had in her final years. One day when visiting, I found her in her favorite blue armchair, her beloved Bible nestled in her lap. When I asked about her daily devotions, she shared with me her favorite of the Old Testament Psalms: “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).”

My grandmother emphasized the word “in”: “Rejoice in it…” I have come to believe that her reading reflected the way that she had lived much of her life: After her husband decided not to return from overseas after World War II, Grandma became a single mother. Like the war widows of her time, she kept her family afloat by what we would now describe as “living in the Now.” Then, it was a matter of keeping her head down, getting food on the table, and, for her, tethering her will to faith in God. Grandma Morse had lived in it—in the day, every day—as a sheer matter of necessity.

To endure those circumstances, however, was not a reason to bemoan her lot: Rather, it was an opportunity to double-down on fervent Faith. 

Additionally, I sensed that Grandma recognized that when one feels God’s presence (or, feels the energetic workings of the Universe), it is a renewed chance to inhabit God’s Love. It is a moment—it is the Day Created—in which to join with eternal wonders and Mysteries.

So often, I create movement and meditation practices designed to shift or alter a state of being. On this Silent Sunday, however, I offer a practice to exalt and expand—within and without—times of rejoicing. From grand events to moments of calm contentment, the following session will deepen your connection to the positive vibrations in and around you. With today’s routine, the goal is fuse with and integrate a state of profound awareness: “Rejoice in it.”

The Practice

Because the first movement sequence requires breath suspension and retention, begin with a warm-up to encourage full, steady breathing. From standing, bend the knees a bit, and lean forward about 30 degrees to place the hands on the thighs, just above the knees. In this stance,  begin spinal flexes: Inhale to arch (extend) the spine; exhale to round (flex). The semi-upright position may feel stiff or awkward at first: Use the depth of your breath and the ballast of the hands on the legs to encourage a fuller expression of the movement. Continue for 1 minute.

Slowly rise to stand upright. Here begins a sequence of arm and torso movements with focused breathing. Inhale to raise the arms up through the side space to an angle of 60 degrees with left and right arms: a big V with the arms. Keep the breath in as you gently arch back, letting the head tilt back and the Heart Center to open. Promote the sense of exalting your good feelings as you give thanks for them. 

When you need to, exhale, straighten up, and bring the palms together overhead. Continue to exhale as the Prayer Hands move down to rest on the Heart Center. Retain the empty breath for as long as you can, filling yourself with positively imbued Heart energy.

Inhale to extend the arms straight out in front of the Heart, palms up, pinky edges of the hands touching. Tilt the head back slightly as you focus your closed eyes on the Third Eye. With the breath in, the position creates a dual purpose: an offer of gratitude to God and the Universe, and an open vessel in which to receive their energies.

As you exhale, right the head, and open the arms out wide to the sides at shoulder level. With the palms facing forward, make light fists, thumbs extended straight up. The arms remain long and equidistant from each other as you begin to twist through the torso: Inhale as you twist left, exhale right; allow the head to turn with the arms. Alternate back and forth 12 times (6 twists to each side). 

Special note: Helicopter Arms clear the magnetic field around you, while stimulating upper-body meridians. The movement establishes an optimal environment in which to integrate an especially appreciated vibration.

Repeat the entire sequence—arms up to 60 degrees; down into Prayer at the chest; extended forward; open to the sides; and then “helicoptering”—5 more times.

Next, help yourself down to lie on the floor. Here, you will need a yoga block, similarly sized book, firm pillow, or thickly rolled blanket: Place the bolster under your sacrum; the shoulder blades should be on the ground, with no tension in the neck. Let the hands rest on the floor, palms up, in Gyan Mudra: index fingers and thumb tips touching on each hand. Eyes are closed, gazing at the Third Eye. This position encourages a full and peaceful opening to whatever energy you intend to consolidate. Remain here for 3-5 minutes.

Then, slowly remove the prop. Still on your back, extend both arms and both legs straight up to 90 degrees: Dead Bug pose. In this nerve-stabilizing position, inhale as you flex the ankle, curl and clench the toes, and make tight fists of the hands (palms face each other). Exhale to extend through the ankle, release the toes, and press through the balls of the feet; simultaneously open the fingers wide to stretch through the now slightly angled-up palms. Continue this clench-and-open pattern through the hands and feet, moving rapidly with the breath, for 1 minute.

Finally, lower the arms and legs to move into Svasana. Once again revisit the sensibility with which you want to infuse your being. Welcome it as you inhale; guide it deep within as you exhale. Then, allow yourself to dwell fully in your sanctum: Rejoice in it.

Happy Sunday…

How to Hang On–Day 30: This Moment

Today, I am immersed in duality.

Not wanting to move, but fidgeting incessantly; needing to complete multiple pre-surgery tasks, but tethered to online word games; nerves are kicking, but emotions are numb.

This dual nature is part and parcel of Life: in humans, in the environment, in politics, in socio-economics, in romance, in each and every one of us on many levels. Yet with duality comes dissatisfaction: One yearns to remain on one side or the other, to choose their comfortable spot. But as always, one must swing back and forth between states, which themselves are ever-changing.

And yet, my experience of this two-sided feeling somehow keeps me in the moment. As I wrangle with which way to turn, how to feel, and what to think, I can not bemoan or become nostalgic for what was; nor can I imagine or dream of what will be. I can stay only here and now, watching and waiting as my body and mind try to decipher their dueling nature—as I await a new experience, a new phase.

Whereas I have signed off from each day of the How to Hang On series with “’til tomorrow,” I won’t be doing that today. For tomorrow starts at dawn (or thereabouts), when I will be carted off to the surgical center by my best friend: The day will see me undergo my first surgery, my first anesthesia, and my first new hip. The eve will be a “girl’s night,” with my buddy enjoying wine, and me and my body trying to understand what is going on through a drug-induced haze.

One thing is clear, however: I am fortunate, and I am grateful.

’TIl next time… 

How to Hang On–Day 6: The Little Things…

Today is a day when the “nothingness” of it all feels Heaven-sent. Good little bits, untainted by unpleasant surprises, seem exceptionally splendid these days…

The day began with a long conversation with one of my oldest friends: She will be my helpmate on the day of surgery, and that night if necessary. I have not seen her since the pandemic began, so a long talk with her was a big boost to my head and heart.

Then, some silly laughs and inane chatter with one of my favorite neighbors: Again, what used to seem almost inconsequential bears rich fruit in these times.

Following was a quick errand to drop off books for an elderly friend. To continue my volunteering effort is one of the small commitments that remind me of what was, and what will continue to be, despite how challenging the effort feels in my current condition.

Then, to top it off, the wife of a longtime buddy offered to cook made-to-order meals post-surgery. Blessings abound…

So, today turned out to be a reminder of just how significant the perceived “little things” can be. What seem like small offerings—be they from yourself to another, or another to you—often resound profoundly when one’s ear is to the ground of gratitude.

’Til tomorrow…