With the arrival of February, I was determined to start fresh. Somehow, the start of a new month made it feel like I could begin again; I could set a new intention and not be weighed down by my past failings. So, I set an intention for February – to get up every morning between 5:30am and 6:00am and meditate for at least ten minutes. I went to bed Sunday night determined. I set my alarm and made sure my meditation space was cleaned up and ready.
My alarm went off at 5:45am. Gosh, my bed was awfully cozy and warm. My eyelids were heavy, and my mind wanted to fade out for another thirty minutes of blissful slumber. My determination and resolve seemed to have turned to putty overnight. I lay there for five minutes, trying to stay awake, but not quite taking the unequivocal step of getting out of the bed.
And then, I just did it. I stood up. I put on the fleece clothes waiting for me at the bottom of the bed. I made my way into the next room - my office, where we have our meditation cushion and altar set up.
I lit a candle and got comfortable on my cushion. I took a breath in and started to let it out.
“Meow,” I heard coming from the other side of the door. I stuck with my breath. In through my nose, onto the back of my throat…
“Mee-ow,” Peach insisted, more plaintive now. I felt my lungs fill with air, expanding outward. “She’ll go away since I’m quiet,” I thought.
Well, not so much. The meows continued and then the scratching at the door began. I finally conceded and opened the door a few inches so that Peach could snake her body inside the room. I went back to my breath, and felt an insistent furry face on my hand. Someone wanted her ears scratched. I picked the cat up and put her in my lap. I thought maybe she’d settle in, and we could both have some meditation time.
Nope. She hopped right out and headed for my desk. First, she found a pen to attack and batted it to the floor. Next, she dove under some papers and I heard a few flutter to the floor. And finally, she stepped on the keyboard and the computer came to life – bathing the room in an institutional light.
I sighed. So much for starting the month off on the right foot. I continued to sit, reminding myself that I could just be here with what was. The cat first on the desk, and then attacking my toes, and then jumping on the altar and almost catching her whiskers on fire - I guess this is what the moment was offering.
But I really wanted the moment to be one offering serenity, opening, stillness, harmony. I wanted to kick off my month of morning sitting with deep resonance and the affirmation that enlightenment was around the corner.
Ha. So much for embracing what is – I was shooting for the stars. Perhaps my Buddha kitty knew of my unrealistic expectations and wanted to offer me a “living koan.” A koan is a Buddhist story that your teacher gives you; and as part of your practice, you try to work out the message of the story. Sensei Peach couldn’t put her koan into words, but the story came through, nonetheless.
I guess I was on target last week when I said that being present with what is here now will be an on-going lesson for me.
But the lesson doesn’t stop there.
In turning the page of the calendar, we often see it as an opportunity to turn over a new leaf. Certainly, this is common with the practice of setting New Year’s resolutions. It’s also common for us to slip up, for our resolve to soften or circumstances to get in our way. When we slip up, it’s easy to decide to give in. If you couldn’t make it two weeks into January with getting to the gym three nights a week, why bother trying at all?
Once we come up against failure, it can be easier to just forget that there was a leaf we were wanting to turn over in the first place. Plus, there’s always next year.
But what if we didn’t have to wait for the start of the new year or even the start of a new month? What if we could start over at whatever moment we chose?
Yesterday, my meditation practice didn't get too far. This morning, I chose to begin again. Tomorrow, I can choose to begin yet again.
That phrase, to begin again, has been showing up in my writing over the last few weeks. Perhaps it is a harbinger of the year to come.
We can choose to begin again – when we snap at our kids in temper.
We can choose to begin again – when that gluten sneaks back into our diets.
We can choose to begin again – when we forget to be protective of our time.
We can choose to begin again – when we hear the negative voices in our heads having a field day.
We can choose to begin again…and again…and again.
And each time, we are cultivating compassion. Each time, we are born newly into the moment - free and at choice to make that moment whatever it can be.
I’ll be sitting on my cushion again tomorrow morning at 5:45am. I wonder what Sensei Peach has in store…
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