Dry Sponge Dry Well
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
the light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“And you, too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.“
~ from “When I Am Among the Trees”, by Mary Oliver
On the first morning of my first full day of summer break, I sat for an untimed, unpressed period of meditation and gasped at the re-discovery of the luminous dark of my mind. A beautiful spacious inner darkness I’d forgotten as an aspect of being. Forgotten that I’d missed it.
I sat with quiet until I noticed, as I had not since the earliest days of the pandemic, the noisy morning calls and chatter of birds which, as I’d learned back then, generally began at 4:00 am. The noises of humanity had long since returned from the spaces where we had once been locked in, and drowned out these sounds we had marveled at as though they were a newly created thing. We now had to listen with intention or easily forgot the beautiful birdsong that was still here.
With intention I became present to air circling my skin, breath entering in and out my nostrils, the rise and fall of chest, belly, and when and where the muscles of my body were curiously clenched and tensed for no apparent reason. And so I relaxed, entering a space of true rest, conscious of this luxury that too many others in great need were unable to share.
I was being watered, replenished, a dry sponge reconstituted. It has been a privilege, taking a full nine weeks to return from the experience of feeling like a well, run dry, and now refilled with an offering of clear cool water.
In the waning days of summer break, I reflect upon the word nourishing. What it has taken for me to reach the experience of nourishing, how this experience of nourishing has led to the experience of flourishing, and how my flourishing contributes to the flourishing of others because we are all interconnected.
But to enter a nourishing space of true rest, more is needed than a 5 or 10 or 20-minute period of meditation or a walk or a nap or quiet even, in the midst of hours upon hours of go go go non-stop working and thinking and planning and doing and all sorts of activity. Those of us who have a modicum of privilege in how we choose to use our time, might attempt to appease ourselves with mindfulness apps and timers, but this is not fully nourishing ourselves.
Fully nourishing ourselves requires hours each day, just as we give hours to all else. Not neglecting the work we must do, but folding the time that it takes to be well-nourished into the fabric of each day as how we live. As in the difference between stuffing something edible into our mouth for a quick morning breakfast or taking the time to eat in a way that fully nourishes us, not simply in the food itself, but in the experience itself, of slowing down, eating with appreciation, delight, gratitude for the meal and how it came to us.
Tending to the nourishing of body, mind, and spirit contributes to our well-being and it is from this place of well-being that we become conscious and present to healthy offerings that we might bring to the world. That there can actually emerge within us healthy, ripe, offerings, tender and helpful.
The challenge of the weeks and months before me of course is to remain well-nourished. To not allow the precious gifts of the nourishing space of true rest to fall into neglect, and thus I become malnourished. Dry sponge. Dry well.
The breath enters and leaves my nostrils as I sit in the spaciousness of meditation. I count 1…2…3… 4... labeling each breath, until the sudden recognition that I’ve lost track of it all, drifted off into random thoughts.
Mindful of noting when I have lost track, when the water in the well is running low I shall offer myself compassion -- just as I do in meditation -- for recognizing where I am. This is the practice.
And begin again: watering the sponge, filling the well. Breathing. 1... 2... 3… 4….
What is Nourishing Me:
Reading: Poetry of Presence II - Phyllis Cole-Dai & Ruby R. Wilson, Editors. Nearly 140 poems that evoke mindfulness by contemporary or recent poets.
Watching: Cunk On Earth, a five-part British mockumentary that addresses world history and inventions in ways that are both pointed and hilarious.
Learning from: The nature of a mountain, as I hiked this summer.
Bringing me joy: The sight of pink and fushia August blooms on crepe myrtles.
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