Keeping Account

ladybug on gerbera My need to keep account of the days is powerful. I get up and open the computer and immediately start mapping out the day. Or reviewing the day before. It’s an obsession. Like events are suddenly solid and secure when I put them down on paper. I did this. I thought this. I believe this. I want this. There you go, clear as Rudolph’s nose. I want, therefore I exist.

On the surface, this daily “keeping account” seems kind of adolescent. I kept a diary in junior high and high school, diligently recording every event and offense I endured. Although I have not quite out grown high school drama and yearning, these days my daily accounting almost always leads into insights, openings, ideas, and even new awareness about my life. In the Astanga yoga tradition, this practice is called svadyaya, which means self-study.

And that’s exactly what these daily accountings have become for me. A way to step back and examine at myself, what I’m doing, how I’m thinking, what causes me to suffer or to feel joy. It’s a good way to take a step back from the immediacy and fullness and rush of daily living and get clarity about what is really going on around me—and inside me. This habit grounds me in the world, makes me more alive to the tiny textures and contours of my day, the lovely ten-thousand things that can easily be lost in the busy-ness of life. It slows me down and creates presence with the details of existence.

Is it any wonder that I crave it first thing in the morning, more than good coffee?

So today, I ask you about your own method for keeping an account of how things are going for you?  Of how you are connected to your own life.  Of where things stand for you.   Is there some small daily practice that grounds you and makes you feel solid in your body—and connected to this world? Your eyes open, your senses alive, your heart ready and open for what the Tao Te Ching calls “the ten-thousand things,” the myriad manifestations of the world?

There are lots of ways it can be done, if such a habit would be appealing to you. Some people keep a gratitude journal, a habit I highly recommend. I actually begin my daily accountings with a gratitude list. It sets the mind in a positive direction.

My friend Berta calls her adult daughters every morning. Of all my friends, she’s the uber-mother, and touching base with her girls grounds her and makes her feel solid.

Marylou takes a walk in her beautiful garden every morning. Slow and easy, she walks down the slopping strip of grass and purveys the beauty that rises up anew every day. It opens her heart and connects her with nature, situating her solidly into her life of beauty and joy.

Many dog owners start the day with a walk with their furry companion. If you want to get grounded in the joys of tiny things, I highly recommend this technique. I watch closely my girl Dash as she greets the morning, excited about every leaf, branch, squirrel, blade of grass–like she’s so happy and surprised to find the world is still here for her to explore. “Look Mom!” she seems to say as she bounds out the door for our morning walk.  “The world is still here for us!”   Talk about daily gratitude:  she embodies it.  And after an intense period of nose-to-ground, she actually looks up at the stunning Florida blue sky, amazed that it’s there, too, once again. “The sky! The sky! Oh Mom, just look at that beautiful sky.”

I live with a practicing Taoist!

I’m talking here about an early morning practice that leads us out of our dream life and situates us consciously into our so-called solid life. It’s helpful to create small rituals that re-establish the body, the mind, and the spirit in this world of awe and wonder.

What is your ritual? What daily recognition of mind and body really helps you feel full and alive and grounded in this world?  We build a life-landscape by scaling the mountains of challenge and ambition, by relishing the peaks of happiness and accomplishment, and by maneuvering the rocky trails of grief and loss.  But the color, texture, and contour of our landscape are established moment by moment in our recognition of joy and aliveness in the ten thousand things that present themselves to us every day.

Some people say that being alive is a gift.  I say it’s a practice.  Every day, choose a practice that allows you to take account of the wondrous things.

Thanks for stopping by the LifeArt Studio today.  I wish for you an artful day!

 

Photo credit:  Vanessa Pike-Russell via Compfight

3 thoughts on “Keeping Account

  1. Charlotte

    This is beautiful and so poignant! My two sweet mutts, absolutely, teach me the gratitude you mention in their “practice” every day. My own tends to come in the form of a moving meditation (yoga) or quiet time in my home office, which I have carefully designed to be a calming, beautiful space. I light a candle, sit comfortably but tall, breathe, and write. These are precious moments that steel me for the chaos ahead.

    I’m not sure how related this is, but my morning reading today included a passage I can’t stop thinking about. From Scott Jurek’s “Eat and Run”: “Wise Buddhist teachers advise pilgrims to chop wood and carry water until they encounter blinding, transformational epiphany. After that moment of electric bliss, the teachers say, chop more wood and carry more water.”

    Most days, I need my morning practice so that I can chop more wood, carry more water.

  2. Wendy

    In this new year, I seem to have set a pattern for sunrise watching. I fill the antique milk jug with filtered water from the refrigerator and pour it into the electric kettle, readying the insulated French press pot with the required coffee grounds. More often then not, I forget to press the start button on the kettle and settle in at my desk with a glass of cold water, staring out at the lake, watching the clock on my computer screen, wondering if the darkness hides a shroud of fog over the water or the promise of a clear and startling sunrise. I don’t call my adult children at such an early hour, but I often send them emails, checking in, reaching out. And my list seems to take the form of a string of queries, an assessment of sorts: does anything linger from my dreams? Do I have any emotional hangover (or undone chores or unsent mail) from yesterday? I give thanks for the new day and think my way through the hours before me. How will I parcel it out? How much time will I allow to just let go, to see what unfolds? And so I begin.

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