'People romanticize their plans but dread the execution.
The magic you're looking for is in the work you're avoiding.'
I came across this quote the other day and was struck by the truth of it. As I go about my days doing the things I 'have to do,' I romanticize all the things I will do when I have the time: I'll cook or bake, I'll get some new native plants in the ground, I'll help put in another raised bed, I'll journal or write a blog post or essay, I'll play music, I'll meditate and practice yoga, I'll rest, I'll breathe, I'll do nothing at all.
But when the time comes, I have a sneaky habit of turning even the things I long to do into a chore, into a 'have to do,' a rift that leads quickly to an underlying discomfort, a quiet anxiety, an inability to be fully with what is, a stuckness or restlessness, a self-critique or judgment or fear.
It's these times that dropping into my breath and connecting with my body, with sensation, with the reality and truth of the moment, helps me to drop story lines, to interrupt thoughts stuck on a loop, to allow my breath to remind me to breathe, to drop into my heart, to touch into gratitude for what is. I like to align my inhales and exhales with phrases offered by Thich Nhat Hanh:
'Breathing in I calm my body, breathing out I smile; dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.'
Meditation is often thought of as something requiring a mat, a pillow or blanket, a silent house, a clean space, a clear schedule. And how lovely it is when all of these things are available to us at once - and how rare. If we put off our connection to moment and self until all of these elements align, when we make 'breathe' and 'be still' and 'be present' items on the to-do list, future tasks, we'll likely not get to them very often, if at all.
But in truth we can practice meditation at any time - while cleaning or showering, emailing or driving, walking or gardening or cooking. And once we've tapped into the present moment, once we've become aware of our thoughts and perhaps allowed them to clear, if only for a moment, we may find ourselves being led quietly and gracefully into what is actually needed most - whether it's delving into the to-do list or feeling something we've been pushing away and allowing it to pass or connecting with a person or animal or plant or place...maybe it even leads us into that meditation on the mat after all.
Perhaps this is what is meant by finding the flow; perhaps it's magic.
Today I felt that familiar underlying struggle and allowed it to serve as a reminder to breathe, to drop the story line, to notice habitual thoughts, to feel what was needed in the moment...which for me this afternoon was baking granola - one of my favorite things to do, once I can get myself there.
And then I allowed the process of baking to be my meditation.
I notice my breath as I remove from the shelf mason jars filled with oats and pecans and almonds, with pumpkin seeds and shredded coconut and dried cranberries. I draw my awareness to each of these ingredients, noticing their colors and textures, the sounds they make as I combine them together in my mixing bowl, the way they blend as I stir.
I notice when my mind wanders from these sensations and I've drifted into auto-pilot, going through the motions without really being there. Perhaps I notice where my mind has gone (resisting the tendency to get lost in self-study), but more importantly I simply return gently to my breath, to my body, to sensation of standing in my kitchen making granola on this lovely on-the-cusp-of-fall day, of my feet rooted to the earth beneath me, of temperature and feel of air on my skin, of music playing softly and the sway of my body, of light pouring in through the window, of colors and patterns and textures outside. As I do I feel in my heart a quiet surge of recognition, of gratitude.
I allow myself to be embraced by the soulful smells of maple syrup and olive oil, brown sugar and honey and vanilla, cardamom and cinnamon, sea salt and lemon zest as they warm and simmer and bubble and meld together. I allow these sensations to draw me back to the moment with its beauty and truth as again and again my mind tries to escape the present, tries to make or review my to-do list, tries to replay a previous conversation or interaction or lecture and come up with a different outcome. I resist the tendency to judge my mind for its antics, to associate my self with my thoughts, instead just allowing the breath to bring me back, again and again, over and over.
I taste the warm aromatic mixture before I pour it over my oats and nuts and seeds, allowing for this moment of joy and delight; I consider the origins of each ingredient and its connection to place and people and process, I consider my own connection to place and people and process, I remember that everything is connected; I watch as this recognition fills me with love.
I try to relish in the pauses between steps in the process, to resist filling those spaces with quick tasks, to let go of the urge to check email or social media, to allow myself to be still, remembering that to rest and to pause in a culture that prizes exhaustion and constant busy-ness is a radical act. I am aware of the warm, earthy aroma filling my kitchen and my house and my body; I breathe it in, I breathe it out.
I feel the warmth of the oven, I feel the heat as I stir, I taste and really taste,
I feel the sensation of nourishment and abundance and warmth in my body,
and for everything I am grateful.