Lately I’ve been having trouble sitting still. Oh, it’s always a challenge, but these days my body feels twitchy, impatient, my mind racing with its endless to do lists. So be it. I still need to sit down–the hardest part is sitting down–and never once have I ever regretted the five, ten, twenty minutes of stillness, even when I rise from my mat afterward, my mind still banging around like trapped bird. Certainly it helps to practice yoga before even attempting to sit down–though I don’t always have the luxury of carving an hour and a half out of my day. But here’s a question: is it a luxury? Just exactly how much better off am I–and everyone around me–when I have made sure to prioritize my practice? Just the other day, I was in the middle of a reverse triangle pose and realized that I was taking mental notes. I had forgotten all about breathing. Gotta cancel the dentist. Need to call that magazine editor. It got so bad that I actually stopped for a moment, walked from my yoga mat in my bedroom into my office and wrote a few things down. That way, at least, I could release my mind from the futile, slippery slope of holding onto thoughts. Breathe in, I am breathing in. Breathe out, I am breathing out. So simple, really. And so elusive.
While in Florida on this first stop of my book tour for Devotion, I’m staying with a friend I’ve known since eighth grade. She and I had lost touch over the years, and we’ve had a lot to catch up on. Husbands, children, dogs, careers, winding paths through young adulthood and now, midlife. As I write this, I’m sitting on her daughter’s bed in a room surrounded by cookbooks and yoga books–her two passions. My friend has become a gifted yoga teacher, and yesterday, before my book panel event, she led me through a beautiful yoga practice. What a full circle! Judy and I played field hockey on the same team in high school. (She was the team captain, I warmed the bench.) We went to the same Bar and Bat-Mitzvahs, pool parties, proms and graduations. And here we were–two mothers in our forties–doing yoga together by her pool, overlooking a Florida nature preserve. Near the end of our practice, she gave me a new meditation tool, one I hadn’t heard before: think to yourself, breathe in, I am breathing in. Breathe out, I am breathing out, said my high school friend. So simple, so powerful. I closed my eyes, heard the sound of rushing water, and felt the past and present touch hands.
Yesterday was a first. Michael, Jacob and I drove together to the airport, and then they got on one plane going in one direction, and I got on a different plane, going in another. We said our goodbyes at the gate–my men and I–and then I engaged in a process which has become increasingly second nature to me over the last few years. First, I settled in my seat, feeling edgy, a bit anxious, fearful, my mind full of “what-ifs”, but instead of succumbing to those feelings, I closed my eyes.
May you be safe, may you be happy, may you be strong, may you live with ease — I repeated silently, again and again as my plane took off. Safe, happy, strong, live with ease — over and over again, thinking about my husband and son. I knew I wasn’t praying–not exactly–but rather, expressing a wish, a fervent wish, that we all have safe travels. What else is there to do, really, but express these wishes? Earlier in the week, I had spoken with a wise friend who does a lot of traveling, who is constantly on planes heading away from her family. I asked her how she does it, and her response was this: I think about today, she told me. Only today, only this moment. I don’t get caught up in what I have to do tomorrow, or the next day, or the next. After all, we only have this. Right here, right now.
Devotion is a book written in 102 pieces, structured–depending on how you look at it–like a puzzle, a patchwork, a list. Truthfully, I have been feeling bereft ever since I finished it. Oh sure, I always feel a little at odds when I finish a book. I miss the characters in my novels. I have too much space in my head. But this…this is different. The years I spent writing Devotion were enormously absorbing, exciting, unnerving. The book is a spiritual journey–and like any spiritual journey, there is no end to it. There’s an end to the book, because the narrative of the book, crafted as it was, had come to it’s proper conclusion. But an end to the journey? I can’t imagine a point where I could ever possibly say: ok, this is good. I’m done now. The view from here suits me just fine. So I am going to continue the journey of Devotion, here in this blog. Welcome to 103 and beyond. Let’s continue the journey together.