I keep a book by the bedside called “The Way It Is: New and Collected Poems” by William Stafford.

I pick it up when I want to feel more grounded. I pick it up when I need the consolation of plainspoken sensibility.

More often than not that consolation comes from a return visit to this simple meditation on the progression of the day. Like a thread tied to a fingertip it tugs me into the recognition that every day is an entire life. I need not wonder or worry about then and there because here and now holds everything.

The Light By The Barn

The light by the barn that shines all night

pales at dawn when a little breeze comes.

A little breeze comes breathing the fields

from their sleep and waking the slow windmill.

The slow windmill sings the long day

about anguish and loss to the chickens at work.

The little breeze follows the slow windmill

and the chickens at work till the sun goes down—

Then the light by the barn again.

DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

That Time, Again

I’m a little over a month into this very specific morning ritual:

1. Wake up! (No email. Very important!)

2. Light a candle as a focal point for my experience.

3. Ten minutes of what I will loosely call “movement” – a series of Qigong exercises to wake up my body and brain.

4. Five minutes to read a daily meditation passage. (This is found on my phone – in my email inbox – so the potential for distraction is massive. Most days, I do OK but the overnight headlines, text messages or “alerts” can be tough to get by.)

5. Ten minutes of breathing meditation to reflect on the passage I just read.

6. Blow out the candle.

7. Pet the dog who has inevitably come over to hang out with me.

8. Pour first cup of coffee.

9. Sit down to write my daily blog post. Usually beginning with a review of photos to stimulate my thinking.

10. Pour second cup of coffee.

11. Pray for inspiration now that time is running short.

I am gratified to report that this routine has become exactly that, a routine. At home or on the road it is something I can replicate. It is reliable and meaningful, mainly I think because it works. It helps me start my day with the kind of intention and focus I want to have throughout the entire day. And when I am inevitably thrown off course during the day – either because my thinking gets polluted or my energy flags – I can call back to the memory of the immediate past and find consolation there for what I have already accomplished. I will readily admit, I have fallen back on that consolation many times.

What I began to notice this week, however, is what I call the “Groundhog Day” effect. Every morning, the same. It’s a little weird to wake up each day at precisely the same time knowing that I am about to do precisely the same thing in precisely the same way. Of course, the meditation I read is different each time and what I end up writing is different each time but the process itself, the same. Just like in the movie it feels both strange and unsettling and, in moments of revelation, deeply comforting. At its essence it means that I am here, again, with another chance to get it right.

Yes, that’s evaluative. Please don’t hear it as self-critical. There is a significant difference between the two. I am proud of myself for developing and sticking to this ritual. Because I am beginning to feel the very real benefits of doing so I am hungry to keep making more of it, to keep improving my attention so that I can create even more space in both my head and my heart for the opportunities, both human and otherwise, I will encounter throughout the day.

One last thought, and it is directly connected to item number one above. This all started in a decision I made last fall not to check my phone – email, texts, news, etc. – until I had started my day in a more “thoughtful” way. Since I use my phone as my alarm clock it was so seductive – once that device was in my hand – to lie there, half-awake scrolling through the overnight ephemera. Honestly, searching for some validating note of opportunity on which I could hang the purpose of my day. Tired of this habit I began to build a new one, creating a sequence of events that could ultimately provide a new, more powerful source of purpose.

Like everything else worthwhile in life, it started small – grounded in a simple and clear intention – and slowly became something I could build from and rely on. As I see it, as long as the “wake up” part keeps happening I have a responsibility to do my best with it. Right now, this is an essential part of bringing my “best” to life.

Tomorrow, again.

Meditation: Week Three (Belated)

I completed Deepak Chopra‘s 21-day meditation challenge about a month ago. As I chronicled in two earlier posts, it was an affirming, useful, challenging and compelling exercise. I debunked my personal myth about meditation, proving to myself that I could do it and, more than that, experiencing the benefits of holding a guiding thought with me throughout a given day. If you start your day, for example, with the suggestion to “offer a gift to everyone you meet” it changes your interactions in a fundamental way.

Having said that, I’m sitting here a month later wondering why I didn’t make it to day 22. As I suggested might happen, once I “met the challenge” my commitment to the practice dropped off immediately. I had nothing left to prove. I simply stopped.

So, in the spirit of honest reflection bordering on self-criticism I have a few questions:

1. If it takes 21 days to form a new habit why didn’t that happen here? (Come to think of it I’ve also heard that it takes 28 days to form a new habit so maybe my experiment is useful in resolving that question)

2. Did my need for variety overwhelm my need for contemplative practice? My intention for day 22 was to go back to the beginning of the series and just start over again. It made sense as an idea because clearly I wasn’t going to soak up every nuance and every word of every session the first time around. In practice however it was a useful reason to avoid continuation. I could have rented, borrowed or purchased another series but that didn’t dawn on me at the time. Curious.

3. Did I just need the structure during a very unstructured time? Deepak was a sure companion through most of the first month of my transition to a new professional life. Now that this new life is starting to take some shape has he become one of those situational rather than life-long friends?

4. Is there something I don’t want to sit with? Maybe I didn’t like being responsible to “bring a gift to every one I meet” especially considering that I’m not very gracious with myself when I fail to do things that I’m “supposed to do.” Why keep doing something that makes you feel bad, especially when the “bad” thing is supposed to make you feel good?

5. Do I just not want to? Maybe, just maybe, I’m so conditioned to be a “doer” – to be in motion; to be in action; to trust the tangible results of measurable activities (like exercise) – that I need more than 21 days to believe there are other ways (sitting quietly, being present and breathing? Really?) to achieve health and well-being.

What I know for sure is this: my patterns are consistent regardless of the circumstances. And, they were years (YEARS) in the making. Since I’ve been learning about, managing and adjusting those patterns for most of my life, I know well enough that three weeks of a basic meditation practice isn’t going to make much of a dent.

Anybody have a three-year meditation series I can borrow?

Meditation: Week Two

Last week I wrote about my first week following a guided meditation series led by Deepak Chopra. The fact that I am writing about my experience after week two is testament to the quality of the experience and to my own resolve to complete the “21-day challenge.” It’s more than a challenge now. It’s something I am eager, if not always easily able to fit into my day. It settles me in a way I’m not practiced in and I’m grateful for it: another source of support for managing my impulsive reactions to the unpredictable world I inhabit every day.

In week two, the focus was on the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Chopra’s book of the same name. I’ve listed them briefly below in the hope of encouraging you to explore them further. They are simple, clear and compelling. I can only imagine what the pursuit of my vocation would look and feel like if I was able to live them out in a fully authentic way.  As it is, I am committed to keep striving.

Right now, it feels worth it in every possible way.

The Law of Pure Potentiality

Our possibility and creativity are assured if we will take time to be silent, to just BE. Silently witness the intelligence within every living thing. Practice non-judgment.

The Law of Giving

Today, bring whoever you encounter a gift: a compliment or a flower. Gratefully receive gifts. Keep wealth circulating by giving and receiving care, affection, appreciation and love.

The Law of Karma

Every action generates a force of energy that returns to us in like kind. Choosing actions that bring happiness and success to others ensures the flow of happiness and success to you.

The Law of Least Effort

Accept people, situations, and events as they occur. Take responsibility for your situation and for all events seen as problems. Relinquish the need to defend your point of view.

The Law of Intention and Desire

Inherent in every intention and desire is the mechanics for its fulfillment. Make a list of desires. Trust that when things don’t seem to go your way, there is a reason.

The Law of Detachment

Allow yourself and others the freedom to be who they are. Do not force solutions—allow solutions to spontaneously emerge. Uncertainty is essential, and your path to freedom.

The Law of Dharma

Seek your higher Self. Discover your unique talents. Ask yourself how you are best suited to serve humanity. Using your unique talents and serving others brings unlimited bliss and abundance.