Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Eagle Butte

At the Heart of It: The inevitable variation of each day requires daily practice and preparation

Words well up and evaporate into the thirsty, fall air. Summer winds down, holding onto the days like winter clasped its hold this past spring. Even with climate change teasing us with extreme variations in a day, summer will fall, fall will freeze, and winter will have its way.

Meanwhile, we will wake each morning to our lives, dressed in layers, armed with umbrellas and hats, feet protected by flip flops and snow boots because that is what we do, we survive. We face the day prepared for what may come. 

When we do not prepare, we risk falling to ruin at worst. At best, we have back-up. 

Back-up could be that extra deodorant stashed at the back of the desk drawer, or toothbrush and toothpaste kept in the glove compartment of the vehicle. 

Back-up could come from a friend, who has a sweater in his or her office or locker for you to borrow.  

These physical elements of preparation and back-up, on a normal day, are fairly inconsequential. If you have no deodorant, you may stink for a day, but if you avoid high stress activities and working out, you can probably make it home at the end of the day with little harm done to you or anyone else. 

Sometimes we get so caught up in our daily physical needs that we forget to prepare mentally and emotionally for those surprises that have nothing to do with climate. 

How do we prepare for the emotional turmoil of a day? Some people pray. Some people workout. Some people take drugs. 

Mentally and emotionally preparing for one’s day is as important as physically preparing for the day. 

I have slowly been able to identify the negative thoughts that creep into my mind after I blink my eyes open in the morning. They come without warning, strolling into a thought as I process the time and the list of actions I need to take to get to my points of destination throughout the day. 

They cause my stomach to churn and my heart rate to increase by increments. 

When I notice them sauntering in, I force myself to take slow, deep breaths — a technique we are all told to do at one time or another by coaches and counselors. So, I breathe deeply, counting to six during the inhale and to four during the exhale. All of my thoughts suspended, my heart rate decreases. 

Next, I go back to the actions I must take. I deny the negative thought entry into the thought process it just interrupted again. If it is persistent, then I take physical action and haul myself out of bed, move to the yoga mat, even if only for a few minutes to force my muscles to lengthen and relax, and again, I breathe. 

Many people use yoga or stretching as a means for meditation and prayer. It is a time to appreciate the body you have been given and to take care of it as it is so that it can be better today than it was yesterday. 

Mediation is just concentrating on one thing. Sometimes that thing is stillness. Other times it is the movement in the moment. When I am running, I concentrate on breathing and on my steps. I am not likely to notice anyone waving at me, as I am focused on the run, staying out of harm’s way, by watching my step and stepping, one foot after another, to the end of the run. 

This concentration is a form of meditation, as I let other thoughts come and go, like passers-by on a busy street. Even if they are familiar, now is not the time to sit and visit with them. Many people will pray at the end of the yoga exercise, sitting in stillness and silence, taking account of how they feel and what kind of day they plan to have. 

A shower and getting ready physically takes me to the breakfast table, the coffee mug and then the van door, and I move from the quiet to interactions with the rest of the world. 

Now that I have prepared myself to stay off the negativity, and practiced focusing on the business at hand, the rest of the day is easier to approach. I continue to breathe through the negative and stressful moments, I reshape negatives into neutrals or positives by looking at them in a different light or accepting them for what they are and finding ways to cope with them, eliminate them or move around them, and find something to smile about. 

This process has been made easier since my children have moved into adulthood and away from home, but it is a process I have tried to practice for a long time. 

There is something to be said for not having the responsibility of others on your heart and mind — the freedom from having to wake others and make sure they are ready for their days allows a person to concentrate on their own struggle more astutely. 

I was 27 when I became pregnant with my first child, and I was not ready for adulthood then, even though I thought I was. Even now, I struggle with adulting. 

Perhaps what we think is adulthood is really just an older, more experienced version of being human. This is what I tell my children, and I pray and live in a way that hopefully teaches them to be better sooner than I was. 

The oldest child of the family always make the mistakes others can learn from — he or she sets the example — like it or not. 

If we who are older do not hold ourselves to a higher standard, how can or why would our siblings, our children, or any of the generations that follow us do the same? 

Time and the weather are of the same boundless nature. They will happen without us. We must move and be prepared for whatever comes, for “it” will always come. 

Like summer into fall, fall into winter and winter into spring, the succession cannot be stopped. All we can do is prepare for the inevitable variation of any given day — physically, mentally, emotionally, and if all of that is taken care of, our spirituality will follow, as will those who come after us.