In Stillness, the World Awakens

It is still dark on this new day but what was night—despair–gives way to the light that is the hope of the new.

In some parts of the world, this particular day has already spent its light but where I live, the light only now gently overtakes the dark. It is my first moment of a day, fresh and unique.

I press the button to adjust the bed to a sitting position to begin meditating.  On more days than not, feline EmmaRose, all 5.5 pounds of her, makes herself comfortable on my soft belly.

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We begin together. She purrs, kneads my stomach, and then lies down to sleep or to stare out the bedroom window. I focus on my breath–in and out, in and out–I stare into the darkness as it becomes light.

I breathe my way into stillness as the world around me awakens. My body recognizes the opening of our daily dialogue.

A mind scan of my body reveals the concrete block stiffness from the previous day but as yet no pain stirs only tingling and numbness in my thumbs and index fingers. I begin there.

Tingling turns into the familiar electrical “bzzt” in the tip of my right thumb, then the left as well. Another “bzzt” charges through my right thumb and then through both index fingers.

I take a deep breath in an attempt to release my thumbs and fingers from the buzzing but the breath seems off, stale. My focus is on thought and not on breathing. Quickly, I attempt to exhale what I have not yet breathed in.

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For a while now I have been aware of this futile attempt to suppress a breath, as if I could. I breathe in fully this time so I may release completely  the fear that it is: my doubt of regaining the full strength of my thumbs and fingers.

As the fear breath goes through my upper body, its weakness seems to increase as does the stiffness in my legs. Only when it has traveled my body am I able to exhale fully what has no substance ever, fear.

Once again, I am one with my breath—in and out–as I sense each finger and then my thumbs until warmth flows through both hands releasing the  electrical “bzzt.” Stillness softens the stiffness of my upper body as it warms to the day.

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The pain in my right leg announces itself. It is a frequent caller so there is no fear as I focus on the pain, searching it out with my breath—in and out—until I reach its core.

We “sit” together for as long as it takes for the stillness to make its way through every cell of my body. I never know the precise moment that it stills, only that it does.

Now, it is the mind’s turn, a movie all its own.

A fragment of a Louise Erdrich quote is first to float through, something about  sitting under an apple tree to “listen to the apples falling all around…in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.”

In the stillness, an entire world awakens around me in this day that is now bursting with light, inviting me to partake in all I can as I am able. It is a gift to taste the sweetness of a new breath and in gratitude, let it go as it must.

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Feline EmmaRose decides to stir, sometimes to bathe but other times, just to get on with her day. And as happens more often than not, her movement coincides with the ding of the timer silencing the stillness.

I try to hold it, of course, but like the breath, it, too, must leave. And in response, my body sends signals from everywhere, announcing this issue or that. I am ready to taste the apples of this day, to savor as much sweetness as I am able.

As long as you are breathing, there is more right with

you than wrong with you no matter what is wrong.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

15 thoughts on “In Stillness, the World Awakens

  1. So lovely, Karen–the moment by moment awareness. I wish this was the way I woke up: “I breathe my way into stillness as the world around me awakens. My body recognizes the opening of our daily dialogue.”


  2. You have done such a beautiful job embodying that unwelcome companion, pain, in words, and showing the quiet courage it takes to accept what is. If life is measured by the wisdom gained your life is rich. Such a great essay.


    1. Thanks, Adrian. I really am grateful for finding meditation. As you and I have discussed, it really has changed my relationship with pain. It is no longer a battle or in the Buddha’s words, I no longer suffer. Pain is a part of life but suffering is optional.


  3. I will save this to read again and again your description of breathing with and through your feelings and the sensations of your body. Thank you so much for your message of hope and the benefits of meditation for pain and discomfort.


    1. It has taken some time to get here, Robin, but it has changed my life, and that is not an exaggeration. I had to change my relationship with pain and meditation has done that, primarily–I think–by my relying on my breath to get me through. Obviously, it is a tool I always have so even out of the meditative state, I have a way to deal with pain. That gives me more confidence for the day and for that I really am grateful. Thanks so much, Robin!


  4. I love the daily inventory … the recognition of fears, and the awareness. I love that it’s followed by gratitude, and acknowledgement that fears and gratitude can co-exist this way. “I am ready to taste the apples of this day … ” so beautifully said.


    1. Gratitude does seem to make anything possible, at least for me. It is as if it levels the playing field so that the “inventory” (thank you for that) of any day holds a real sweetness. Thanks so much for stopping by, Eli, and thanks for the kind words about the post. Glad you enjoyed it.

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