The Holiday Pounce or the Cat is on Steroids

Sometimes the holiday season is just upon me, unannounced points of light pristine as newly fallen snow. It is joy uncontained, this magic of my holiday heart, a music all its own.

This year, I am very like the boy in “Walking in the Air.” The music is new to me but in England it is a beloved Howard Blake song written for the 1982 television adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman.  It is a traditional holiday favorite.

Perhaps that is how holiday traditions are made. New only one time and for all the holidays yet to come, remembered, sometimes as magic.

In ways unforeseen, feline EmmaRose and I are exploring our own version of walking in the air. In keeping with the title of this post, she is on steroids. For that matter, so am I.

It has not been what I would have anticipated for either one of us.

At Rest 0215

As you can see, most flights of fancy are in EmmaRose’s dreams. That said, there are moments the catnip mouse flies through the air, ever prey to EmmaRose’s declawed but deft paws. Usually, a serious nap follows. This has always been her way.

EmmaRose has reached a certain age where chronic inflammation in her gastrointestinal tract is now permanent. Prednisone gives EmmaRose a chance to keep her life as she has known it. In all things, same old, same old is EmmaRose’s idea of walking in the air.  The even keel is her joy.

As a woman of a certain age with an increasing number of chronic health conditions, I, too, aim for the joy of even. Every morning I check our respective steroid doses on the daily calendar. EmmaRose’s is in liquid form, which she prefers dribbled on flakes of tuna.

I take my tablets with warm, lemon water and set the timer for an hour. I meditate; EmmaRose naps.

Meditating on steroids is not a busy blur. Just the opposite, actually.  In the opalescent hours, dark and not far from morning–dawn’s assurance lurks–my body stills into one breath after another.

Inflammation signals, initially insistent as pain, ebb. More like soft points of light than not. Tramadol fans the flames of burning joints into embers as Gabapentin wends its way through the maze of misfiring nerves.

Within the hour, my body finds its balance to begin the day.  There will be constant shifts as medicine and body seek mutual agreement. Cooperation is fluid.

I am “floating in the midnight sky,” glimpsing the possibilities a life with traditional medicine may offer. The points of light are innumerable. Such is the dawn of change.

But even change will not stay. One cannot hold onto the midnight blue for it is only a moment’s ride. Always, the magic lasts just long enough for us to remember to believe.

Whether or not we go walking in the air is our choice. We can enrich our experience as much or as little as we choose. We are not confined by what our bodies can or cannot do.

Our most powerful tool—our curiosity, our ability to imagine—is what wraps and re-wraps the world so that it once again is new and shiny.

To go walking in the air is to “take the world by surprise,” to open our arms to joy, believing nothing is impossible. It only takes a moment to believe. And then our feet touch the ground.

To accept that walking in the air is as necessary as keeping our feet on the ground is to know joy, ours to live or not.

It is a game of catnip mouse with declawed paws.

It is the awe of experiencing each moment for none can ever stay.

Sometimes we walk in the air. Sometimes our footsteps are one in front of the other, grounded. It is an ever shifting balance.

Happy holidays. You are all points of light.

Life as a Juggler

The act of living, breath by breath, is our practice, unique to each one of us and universal to all. Our practice is what we do with the life we have. In some form or another, this idea has always framed the way I live.

where now 0425

There were the decades that I brandished about the label of 19th century romantic, comfortable in believing that life is in the striving and the arriving is secondary. It was my variation of Emerson’s “life is a journey not a destination.”

For me, however, arriving was important. It meant goal accomplished, an item checked off my list. Age has shown me that the value of a list is in its items. If the items reflect our practice, every day is a fresh read of our life list.

These days, my list is limited to four: compassion, loving-kindness, joy, and equanimity for all in all things. This universal list is inherent in every major spiritual tradition, eastern or western. They are not items to check off but to practice in every experience I have.

What we give to the world is our daily practice; it reveals how we are doing.  At the age of 90, cellist Pablo Casals said he continued to practice, “’because I think I am making progress.’” Practice is personal first and public second.

 To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.
Corita Kent

I came late to practice and its heart, discipline, but I arrived.  My daily practice of meditation and yoga bring me to my list of compassion, joy, love, and gratitude every morning. Some days, I can see progress but there are many days of practice for its discipline.

In the thick of it 0425

Discipline helps me as a writer and as a chronically ill person, as my life not only constantly changes but expands in ways I never imagined. Yet, the list that guides my life stays the same. No longer interested in striving or arriving, I perceive my life through perspectives new and bold. My discipline is not manipulating my state of being but being in my life as it unfolds.

My life and my list differ from yours yet it is the practice of our lives that connects us. Together, we are coloring existence for every other form of life.

In my life practice, meditation is more than a matter of sitting in stillness. It really is a matter of “changing postures,” as Ajahn Chah called it, bringing stillness into the chaos of every day as life unfolds, moment by moment, nanosecond by nanosecond.

I am learning to juggle rather than to struggle, no matter how many balls are in the air. I need only watch one at a time to keep all the rest in the air, allowing attention to each in its turn. It is my practice of the list that is my life.

Juggling for space 0414

A Matter of Practice

Since I began practicing present moment awareness, I have known dark moments, even despair at times. It’s not as if the mere practice of present moment awareness means all is light for not all is nor ever was.

KMHuber; Dark Moments; Waverly Pond; Tallahassee

Present moment awareness allows me to attend the dark and light in me, to place every moment under scrutiny without fear of shattering illusions or poking at beliefs still circumspect. Light only illuminates the truth, even in the dark. There is no need to cling to any moment for any longer than it lasts.

Practicing present moment awareness turns the uncertainty of the unknown into the possibility of opportunity. It is “being here now” as Ram Dass has told us.

In one way or another, I write about present moment awareness in every blog post, perhaps even write around it at times. Yet, within the last couple weeks my present moment awareness practice has changed. Less and less, do I discover myself in past meanders or future scenarios. Dark or light, I am more now than not.

Musing CatPerhaps it is because I am finally writing the old woman novel, not plotting, considering structure, or writing reams of back story. No, I am telling a story, which requires specificity, focus, “being here now.”

Certainly, some sentences and scenes are more ragged than others in this initial draft, but the present moment awareness of the novel’s world is seeping into my real life practice. That has my attention as well.

When I enter the world of the old woman, I meet her fears–fear moves a story along quite nicely–while her story is not my story, fear is an emotion magnet. When a character reveals fear to me, I am attracted into her moment by my own reservoir of fear.

Some days, the connection with the old woman takes my breath away, and I am blown back in time to one uncomfortable moment after another until I turn my attention to the old woman’s story, the vehicle into and out of my past. Only through the telling of her story am I able to close the doors she opens so easily.

At one time I believed my characters spoke to me but since I began my meditation practice, that belief no longer serves. To be clear, I do not hear voices when I write or when I meditate. It is much quieter than that. Frankly, stillness suits either practice as awareness or mindfulness has a practical application, at least for me.

In my daily meditation practice, there is stillness, a “gap between thoughts” as Deepak Chopra calls it, different than when I write but similar, too. My meditation precedes my writing practice; my mind is quiet as it enters the world of the old woman.

Physically, I am refreshed, deliberate in each hand movement, a uni-tasker, as I do not type. I use voice recognition software to write the story–the only voice I hear is my own–relaying observations and marking moments in an old woman’s life as I come to know her story.

Every day, the hours I spend in my meditation/writing practice increase. It is changing how I am in “the real world,” although I cannot characterize just what the effect is, not yet.

KMHuberImage; Meditation Cat;

The only change is that my cat, EmmaRose, now meditates with me more often than not. At five and half pounds, she is more like a neck scarf than a cat around my neck or on my chest. Our meditation posture is a leaning back position rather than the more traditional cross-legged sit–for now. With constant practice comes constant change.