Monarch Meditations on Butterfly Warriors

Rock and Hard place 1014

It is just dark, the morning darkness that precedes every dawn, the stillness before the splash of the sun that becomes the light of day. This is the pause—the moment of stillness—before the stirring begins yet again.

Most mornings I immerse myself into the stillness—my meditative state I call it—for when I do, there is a shimmer to the day that seems to rub off onto me as well.

Yet, there are days upon leaving my sleep state that I am aware of a mind-body consensus considering “what if we just rest today” and not really awaken. Mind knows that skipping meditation means body will not have to stretch itself with yoga.

There is a cascade of memories—perfect in their replaying of such lazy pleasure—of what past days of rest have meant: comfort food, marathon movie watching, binge reading.

It is the escape offered to the day at hand. Almost always, I decline the escape route. But every time I do, there is an acknowledged appreciation for what that escape once meant. It remains an old friend rarely visited.

Instead, I sit and remember the warrior monarch butterfly, a true bodhisattva and a welcome memory on the mornings I hesitate to meditate. The complete metamorphosis of the butterfly reminds me why I meet each day I am given.

It is the butterfly who gives up one way of life after another—each stage fraught with life-ending possibilities—for to fly is to know the freedom of walking on air. From the stillness of the larva the caterpillar stirs to its search for sustenance, consuming one leaf after another.

There is a reward for all this eating, and it is not one of rest but rather it is the spinning of a pupa—the chrysalis—a chamber of life as tissue, limbs, and organs of a body that once crawled become a body that now flies.

No new life emerges until the old is transformed into what is necessary for the life that awaits.

And for the monarch warriors, there is a 2,500-mile migration critical to its survival, a quest that relies not on individual warrior monarchs but on all monarch warriors living their lives to ensure the species.

Safety in Numbers 1014

The monarch warrior moves through one form of life after another without wondering about the ways of existence. Such consideration falls within the realm of the human species.

We yearn to be like the monarchs, warriors working together, not singularly, to ensure our species survival. We might ache for metamorphosis but we do not easily let go of our accumulated experiences, especially those that seem to require so much of us.

“We don’t want to go through that again,” we say, which we won’t, of course, not exactly. Perhaps the monarch warrior does know this.

We want to spread our wings without changing who we are. We are agreeable to making necessary changes—an adjustment of our very being—as long as we are allowed to keep what is most dear.

We may not be as fearless or as selfless as the warrior monarch but we are just as connected to existence. We are born with the capacity for complexity rather than the singularity of purpose of the warrior monarch.

I have to wonder just what the warrior monarch might know for it is my nature to wonder. And so I do. On most mornings in the stillness before the stirring begins yet again.

In the Presence of Coffee and Oatmeal

Each morning, I drop into a reverie that is becoming more routine than not. It occurs after my meditation and yoga practice but before that meditative state settles into my day.

It is a time in-between, this hour between the dog and the wolf, this waking up to the day Bloom of Peace 0613where thoughts define what must be done but being present provides the focus.

Breakfast often serves as a bridge for the meditative state to make its way into my day. A steaming bowl of oatmeal and coffee brewing simultaneously reach a point requiring a similar action, to pour.

The thought of pouring defines what is required but being present focuses the thought, which is either to pour almond milk into a steaming bowl of oatmeal or to pour freshly brewed coffee into a mug. If the general thought of pouring swirls between oatmeal and coffee, what was one or the other might just become another.

Such coffee-in-the-oatmeal mornings bring reality to our attention, courtesy of the meditative state. The realization of what has occurred intensifies our focus on what might happen next. This shape shifting of our lives uncovers us.

Give your real being

a chance

to shape your life.

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj~

Mindfulness does not multi-task but awakens us to where we are, to what we are doing. It is a snapshot, a jolt of opportunity to consider the untried, the untested. When our real being emerges, it is an hour between the dog and the wolf not so much of reverie but of reality.

I have many coffee-in-the-oatmeal mornings and just recently, I watched a writing life I had envisioned evaporate. The writer I was trying to be was not the writer I am. It was just that basic. I was trying so hard to secure a writing life not meant for me that I almost missed living the writing life I have.

I used to think I wrote because there was something I wanted to say. Then I thought, ‘I will continue to write because I have not yet said what I wanted to say’; but I know now I continue to write because I have not yet heard what I have been listening to.

~Mary Ruefle, “On Secrets”~

Footprints 1013

I am not a writer of fiction but for years fiction is what I thought I heard yet no center of any story I wrote ever held.

In my poetry, prose crowded meter, and the lines went flat. I did not distinguish what I heard.

Some sentences stand alone until the day they pour into a single paragraph not about one or the other but another, like coffee in oatmeal. For me, this shifting of my writer’s shape is my awakening to the writer I am.

Rather than hearing story or rhyme as one or the other I hear another, a beat in-between, a meditation on the story of a human being, sometimes a verse worthy of song.

If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation.

~ J. Krishnamurti ~

The Laying Away of the Dark

Such a morning this has been, beginning in the promise of darkness, for rising before dawn is to witness the laying away of the dark for the light.

I sit meditation, as I do every morning; I have come to rely on this hour of silence. This morning is not a sitting of insight but of “monkey mind,” one thought tumbling on top of another. It is a busy stillness. When the timer goes off, I mutter something to the effect of “that was difficult—again.”

Yet, something nags so I sit a moment in review. Ah, yoga dropped in near the end of my sitting, specifically my Peggy Cappy Easy Yoga for Arthritis DVD. I have owned it for three years; so far, it has been mostly a good intention.
Waverly Preening 0813

The yoga DVD dropped in during a moment of open awareness meditation, meaning my focus was on neither emotion nor sensation but on pause, a true gap between thoughts, before the emotion returned.

For some time now I have been sitting with the feeling of bittersweet, for the sensations of loss and gratitude swirl just beyond me. In this particular morning, I am in search of its energy but eddies of distraction, proven pools of fear, bring me to the surface of my breath, entangled in old story lines.

Once again, I do not reach the pure energy at the core of bittersweet.  It has been like this for a while, this sitting or almost sitting with bittersweet. In open awareness, I sense the light of the day, and in drops the thought of the yoga DVD.

It is not a surprise for one of the effects of this last lupus flare is a significant reduction in my physical activity, in particular taking my beloved morning walk. It is still a possibility but it is not benefitting me, as it once did. My joints ache to stretch but not to pound the ground, no matter the distance. In fact, I have spent the last two days recovering from a stroll around Waverly Pond.

And just as the Waverly story line started up, my meditation timer went off. That is what I remember from my morning’s sitting.

She Who Must Not Be DisturbedThe day is now more light than dark but there is not yet a sunrise. Feline EmmaRose is sitting meditation in the bedroom doorway. She Who Must Not Be Disturbed knows I will remain in the bedroom until otherwise directed.

As I have rested for two days, there is no body rebellion this morning. The physical stillness of sitting meditation is always a physical boon, for in meditation the body is allowed to awaken gradually. The yoga DVD is next to the decade-old television set. There is nothing for it except to insert the disc.
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I am familiar with most of the yoga poses, and Peggy Cappy encourages individual adaptation, much like Pema Chodron suggests meditation position adaptation. Yet, foremost in my mind is to stop the yoga poses at the first sign of discomfort. The thought is reminiscent of my early days with meditation.

For the first time in three years, I participate in the entire yoga session. As with the first time I stayed sitting meditation, I do not note the length of time nor its passing.

As I look out my bedroom window, the sun is high in the sky, shimmering off the leaves of the willow. An aquamarine vine snakes its way along the lower limb of a Ponderosa pine, reaching for the willow.

I remember many mornings, distant now but not really that long ago, when morning meditation was hit and miss, anything but integral to beginning the day. Then, I was determined to make each day fit my plan, and each day began with a morning walk. I smile.

A familiar feeling of surrender washes over me, embraced with total acceptance. The darkness of loss gives way to gratitude for mornings such as these.