Aim for Even: Bringing Zen Into Every Day

This is the beginning of my third year of blogging about bringing Zen, the “meditative state,” into every moment of every day. There is no one way to do this, as I have learned, but Zen is possible in any and every moment.

The meditative state is being engaged in life, immersed in it, actually. “When coming out of sitting, don’t think that you’re coming out of meditation, but that you are changing postures” (Ajahn Chah).

The act of meditating is to sit in stillness while the practice of yoga moves around the body’s fluids. In both, there is the sensation of being alive. Taking a meditative moment at the end of a yoga session allows the fluids to balance within the body. What was in motion is now in balance for the day.

The postures or positions we assume are unique to us as are our everyday responsibilities. We join with one another in many activities, especially in our work, but even our collective effort is comprised of the unique points of light that each one of us is. That is the meditative state, our own Zen, which we bring to life.

Bringing Zen into our every day may mean stops and starts for a river’s flow is not always smooth, choppy or a torrent but rather, it is steady and swirling simultaneously. Making the meditative state integral to our lives is to aim for even, to meet each moment for all that it is without looking ahead or behind.

To aim for even is to “…stop being carried away by our regrets about the past, our anger or despair in the present or our worries about the future” (Thich Nhat Hanh). Aiming for even is to maintain our balance through the rapids of our lives and to float on moments of reflection. One is not more than the other ever.

Aim For Even 1113

To aim for even is to throw off emotional weight past, present or future, to “…see that the emotions themselves arise out of conditions and pass away as the conditions change, like clouds forming and dissolving in the clear open sky” (Joseph Goldstein). Emotions have the substance of a cloud and the energy of the life force, pure and wakeful.

Bringing Zen to the every day is letting the clouds of emotion delight, darken, and dissipate. Emotional balance is more than shrugging off a difficult moment. It is accepting that the dark never stays and neither does the light. Life is impermanent eternally.

“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them” (Thich Nhat Hanh). To aim for even is to forego pre-conceived notions of what or how life should be. To meet each moment is to allow it to reveal itself in all that it is and then respond.

If we allow the meditative state to remind us that silence is always a response, we are able to immerse ourselves in all that comes to us for as long as it may take but not a moment longer for there is so much more to come.

In meditation, we watch thoughts come and go for that is the posture of the practice. In bringing Zen into the everyday, we allow moments to move through us rather than holding onto them.

These past two years of blogging have been rich years. So many of you have revealed to me perspectives I may not have otherwise considered or have ever discovered. Thank you for bringing Zen into my every day, reminding me to aim for even.

Walking Waverly in All its Wonder


It has been twelve weeks since I added a regular yoga practice to my life and ceased my daily, morning walks. The change was a gift from lupus. There have been few days that I did not participate in a full yoga flow and only a day or two that I did not practice at least one pose.

The gifts of yoga have been many and continue to come but I miss walking Waverly, a park I have come to know in all seasons. It is a trusted place. Admittedly, during most yoga sessions memories of Waverly drop in and out.

I hoped to return and have.

It is still too soon to tell whether or not a daily walk may return to my regular regimen but that I was able to walk all around the pond means Waverly is still a possibility from time to time. As often happens at Waverly, it was a walk of wonder for the wildlife is rich and varied. I like to think my return was noticed.

As the images reveal, all of the usual suspects came out, if not to say hello at least to give me a glance. I was especially thrilled to see this creature, whom I have only glimpsed twice before. On this day, there was patience for a portrait.Fox pose 1013

Turtle Row is especially populous on this bright fall morning with all sizes welcome. Snowy egrets walk water’s edge, sampling the bounty of the pond. As I cross the bridge, the falling leaves crackle as they catch a crisp, momentary breeze.

In every direction is awe for the seeing, and I gawk. After some time I realize I have assumed Mountain Pose or Tadasana: spine straight, knees together with toes pointed in slightly to even my stance, head lifted in full appreciation of just being at Waverly.
Snowy Egret in fall 1013

Among the many gifts of yoga is learning to move mindfully, neither straining nor restraining the body but moving according to its level of flexibility.  Yoga is my dialogue with my physical self; each movement opens my body to response. I have come to recognize the sensation of the flow of my own energy, my own Waverly.

In the real Waverly, my steps are deliberate—once I would have characterized them as slow—sinew connects muscle to bone in simultaneous stride, a mind-body connection. There is a light awareness of sensation with every breath, with every step.
Turtle Row in fall 1013

It is a familiar, meditative energy that I have come to appreciate for it is present in a moment of monkey mind or one of being with nature. Such a meditative state always serves, highlighting the sensation of the physical self as the mind drops in thought after thought.

Walking Waverly, I open to its energy, swinging my arms and flexing my fingers just because I can. Images of past yoga sessions drop in and out of my walk, as if to remind me of the first time I felt warmth coursing up and down my legs. It is the energy of life.

I remember that I have not always acknowledged the energy of my life. Just because I was able to walk did not mean I was mindful of my body movement in any regard. It is possible I am receiving another chance despite decades of inattention to my physical self other than to constantly demand of it.

So on this morning as I walk Waverly again, I am mindful of the wonder in every step.
Waverly shade 1013

On a Slow Boat to Fitness

“You may be a wonderful doodlekit” is the phrase that opened a February blog post a year ago, almost to the day. It was, of course, an unsolicited statement. In the year that has passed, I have not pursued whether or not I am or have ever been wonderful, a doodlekit or any combination of the two.

In that same February post, I considered my True Self versus my False Self (Mark Nepo) in light of having to cancel family travel plans and wondered whether I would ever be able physically to travel again. It remains a question but because of my progress this past year, there is a trip in the making. Whether it’s the first of many or the last, there is a trip.


In preparation, I have been increasing my physical activity, which is not to say the trip will require any rigorous hiking or extended walking. That is for most people it will not. For me, just being in airports will be an outing. Although I have made significant progress in mitigating my lupus and Sjogren’s syndrome symptoms, one of the reasons for my success is limited physical activity.

It is no exaggeration to say my exercise program began with walking around one room and then another, eventually graduating to short walks in a park with Cooper. My current recovery is in its third year, and now, my personal best is a thirty-minute walk, with most of my walks right at twenty minutes. Frankly, I’m delighted.

Heron on Turtle Row 0213

It may not seem like much but on my way to a level of health that is realistic after decades of disease, I appreciate progress in inches. As I have mentioned many times on this blog, the biggest advantage to chronic illness is that it keeps one physically in the moment, for no matter what occurs on one day, the next day dawns as if the previous day never existed. Frankly, I suspect that is true with or without disease but chronic illness provides a 24/7 mirror.

Having achieved a daily 15-20 minute walk for a month without any significant increase in inflammation or stress on my joints has me giddy with success. Now, I am attempting yoga. My introduction is through Peggy Cappy’s Yoga for People with Arthritis DVD. I highly recommend it.

While I have become accustomed to the fact that the line in the sand is in a different place every day, in my eagerness to begin every day anew, I have a tendency to be idealistic, my mantra in almost every project I attempt. Yoga is no different.

What I appreciate about the Cappy DVD is that it is divided into sections of different poses as well as warm-up exercises. In addition, there are great exercises for hands and fingers, perfect for anyone who uses any kind of electronic device. In the short time I have been doing these exercises, there has been a marked increase in my flexibility, so much so that I ignored the line in the sand.

Wood Stork at Waverly 0213

Rather than allow my body to adjust to the sitting poses and warm-up exercises, I went on to try the standing and sun salutation poses–Warrior One, Warrior Two and even Sitting Dog–within a few days my inflammation increased to a level I had not known in over a year. Not the fault of the DVD or any of the yoga poses just the False Self ignoring the True Self and each day’s line in the sand.

My bones and joints have taken a pounding for decades, first with one disease and then another, yet there is still an optimum level of health available to me. As Deepak Chopra says in Quantum Healing, chronic illness and aging have an effect on what that level of health will be. I see it as progress in inches but it is progress, nonetheless.

As I mark this first year of contemplating my True and False Selves, I have made enough progress to begin yoga, one pose at a time, and to attempt a cross-country trip as an avowed Uni-Tasker–one task, one moment. Maybe someday, a doodlekit….