Discipline

The cries begin suddenly from the room next door. Our house is small, each space intimate to the other; it is less than ten steps to his crib, where I pick him up gently. His heaviness settles like silence in my arms. We lay down - he nurses, then rolls away, asleep again. I hardly want to take him away from the warm bed to the place he now prefers to sleep, but I bend my body, sway to the crib, and settle him inside.

It is 5:09am. My eyes bleary and my head achey, I walk into the kitchen and turn on the oven. Soon, I will be dropping off breakfast for 22 hungry boys at the retreat center I love. I will pay attention to the people coming and going in these early hours as I drive through the heart of my hometown. I will nurse my baby when I return. I will take a hasty shower (blowing kisses back and forth with my boy while he leans on the tub), sit mindfully with my husband for ten minutes, connect about our day, then go to work.

Rising with the sun calls to my mind the millions of beings waking at the very same time. Whether their bodies compel them naturally or their will forces movement, when all is aligned toward life within a creature, the instinctive direction is growth. My domestic and mundane rituals may seem like lesser rites than chanting great prayers or joining in ancient songs, but they are the disciplines that, when I practice them in surrender, become deep teachings.

Each time I pass a certain opening in the woods near my house - a small wilderness in the heart of the suburbs - I look to see if the deer are there. Each time I pass a certain spot on the expressway, a place where the world of speed and concrete comes close to that ephemeral, slow realm of the natural, I look for the deer, too. My husband says the early morning is the best time to see them. No matter the time of day, I look. This, too, is a discipline: to seek a connection to the beautiful fragility of existence in the form of an animal that is both soft and spirited.

I listen to the names of black people, fellow U.S. citizens, killed in racial hatred, and mourn with my co-workers their lost lives, the most recent casualties of domestic terrorism. I listen to the news and hold it. I hold the woes of my suffering family. I read the words of a prophetic leader who speaks my heart by calling for a more integrated awareness of humanitarian and environmental crises. I spend time sitting in my yard, watching the coming and going of squirrels, chipmunks, birds, and bunnies. I rock my feverish boy and let the heat of our closeness and my fiery love cleanse me from the need for comfort. I reflect on the ways I numb myself to participating in my days fully, journal, and ponder better presence. I admit I have been wrong - controlling, fearful - in a conversation with my husband. I shift my body closer into his merciful, tender embrace later as we fall asleep. I notice flowers growing by a telephone pole, creative inscriptions on a gray backdrop like the graffiti behind them.

We can wake up to the world and choose to be tender, no matter how tired or distraught or seemingly inadequate. Like green things that refuse to be deterred by the weight of synthetic barriers, I hope to rise again and again into this earthly tradition of pilgrimage through each day. I hope my short steps, my simple acts, my meager offerings as a disciple of Living Well are helping to carry us all to a richer place. My teachers surround me: each one, every part of the One, enacts a salvational mantra from the core of their self. I bow inwardly over and over.