It is 3:30 a.m. I’ve awakened at this time for weeks, and I don’t know why. The night is black as pitch, but I listen to the steady, soft rain and the trees’ leaves dancing with a gentle breeze. A mug of freshly brewed tea sits beside me. I start this writing now, which will change by publishing time. It may be days or weeks. I never know.
Why do I wake at 3:30 a.m.? This habit started soon after I put down my cat, Abbey. There is a hole in my heart, for I miss her presence, warmth, and gentle, thrumming purr. Abbey is not on my mind when I wake up or dream. The state of our country and the world could be the cause. Except for the forthcoming January 6 Committee Hearings, a landmark in American history, I stay away from the news. Sadly, the misinformation in general that people gather from questionable sources causes them to spew anger and hate while illuminating an alarming ignorance. This negative energy penetrates, and I absorb enough to irritate my spirit and close my heart.
Irritation, anger, and a hardened heart are a few guests who visit me in my guest house. The guest house I speak of is one we all have and the one Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet, Sufi mystic, Islamic scholar, and more, wrote about in his poem The Guest House.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
It is unnerving to welcome these guests into our inner life. Embracing the darkest aspects of our humanity is the opposite of what we usually pursue. We suppress these pesky visitors or act out; neither way brings peace. When we feed anger, fear, and hate by watering these toxic seeds, they grow to loom large, dominating our lives. We deepen depression by not letting go of its root causes. And, we lay hold of despair and anxiety, clutching them like a sick child.
When we greet the visitors, offering entry into our hearts and minds, we can laugh and say you are welcome, but I don’t need you today! Thank you for showing up and for caring. Rumi said, be grateful…because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
I have met my guests, and they have met me. At first, I rejected them, denied their truth, and tumbled into a malaise. I now welcome whatever walks into my inner life. I’ve learned to rely on mindful breathing and walking to help me greet unwanted visitors. It is human to have bad days, and I will always have my share. I photograph and write with mindfulness. Walking to the Hudson Riverfront, I try to be mindful of each footstep as it touches Mother Earth. I breathe in and breathe out, knowing I am alive with each breath.
Pollyannaish? No. It is hard work to look within, acknowledge imperfection, yet love ourselves for who we are so we can genuinely honor, if not yet love, others with an open heart. Mindfulness is a continuous learning experience. I am not a master, but when I forget, and I do, I start again with one breath in and one breath out, arriving back to my center, back to home.
Yes, I wake early, knowing this will change with time, but for now, perhaps it is to do precisely what I am doing: writing this post and sharing recently created images. Please enjoy my happiness in presenting these to you.
My morning walks take me to known and unknown places in my little Village. The historic Athens Rural Cemetery is one of my favorites. There is a cathedral of trees I saw in a different light and decided it was time to photograph.
My teacher, Thây (Thich Nhat Hanh), wrote a poem and ended it with this line: In the garden of my heart, the flowers of peace bloom beautifully. Here are a few for you.
This essay was completed following the first televised January 6 Committee Hearing. It is impossible not to have anger, even horror, and want to strike out at someone or something, given what we learned and saw in written evidence, videos, and testimonies. True warriors sat on the dais and in the audience, for there were present those who fought on the lines for our Constitution, suffering significant loss. There was no hate speech coming from the dais, no diminishment of human dignity, no animus as we endured for four-plus long years under the dystopian former president. Liz Cheney showed her courage, honor, and dedication in presenting harsh facts that shone a bright light on an attempted coup to overthrow our government. She dared to say to Congressional Republicans: There will come a day when President Trump is gone. But your dishonor will remain. Liz Cheney’s honor will endure.
More hearings are scheduled, and I suspect for some of us, our ire will increase. Let us try to welcome these uncomfortable visitors into our inner guest house, even those we most want to turn away. Though a struggle, may the gardens of our hearts try to bloom with peace, even in these dark times. We must prepare as peaceful warriors-in-training for the harsh realities in the days, weeks, and months ahead, endlessly seeking the truth.
Our inner resolve needs to stand as solid as a tall oak. May we be willing to comprehend our differences through deep listening and hone words that inspire rather than those that divide and incite. Let us water our seeds of kindness and understanding to nurture the best of ourselves and our hearts.
On Thursday night, no one on the dais wore the armor of distasteful antics and lies, nor did they speak with mockery; they showed and told us the truth.