Friday, September 18, 2009

Facing forward

This past week, I have been taking fifteen minutes to myself each morning. I make a cup of tea or assemble the components of breakfast, then bring this all with me to sit in a living room bathed in life. And contemplate. Sometimes I contemplate nothing but try really hard to reign my roaming mind back to the present and my current surroundings, to live more mindfully and less within the recesses of memory or out projected into the possible futures that unveil themselves, a hundred a minute. The warmth of tea as it slides down my throat, the texture of cereal in my mouth. That is what is important.

I am trying for that stillness. I want to be someone who lives more by her own agenda and is less swayed by the ambitions, judgments, or values of others. I always think I've found this. Then the environment changes and I am swept along once more, unmoored, and it takes me awhile to find my bearings again. It is always a disorienting process, and though I am trying to think of life more in spirals than in a strictly linear fashion, I can't help but wonder if a little intentional action on my part might not make a large difference down the road. So this time, with my most recent change in environment once more, I am gifting myself the mental and temporal space to become more rooted in myself, anchored in who I am and what I would like out of the day.

Last Saturday, Wei Jie and Kristy came over to make chocolate zucchini cake [my idea] and watch Sleepless in Seattle [their idea]. It was the perfect marriage of activities for a Saturday night. And when they showed up, they not only brought Mediterranean food but also this beautiful bouquet of sunflowers. Flowers!!! I think this makes my third bouquet of flowers I've ever received in my life.

So each morning I bring myself into the room where their flowers reside. I once read that introverts' minds are wired differently than extroverts. We have more neural pathways that link through the memory sections of the brain, making us biologically inclined to filter our experiences through memory [mmm ... this tea tastes great ... hey, I remember the first time Lisa made me tea from fresh mint leaves ... wasn't that a funny comment Lisa made in our last conversation ...]. And, correspondingly, we have fewer neural pathways connected to our five senses, unlike our extroverted companions who are very much stimulated by the present for its own value, and not through the layers of memory and association that we bring to every human contact and sensory sensation.

Regardles if that is true or not [and I've never bothered to verify the neuroscience], I do find it difficult to train my mind not to wander. So these sunflowers have been a real boon for my moments of stillness each morning. They are so bright, so cheerful, and full of texture and layers of colors and lines, that every time I find my mind slipping out of the moment and the intentional space I've created [which is quite often], I just turn my attention to the flowers in front of me. Trace my eyes over the stalks or watch the petals as they unfurl. Feel grateful for the friendships I've made here in Boston, especially the support and laughter of the two girls who brought these flowers into my life, helped me move all my stuff into this apartment, who made the cake I'm currently eating for breakfast, and who, most importantly, are there for me, no matter what. As I am for them.

Thanks to these morning moments, I've been able to watch these sunflowers progress in beauty through the week. In the first couple days they slowly unfurled their petals, relaxing back from the tight forward-facing clusters you see in the photo above. One by one, the stems have changed to a pale celery. A week later they are still going strong, but I can see by the color in their stalks and the loose hold of their petals that they will not be with us much longer. Still, for the inaugural week of Stillness, I could not have asked for a better companion. And were it not for this new morning routine, I would not have appreciated the small details of change and beauty these flowers have undergone. Life would have passed by, and I would have walked in one morning to brown stalks and muddy water, and realize with shock that I had missed out on the beauty of this gift.

Just like I would have missed out on the beauty of the gift of each day.


Zonnah said...

Being an introvert as well, I completely agree with your statement. Also, the flowers are beautiful :)

Antoinette said...

I love reading your writing. Thank you.