Looking out my window this morning, my heart swelled in gratitude for another day. I have been overwhelmed with severe headache, chills, dizziness and the urge to sleep. “Not possible,” I tell myself. “I have places to go and things to do!” Fighting the symptoms with denial only made them worse until I surrendered into what was happening. After four days, I awoke to a foggy wet world outside and an appetite for coffee. It’s the small things that count!
Last week, after settling into our apartment and beginning the process of finding our way in this river city, finding new doctors, dentists, clients and stores, we awakened at 1:30 in the morning by a bang overhead and screaming fire alarms and strobe lights. It was freezing that night, but everyone in the building went into the parking garage. There was no choice given the din of the fire alarms inside the apartments. We huddled in our car as other people got in their cars and went somewhere—where they went at that time of morning is a question. By 4:00 they had figured out what happened and by five we were back in bed. What had occurred was a burst water pipe. Given the consequent hammering and scraping in the apartment above us, we assume that was the source of the burst pipe, and the huge bang. As I fell asleep I thought of those who were dealing with the fires in California—now mudslides and floods. Again, I had reason to be grateful. It isn’t because we compare our circumstances with others and pat ourselves on the back. It’s because we know, at any time, it could be us.
I am currently sick. I don’t believe it is the full-fledged flu, but for a few days I have been left to my own devices by being too dizzy to walk and too headachy to work. This forced retreat has given me a lot of time to think. As is my habit, I write in my journal before bed and read a short passage from a book by John O’Donohue or, if I can’t read for long, a poem by Rumi. One of the quotes I read from Rumi is:
We have fallen into the place
where everything is music.
from “Where Everything Is Music”
This quote raised a lot of questions. I fell asleep with it in my mind, and dreamed that I was dancing through a world of such beauty that I nearly cried when I awoke and it was gone. I have my piano in my bedroom, and I intended to write a melody to remind me of the dream—but somehow I fell back to sleep. It’s those moments of beauty that remind us what we, as human beings, are capable of. We have so many talents and are given so much beauty by our senses.
Opposite that are the grief, anger and resistance caused by the ugliness in the world. As much as the music of beauty sounds in our brains and bodies, the discordant music of hate, prejudice, intolerance and ego tries to take over. We have a choice to listen and reject or listen and embrace the music of our lives, creating a symphony that we flow through daily. I am not suggesting that this is easy in a time of division, hate speech and pretend news. It requires more effort to overcome the dark waves of emotion flowing over the world, and the darkness rolling over our country. But we are powerful beings, meant to find beauty wherever it resides.
Every life is braided with luminous moments.
John O’Donohue, from “Beauty”
So much is found in those few words. Though it is not easy, looking for the light that peeks out like sunrise over the fog becomes a skill that grows stronger with time. Recently my friend Peter Meinke wrote an article in his “Poet’s Notebook” in which he recalled meeting Polish poet/professor Stanislaw Branczak in 1979 when he was under house arrest. Amidst the commiseration of the Americans, he pointed out that he had no obligations on his time and was free to write poetry. The poetry was smuggled out of the country, printed elsewhere, and returned to Poland where people were hungry for it. As the Americans thought about the “difficulties” of getting poetry published in the U.S., where a very small group cared about poetry, the poet smiled slyly at his visitors. To quote Peter:
So there were Paul and I—free American poets who could go anywhere, write anything we want, and pretty easily publish everything we write—looking at each other and feeling jealous of this uncomplaining captive smiling slyly at us. What a lucky guy.
When I teach a workshop, I hear complaints about the clients people need to deal with, the awful situations they encounter in their work and lives. They nearly always want to know how to change the other person. My message to them is simple. It is you who will benefit from a change in perspective as you look for the beauty in the world, or just the respite in your situation. As HeartMath® teaches, every decision we make changes the situation in our body, leading to a particular state of health. This message is put well in Deepak Chopra’s “The Book of Secrets:”
Every significant vital sign—body temperature, heart rate, oxygen consumption, hormone levels, brain activity and so on—alters the moment you decide to do anything…Decisions are signals telling your body, mind and environment to move in a certain direction.
The time is always right to change your approach if you are not already aware of your attitude’s effect on your health. Looking for the beauty in life is just the beginning, but the feeling in your body when hearing compelling music, reading stirring words, being with people you love or doing your right work is unmistakable. Though we will react negatively to the things going on in our world, we can turn the feeling around by finding something positive to do about it, even if that consists of simply speaking out. Those who are affiliated with active groups around certain issues tend to feel more optimistic than those who simply fall into feelings of hopelessness. That, to me, is the message of our times. Who and what will we become in the face of hate, negativity, greed and the almighty ego? I am listening to the uplifting compositions of Michael Hoppé and I feel the power of creativity and the certainty that as long as musicians are composing and writers are writing we will be empowered. Through beauty and awareness we not only change our lives but the lives of many. It’s why we are human. It’s why we have free will. It’s why we feel god moving in us.