(Written for my column "Monthly Misgivings" in Page Seven magazine)
I am not always very good to myself. I am talking not only about being kind and gentle to myself, but also about having the discernment to know and do what is good for me even when it is not gratifying right away. For instance, starting my day by logging into Facebook is one of the things that always throws me off balance. Of course, this is not a statement on Facebook or any other social networking site. They are what they are. This is about the use we put them to.
The other day, I started my day the way many of my friends start theirs - I got the usual morning things out of the way, put the kettle to boil, completely forgot about it, forgot to take my morning medication, forgot my previous night's resolve to start the next day with some yoga and meditation, but managed to remember that the laptop had had very little charge left on it when I'd closed it the night before, plugged it in, and logged into Facebook.
I think that all of those were very innocent actions that did not, by any stretch of imagination, deserve serious retribution or punishment. But I felt assailed by all the new feeds and status updates, many people's take on those news feed and status updates, and others' opinion on those takes on those news feed and status updates. Then there were those people who, in the little time I stayed logged out to get a decent night's sleep, had somehow managed to orchestrate a campaign, finish their most brilliant performance, won awards, given birth to babies, made most nuanced arguments about a most current issue, published articles that were already 'liked' by 746 people and commented on by 106, etc.
My heart raced, and I thought I had been left behind, that the world had moved on while I had done nothing with my life. After all, I could have written that brilliant article. After all, I could at least have read that article so that I could now post an intelligent comment. After all, I could be celebrating that anniversary if only....
Before I had taken the time to ground myself in the delicious mundaneness of my day, before I had made life-changing decisions about whether to eat peanut butter open toast or aval upma for breakfast, I had let into my unformed, delicate, full-of-potential morning the mind-blowingly diverse energies of hundreds of people, coming at me like supersonic darts pinning a disarmed me on to the dartboard of the lost moment.
I admit that I am prone to the entire gamut of human emotions, which, of course, include insecurity, jealousy, anger and hurt. Rumi, the great Sufi mystic and poet, puts it most beautifully:
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...*
Every morning is already full of its surprises. I would rather spend time preparing myself to receive, welcome and entertain them instead of cluttering myself with those I can avoid. Therefore, I have now made it a practice to sit with my fragile yet powerful self as soon as I wake up from my night's sleep; to hold this new day and this new me in a bubble of quiet before letting them open for other things to enter.
* from Coleman Barks' translation of Rumi