Saturday, December 21, 2013

Be Still, and Listen

The long winter nights this month have invited me to lie quietly in the morning, listening to the dog snore, watching the room gradually lighten . . . and grinding my molars in anticipation of Dragon Girl's first YOWL of the day.

She doesn't hold back, this second child of mine.  Dragon Girl is not the super-sleeper that her sister was at this age. She has a lot to get done in this lifetime, and nobody is going to slow her down, including the Mama. Accordingly, she wakes with the dawn, and usually a bit pre-dawn for good measure. If I am lolling about in bed and not getting a head start in the Good Morning race, that first wail generates a huge flack pattern on the Mom Radar. It also jolts my adrenaline production in unpleasant ways.

So here I am, waking up cranky and/or way too early, scheming and dreaming about getting that child to sleep longer, when I ran into these Midday Mussar notes from our rabbi.

Of course, I can't make it to the Midday Mussar meditations, because . . . right . . . kids. But I think I might really need the Midday Mussar meditations, because . . . oh, right . . . kids. So -- blessings on our clergy's technophilia -- I scrape the notes when I get a chance. They are just notes, but that's good, because then my mind can go a-wandering between the notes while I wipe the highchair tray and find the Roku remote yet again.

Reb Jamie has written about grieving, but -- as his comments on duality observe -- the very same mediations are deeply applicable to all the BUSY! NOISY! NEW! LIFE! in this house. The Jewish appreciation of duality is just so spot-on:

Our sages teach that during sleep we go through a (1/60) fractal of death. Thus every morning present[s an] . . . opportunity to practice the rouse ourselves from “mourning to an ecstatic dance…that chavod might sing you out [of bed] and may not be silent [like death].” (Psalm 30) With the words of this daily psalm, a melody, a tear, a cupped hand, or the mental image of a small cave, we can begin each day with a reminder to journey through the land of humility [chinah] to engage all life with chavod, beginning with your own.

-- Rabbi Benjamin "Jamie" Arnold

The "cupped hand" reference contemplates a discussion earlier in the same entry here.

Very little silence finds its way into my world of late. Stillness is not popular, either. And some days I am patently lacking in either humility or engagement. Some days it seems that everything around here is noisy, furry, drooly, squirmy, yelly, demanding, wanting, needing, messy, hungry, and/or some combination thereof, and that I am the one-woman service industry for all of it. Some days, I need to work really hard on being present in this parenting endeavor, and not just mentally checking out while I dice up yet another peanut butter sandwich.

Thus, when the factory whistle blows at 5:45 a.m. in the dead dark, I am trying to view that first baby cry as a new life that is "singing me out of bed." It helps. Sometimes it works. At the very least, it makes me feel guilty about being cranky and try hard to cheerfully greet the baby and do better for the rest of the day (my perfect synergy of humanistic Judaism and guilt-ridden Protestantism). 

Tonight, at my amazing adopted shul, Rabbi Jamie is leading a Winter Solstice service. Again, in his words:

The Service will feature simple melodies, rich silences, and subtle teaching to turn our hearts to the expansion of light that is coming, enabling us to align our inner cycles (of darkness and light) with the wondrous symmetry and balance of forces in nature -- sun, moon, earth, and soul.

A perfect way to enter the Winter break -- with Shabbat, and community.

 Shabbat Shalom

I won't go, of course, because . . . oh, right . . . kids. But I will try to honor the solstice by sleeping, waking, and celebrating on this day and this night. And maybe with a little stillness here and there.