It’s almost a White Christmas in the U.S. Northeast, with fat flurries falling, but not sticking, to empty streets. The city is quiet. Last night on a brisk after-dinner walk, I passed less than a handful of people in four miles. In fact, the most traffic I got was after-midnight texts — from a Muslim and Sikh friend respectively, both sending out Christmas wishes. (Not to go all bah humbug on you, but maybe folks should only text at hours they would consider calling?)
Christmas and I don’t exactly mix. Instead, I think of it metaphorically as when the sun is born from the darkest phase of our secular solar calendar, creating the potential for increasing light.
This week, we celebrated an extra special solstice, which coincided with a full moon lunar eclipse.
On the longest night of the year, we should have gotten added light from the moon — only it did this eclipsing dance for a full 72 minutes.
It seemed a clear directive from the universe to turn inwards, and dive deeply, which I complied with by upping my meditation, Reiki, yoga and writing game.
In fact, I even got to teach a yoga class on Monday night, hours before the big event. We did moon salutations (surprise!) and I invited students to use the energy of this particular eclipse to envision what they wanted for themselves, their loved ones, and the world — anything from a new perspective on an ongoing relationship to an end to these wars that keep bringing young men and women back home in pieces.
It was a good class. I’m often unsure of how spiritual — or political for that matter — I can take my students, who come from all walks of life and belief systems. But every so often, I’m just more connected than usual, and I stop considering and simply say what’s coming to me. It’s what happens with writing sometimes too; what DC’s Poet Laureate once referred to in conversation as “channeled.”
It’s frustrating that I can’t find a formula for getting in this flow with teaching or writing every time I come to it. Monday, for example, I was furiously editing minutes from my housing cooperative Board meeting almost until the moment I had to race out to the studio. And still brilliance emerged. Thursday on the other hand, I showed up to the studio an hour and a half early, mapped out what I’d lead them through as I did my own practice. I felt great, and the class went perfectly well, my fabulous students appreciative afterward as they always are. But not the notch above as it had been earlier in the week.
I’m left believing that — at least much of the time — such sparks of genius can’t be organized or planned. Aristotle, who studied and contributed to virtually every field of philosophy and science known in his era, and continues to influence our way of thinking 2,300 years after his death, put it like this: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
This time of year, many people create resolutions to leave behind certain habits.
I want to sort out which habits of excellence I need to do over and over and over again.
I’m not entirely certain of where my own excellence lies, but I do know that I want to continue to balance doing and non-doing. Gaining discernment around when to push for things to happen, and when to coast. Working smarter, not harder, more efficiently and elegantly, as I coach clients. Managerially, this is the famous Pareto Principle. Pharmacologically, we can liken this to the Minimally Effective Dose.
I’ve lived out much of this unbalance in my body. Most of my pains come on my left side — so when my hip or knee hurts, it’s inevitably the left one. When I get a migraine, it’s behind the left temple. My left leg is longer, my left eye vastly more astigmatic. I use and perhaps overuse my right side — what yogis and Taoists think of as the more yang side, the principle of getting out there and getting it done — and my left, yin, receptive, magnetizing, accepting side keeps getting re-injured trying to keep up.
The past few months, I’ve started practicing a more balanced approach, especially with my book. (Well, perhaps I’ve gone completely over to the other side.) I’ve largely ignored the advice to do as many readings as humanly possible, to show up to as many open mics as I can, to get out there quickly before the book starts developing crow’s feet. I’ve gotten some copies out there to the “right” people, but knowing that a magazine with a positive article on my work is slated to hit the proverbial streets soon has made me take a breather on even thinking “what next.” I’ve spoken with other authors who worked themselves into a marketing frenzy, not infrequently with self-reported limited results.
The morning after the eclipse, I was having breakfast with a wonderful local author and artist, and I found myself being crystal clear that my bottom line isn’t a numbers game, but about quality of life. I want to enjoy having a book, and getting to do readings and workshops in interesting places with interesting people. I remembered that this had even come up during my meditation the day before.
So there was a déjà vu quality to coming home to a message from a famous author from warmer climes who I know but am not in regular contact with, saying she’d like to co-host a reading for me and some other folks. Would I be willing to help her make some connections with the Jewish community in her town?
I take synchronicities like this as signs that I am on the right path, that my yin and yang are on good speaking terms.
I wish I had a formula I could give you to make everything you want in 2011 come to pass, from world peace to a piece of the American Dream. A good place to start is to figure out your strengths (I often use this with organizational clients) and then sort out ways to incorporate them into your life at home, work, with creative pursuits and in relationships. Keep doing the work — and know when its best to lay low, such as when it’s cold and the nights invite you undercover.
To those of you celebrating Christmas: may it peaceful and may you become the Christ energy embodied which chooses love over fear at every step. To the rest of you: enjoy the Chinese food!