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Rituals of Pause as the Big Rocks in the Jar: Everyday Magic, Day 950

“Your big rocks are the rituals of pause,” Dr. Neela Sandal told me a few weeks ago. I’ve been working with Neela for a few years to tunnel out (successfully too!) of some chronic health issues, and I had mentioned that I needed more rituals of pause through my day to check in with myself instead of checking off the next item on my endless list. I had also told him about the analogy of how you can only gets rocks, pebbles, sand, and water into a jar if you put in the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff to fill in the gaps. If you put the water in first, then the sand and pebbles, you’ll never get the rocks in.

What Neela, a marvelous integrative physician and founder of Atma Clinic, said rocked my world. Wait, what about all the things I need to do for my health — take supplements, swim and lift weights, rest, eat healthy food, get my ass to yoga class? “Those are the pebbles, Caryn,” he told me. As a person catapulted through my days by an overwrought sense of urgency  with the theme from the cartoon dog hero “Underdog” playing in the background (“Underdog will save the day!”), the idea of the big rocks being, well, just being blows me away.

Some of you may be raising your eyebrows and saying, “Just catching onto this now?” because you’re far more advanced as human beings than the ones of us too enmeshed as human doings, but hey, I’m starting to catch onto what I innately knew all my life. I was a genius at hitting the pause button and being with whatever the window had to show me about trees, clouds, and flitting robins in elementary school although it too often resulted in report card complaints about too much daydreaming.

Now I’m earnestly trying to be less earnest about the here and now.  I remember how, during the Right Livelihood Professional Training opening weekend, I shared with participants what I used to tell students in my English 101 composition classes when I started teaching at K.U. in 1986: “Pay attention. Expect nothing. Keep going.” I thought this just applied to  writing essays, but it obviously speaks to each moment as it comes. Not that I’m evolved enough to live there, but I’m making more space for the spaciousness of stepping outside of my mind’s eye of the world and into the world. Writing, good for so many things, is also good for returning to being: using our words to arrive where we already are.

Like right now when, on a high branch of a locust tree, 20 feet or so above my napping Honda CRV, and in time with Ulali singing “Mahk Jchi,” one of my favorite songs, a bird with a yellow breast calls, “chah chah chah.” A bee floats in  half circle below the hummingbird, dipping beak to feeder. A small leaf, saturated with sunlight, dips off the Osage orange tree. I pick up my mason jar of iced coffee, the big rocks of ice melted minutes ago, take a sip, and bow at the altar of this world.

“How Aren’t You?”: Hummingbirds, Rumi, and Twilight: Everyday Magic, Day 949

In my favorite Rumi poem, "Say Yes Quickly," I love these lines especially: Reach your long hands out to another door, beyond where you go on the street, the street where everyone says, “How are you?” and no one says How aren’t you? All day long, I've been pondering how I am not. I am not at Goddard College, finishing a long day of faculty meetings after, as goes my habit, a long night of fighting my travel-spun brain to calm itself enough to tip out of consciousness. I am not walking back to the dorm to get some snacks I [...] Read More

Surprise Lilies: Everyday Magic, Day 948

Here is a poem about this moment's offering all around where I live. May this election day bring us lovely and happy surprises too.   Surprise Lilies Green shots, pink ribbons in the alley lining the dumpster or the driveway around the broken mowers, past moving out date, before school buses in the open slash between the heat that levels us and the storms on the next page of the horizon. When you don't know, when you're lost, when there's nowhere to stand there they are, never bent or expected. They thrive on what you've forgotten about, given away or [...] Read More

From Your Alley to My Kitchen: Everyday Magic, Day 947

The last few days of July are truly Christmas for All in the Alleys. Because this is a college town with a whole lot of students, too-well equipped by their fretting parents with stuff they won't use, and these students move out in a hurry when much of our rental housing turns over August 1 each year, you can shop the alleys for home and hearth this week. Sometimes I know what I'm looking for and I find it: a new vacuum, easy chair, throw pillows, or various electronic equipment which may or may not work (if broken, I return [...] Read More

I’m in Love With a Great Lake: Everyday Magic, Day 946

I'm in love with Lake Superior, and the more I visit, the deeper I fall. Not only is this the greatest of the Great Lakes, containing 10% of all the fresh water on earth, but it's wildly ancient, mysteriously mutable, and stunningly gorgeous in all its colors and moods. Having just perched on the side of the lake in a cabin for a week, once again, I saw this inland sea turn pink, gray, navy blue, baby blue, black, brown, orange at the edges at sunrise, and purple in the center at sunset. Always in motion, the waves incessant, this [...] Read More

On the Cusp of the Vacation: Everyday Magic, Day 945

I'm lucky. I get to go on a vacation, not something everyone has the privilege of doing so that they can enter into a great un-doing or other-the-usual-doings in a new or old place. For us, it's a particularly ancient place, on the cool shores of Lake Superior (truly superior!) by way of Ames, Iowa tonight, where we will luxuriate in temperatures 10 degrees cooler than the holy hell of the weather here, then Minneapolis, which is cool in multiple ways. At this moment, the car is packed except for the vitamins, which would melt. The gas tank is full. [...] Read More

Annual Pilgrimage to Our Patron Saint: Mary Chapin Carpenter: Everyday Magic, Day 944

"Show a little inspiration, show a little spark," Mary Chapin Carpenter sings in her song "The Hard Way." Kelley Hunt, one of my beloveds and my songwriting partner, happily obliged her by summoning up the inspiration and spark to strap ourselves into my peanut-butter-colored car so we can once again worship at her feet and replenish our songwriting well. This year we trekked to Wichita for a long day's night to the Wabi Sabi (beautiful, decaying, and full of soul and vibrancy) Orpheum Theater to see  this shining soul sing some of the greatest songs we know, such as "Stones in the Road," [...] Read More

Went In For a CT Scan, Left With a Panic Attack: Everyday Magic, Day 943

"That's caveman stuff, and there's no way you can stop it," my friend Kris told Ken and me over carrot-orange-ginger juice and corn meal pancakes at the Roost today. I was just past (but not past)  a CT scan, a routine check because of all the pancreatic cancer in my family. To my surprise, once lying down, happily chatting up the technician, I went from A-Ok to No-Way-In-Hell in a flash. All it took was the machine moving me toward the scanner, and panic took over the wheel. This is not to say I didn't try to then smooth down [...] Read More

Depression Beyond Comprehension: Everyday Magic, Day 942

I screwed up.  When it comes to some close friends who suffer greatly from the kind of depression beyond comprehension --  mine at least -- I haven't always understood what my pals were going through or how to truly show up without my fixer-bee faux-super-cheery hero cape on. Instead, to sooth my anxiety over their emotional state, I offered a smorgasbord of solutions that would solve the problem (as I saw it) of despairs if that despair was just some fog the sun of new plans could burn away. True, I also listened well, but listening doesn't always equate understanding. [...] Read More

After 64 Consecutive Semesters, Taking a Break: Everyday Magic, Day 941

Time for a break I started teaching when I was 26. It was English 101 at the University of Kansas, a gig I figured would help me get through graduate school so I could cozy up with my real calling: writing. A funny thing happened on the way through the classroom: I was instantly smitten and soon discovered that teaching was just as much my real work. I regularly told my students, struggling with essay-writing on demand, what I told myself as a writer: Don't think. Pay attention. Keep going. It served us all well. This fall (starting [...] Read More

Buy Your Own Copy of Everyday Magic -- This Blog As a Book!

This blog is a book -- Everyday Magic: Fieldnotes on the Mundane and Miraculous -- published by Meadowlark Press. This beautiful book, complete with beautiful art throughout by publisher Tracy Million Simmons, can be yours for $24.99. Please consider purchasing the book through the publisher to support small presses supporting authors like me. Meadowlark Press. Meadowlark Books is an Emporia, Kansas, based publisher, coming from the same town as famous newspaper publisher William Allen White. The publisher's site shares this perspective: 

We live in exciting times for authors and all artists, an era of democratization of the arts. No longer will books/music/artwork be something selected by the few and passed down to the masses. The people--our readers--will choose for themselves.

You can buy your copy from Meadowlark right here.

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