Yesterday, for Halloween, I dressed up as agitation. I wasn’t alone. Everywhere I went, everyone I saw, and around every corner, I encountered agitation. Maybe it was herd mentality. But no one developed immunity.
This too shall pass, and it did. Last night I took a deep breath and exhaled, slowly. And then like all the best Yogis, I lingered on the outbreath. My costume, all the layers of agitation, melted away onto the floor, into the carpet, down through the flooring, seeping back to the earth where agitation can rest.
Today is my favorite day; a day to throw myself into the gift of an extra, socially constructed, sacred hour. In stark contrast to all my previous years on the planet, today I plan to stay here—in this sacred hour—all day.
Having fallen back, no matter how long in coming, this particular hour arrives with surprise. What shall I do in this dark hour before dawn? Shall I spend it now, or wait and spend it with Rita on a walk up the river. Which hour of this 24 will be my sacred, extravagant, unexpected hour?
Every year, I’ve rushed into this gift. Anticipating its disappearance even before it appears, I’ve tried squeezing enough productivity into one arbitrary hour to compensate for my perpetual time management problems. But this is a new year, a new day, and a new hour, and, after shedding my agitation costume, I now see peace. It’s a bumpy peace, much like the washboard road to East Rosebud Lake. We may get rattled, but we shall arrive.
What I’d never discerned before is that the sacred hour is an illusion. Like many things, the sacred hour was created out of nothing but time for someone’s convenience and instead of recognizing its nothingness, I’ve tried to grab it, wrestle it to the ground, and suck out its imaginary nutrients. Year after year, I’ve mulled its significance and then experienced angst over how to spend it. As I do with Mary Oliver’s query, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do. With your one wild and precious life?” I’ve demurred. The question is too big. Everything will eventually vanish, and if I choose one thing I’ll be left with only one companion: my own judgmental vengeance.
Peaceful, deep breathing is almost always about the outbreath. Fancy meditators and Yoga practitioners coach us to pace our breathing, and then to extend the outbreath into the place of no-breath. Oddly, the place of no-breath is the place of life and peace, if only for snippets at a time. While being still, without breathing, for a second or three or six before the in-breath comes again, the body’s physiology slows down, nearly halting in parasympathetic bliss. In the sacred space of the outbreath, peace happens in the body, and when peace happens in the body it can—with practice—transfer little seedlings of peace to the mind. The common admonishment, “Remember to breathe” is less profound than its uncommon sister: “Remember to not breathe.” Remember to let yourself extend your peace for a bit longer than usual today. Remember to be with peace tomorrow. Especially, remember to mingle with peace on Tuesday. You know why.
Today’s brief illumination is that there’s nothing special and nothing especially sacred about this extra hour. But also, like all hours, there’s everything special and sacred about this extra hour. It’s just another hour that, along with its pesky minutes and seconds, was simply created for the convenience of counting.
I’ll probably forget all this by Tuesday, but for today, I see every hour is a collaborative creation. Every hour we get to return to the beginning, resetting our intentions, and refocusing on the mystery of what is and what might be.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and beyond will bring as many sacred hours as we can count. How shall we spend those hours? For me, I hope we can collectively linger with our outbreaths on Tuesday as we begin, together and again, to build peace, reclaim justice, embrace empathy, and restore democracy . . . one bumpy and sacred hour at a time.