I begin most mornings early, usually between 5:30 and 6:30 am. This Sunday morning is no different. My early rising isn’t due to tremendous self-discipline but to a freakish inability to sleep in and a busy mind that stars churning the second it’s conscious, no matter how my body feels about the matter.
So I also begin most mornings with meditation. I pour myself a cup of coffee, then I drag myself to the back porch and plop into a patio chair. Sometimes I close my eyes. Sometimes I leave them open.
This morning, I leave my eyes open. I breathe.
My backyard is a tangled mess of wild bamboo, poison ivy, crabgrass, and Virginia Creeper. It’s also large and shady and full of mature, hardwood trees, with a (currently dry) creek. Carolina wrens perch on my string of cafe lights around the firepit and give me hell. Cicadas buzz to life in orchestrated waves.
There used to be a hundred acres of woods beyond the creek bed. Now it’s a ravaged, empty field. Next year, there will be a highway.
Our backyard is also full of the detritus of family life. A broken down swing-set the kids have outgrown. A grill whose rusting innards we replaced, hoping to get another summer out of it. A few pots of flowers. A sagging trampoline, and a firepit surrounded by chairs my husband built from scratch.
I’m supposed to be meditating though, not taking inventory, so I close my eyes. Behind my eyelids, my crowded mind is no different from my backyard.
Growing up between each breath like weeds, it’s all here: worries about a parent battling cancer, loss and insecurities, right alongside joy and hope and gratitude. I find it impossible to separate them.
I’m reminded of something Richard Rohr says in one of his books on contemplative prayer:
“Everything belongs and everything can be received. We don’t have to deny, dismiss, defy, or ignore. What is, is okay. What is, is the great teacher.”
I breathe in the truth of his words — “Everything belongs” — let it grow into a mantra. It’s all a part of life — the weeds and the trees, the loss and the gratitude, the hopes and fears for the next year.
I take Rohr’s advice and welcome them all. I ask them to take a seat together. Disarmed by my lack of resistance, they accept my offer. They cease being a distraction and settle in to join me.
Soon, my coffee is gone. My cup is cold. I open my eyes.
My husband is awake. The kids are stirring. The swingset is still there, the bare field too. The wrens have moved on and humidity has set in. It’s Sunday morning, and it all belongs.
Christa Hogan is a creative fiction and non-fiction writer and veteran freelancer. She also teaches mindfulness meditation.