I love Robin Williams. And I love his inspirational movie, “Dead Poets Society,” where he challenges his students to Carpe Diem (seize the day)! Seizing the day is truly a sentiment we Americans can get behind: wake up, down that coffee, watch the news, get out there and take control of your destiny! It’s the kind of lifestyle that is fast-paced, driven, and more than a little frenetic. We are out there seizing the day, but underneath all that activity is a mental and emotional state seized with stress, fear, and insecurity. With all due respect to Robin Williams, we can do better than seizing the day.
How about “receive the day”? This is a lovely phrase I first heard from Diana Butler Bass, which reorients us to live wide-eyed, grateful, and open-handed to the abundance that is ours as children of God. How do we do that? How can we begin to practice living that way? Today we consider some of Tilden Edwards’ suggestions for simplifying our day, beginning with waking.
“Emerging from that twilight between sleep and waking, we notice our drowsiness, the light, the pillow, the room, quickly we leap from this simple seeing to something more: the drowsiness turns to memory of a late night, the light to awareness of a rainy day. The pillow case is dingy: when did we change the bedding last? The room clicks off snatches of other random thoughts and feelings.
Within seconds of waking our minds are off and running: scattered and judging. The growing whirl clouds and complicates our sight like a swirl of leaves in an autumn gust. What can we do?
First notice what is happening without judgment. See the leaves whirling around. Smile gently into yourself. Simplify that scattered energy by going backward: the room, the pillow, the light, the drowsiness. They just are. Let them be there a few seconds, without doing anything to them. Then let that energy focus wordlessly on your abiding desire for confidence, compassion and simplicity in God.
Simple Praying: If active prayer during the day is your custom, let it first come now. Keep it simple: a simply felt solidarity with suffering and grace. End by turning the day over, letting it be, “relaxing into God.” Let the last seconds before rising be very still, clear, calm—just be there. Young children bursting into the room and other kinds of “fast starts” don’t always allow such a beginning. Sometimes this all must be telescoped into a few seconds. But at least assure yourself those.
Simple Activity: Now slowly rise. Don’t jerk yourself out of bed. Let your rising flow from your resting. It can be one continuous flow. In the bathroom, letting go bodily wastes and washing can continue your sense of simplifying the day, clearing it of accretions.
Leave your TV and phone off, at least for the first few minutes. As you wash and dress, just participate in the flow of these simple activities, without judgment, without a busy internal dialogue that takes you “out” of the flow.
This simple presence in simple actions has a way of allowing more in-touchness and contentment with what is present already. We are less panicked and grasping for something “outside” to literally “occupy” us, such as our phones or the television. Once we are calmed down inside and don’t really need the TV, radio or phone, we can turn any of them on. Then it is an optional stimulant and not a compulsive one, and it is less likely to dull or kill our underlying clarity.
Pay attention to your body. It is a tangible expression of your life. It is a vehicle for simple presence. Resentments, frustrations, fears, guilt and pain from the past have a way of being stored up, “remembered”, and reinforced by the body through various points of tension, stiffness, dullness and sickness. These complicate our lives and can retard our simple, immediate presence to God.” (47-51)