Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour 2009

Alone in the company of a chorus of candles.

A smiling crescent in the Western sky looks down on Palo Alto with bemusement.

As in any power outage I wonder--is it just my house? Is it the neighborhood? I was there when the whole East Coast went down in ’65. We had no idea how far the darkness had spread. Tonight is different. This darkness sheds light.

After throwing the main breaker and walking gently into the still house, my first response was--we must do this more often. Why not each Shabbat? What true freedom that would engender. Experience Shabbat as did our ancestors. The quiet. The calm. Much of which must have been common to all their nights. Nights not dominated by power--thousands of superfluous lumens, computer tasks, washing machines, and the most dreadful of all--television.

Ahhhh. So sweet to have this precious time for reflection.

Debbie, off to theater with Karen, undoubtedly knows she is missing a unique evening at home. The sounds of cars rolling down Ross Road tell me many others are missing this as well. I wish they were not.

I sit to embrace this space.
At once the tick tick tick of battery operated clocks announce themselves. Shall I pull the batteries? Are they a violation of this night?
Nah. I will let them be. There’s something profound about storing energy for later use.
I sit.
I chant.
I open my siddur.
I set the ritual objects before me--wine cup, spice container, braided candle.
I utter ancient words of praise--
for sweetness of wine
for aroma of spice
for separation of darkness and light, of the profane and the holy
I bless the week ahead.

Just as the fragrant spices symbolize our prayer for the spirit of Shabbat to permeate our week, I pray that this Earth Hour too lingers on, that its quiet beauty, the awareness it brings, pervades our consciousness in the days and months ahead.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Time to Breathe

I haven’t written in months. And my nervous system is feeling the ill effects.

There are certain lessons I have to keep learning over and over again.

The fundamental truth, as it relates to my general well-being, is that there are four essential elements that I must integrate into my life in order to stay on an even keel. In no special order: writing, meditating, healthy eating, exercise.

To the degree that I am out of balance in most if not all of these areas, it has taken its toll. I am doing a lot of doing, in spurts at least. Being out of balance causes the amplitudes of my emotions and energy to fluctuate to greater extremes than would otherwise be the case. I am wildly enthusiastic, creative and energetic; and periodically much less so.

It’s time to breathe.

I must take time to breathe. Breath would be a very welcome first step to performing all the requisite functions listed above. I used to stop and breath to meditate, to commence writing, to eat consciously, to engage in rigorous exercise to be sure. Starting with a breath. It gives me the pause I need. It fills my lungs, my blood, my brain, my heart with oxygen, with life, with connection to the divine spirit--ruach.

I am happy simply reminding myself to breath. Well...there is that other little thing (not so little). Like what is the nature of life post-Israel Ride? What is the next great thing? I keep looking for it and waiting for it to appear. It reminds me of Peter Senge’s parable about the foundation of existence. Once thought to be fire, air, earth, and water. Then thought to be the elements, then molecules, then atoms, then sub-atomic particles. Eventually scientists found that everything is composed of bits of energy moving in relationship to one another -- no “thing” -- nothing but relationships.

Perhaps my next big thing is also no thing, just relationship--with the Universe, with the planet, with others, with myself. If I keep taking it down to finer and finer levels, like Senge suggested, there is no thing and there is everything. I turn far enough inward I touch the Universe again.

To breath I must slow down. Stop doing, doing, doing.

I love the words of Wilferd Arlan Peterson.


Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind. Steady my hurried pace. Give me, amidst the day's confusion, the calmness of the everlasting hills.

Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of singing streams that live in my memory.

Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep. Teach me the art of taking "minute vacations"...slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to read a few lines from a good book.

Remind me of the fable of the hare and the tortoise; that the race is not always to the swift; that there is more to life than measuring its speed.

Let me look up at the branches of the towering oak and know that it grew slowly and well. Inspire me to send my own roots down deep into the soil of life's enduring values...that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.

Slow me down, Lord.