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Savoring

Not long ago, I watched this short video about deafness and music. The piece talks about how sound isn’t something only to be listened to but to be felt with the whole body. It’s really worth watching.

Hearing impaired and deaf folks know that sound is a vibration, a wave that can be felt — not just heard. Anyone can experience what it feels like to listen with every bone, with every cell.

Don’t just listen to music (and birds, and conversation, and the highway breathing and LIFE!), bathe your whole body in sound!

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savoring living meditation rock cairns 3“It doesn’t matter how many times you fall out. It only matters how many times you get back in.”
~ Amy, Susan’s yoga teacher

Savoring is direct experience.
Savoring is being with what is …not what I remember or what I wish for.
Savoring is available in all situations.
Savoring is heightened awareness.
Savoring is living meditation.

Student: My whole life, every single thing I do can be a meditation!
Teacher: Yes. But is it?

I forget to savor. Then I remember.
I come in and out.
The practice is choosing to come back, to start again, over and over.

savoring living meditation rock-cairnsAt the end of May, I had this cute idea: I noticed I tend to rush to get places and that I pack a peck of projects into my days and wouldn’t it be funny, I thought, so smart and right for the times, to write about being a Rushin’ Refugee. Aren’t I clever and yet simultaneously profound and all that?

I should know better. I should know by now that whatever I focus on shows up either right in my face or biting my backside. Or both.

What began as a cute title to a blog post has expanded into an exploration of savoring that has included the malleability of time, the delight of taking things one step at a time, the difference between looking and seeing, and the richness of nourishment. My personal inquiry delved into my habits of drinking and eating and driving, and the difference between efficiency and rushing. In this month, we’ve celebrated lots of birthdays and marked the passing of my shero, Maya Angelou. We danced in the summer solstice and as a community created a strand of prayer flags of gratitude and welcome for another hero, Michael Franti. Personally, it’s been a month of holding space and staying present while many people I love are in terrible pain, including my beloved Frank.

For someone who is practicing non-rushing, it sure looks like a lot went on in these 30 days.

Not so fast, lambkins.

It may look like this month was full-to-bursting, but that’s just what life looks like sometimes.  What has really emerged in this month of savoring is simple: savoring is a living meditation. Savoring is really just about awareness, about paying attention, about receiving and allowing what is so to be so. There are lots of ways of exploring it and talking about it and explaining it, but savoring is simply choosing to be present and live life as a meditation.

Which sounds kind of high falutin’ new agey and even a little heady, I grant you. But bear with me. Living meditation, like many core human experiences, is simple and not always easy. Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote that life is like a raffle: you must be present to win. That’s all living meditation is: the moment-to-moment choice to be aware and present.

This savoring, this living meditation is a state the most of us come in and out of. We forget and then we remember. We get distracted and then we come back. Maybe Jon Kabat-Zinn is present all the time, maybe the Dalai Lama stays in awareness from dawn to dark, but for most of us, it’s a practice of remembering to come back. Over and over.

It’s been a full and rich month that has, at times, sucked royally. I’ve discovered untapped sources of love and support and strength both inside me and around me that I’m now tapping like crazy. I’m noticing that some long-held habits of hurrying are beginning to release their anxious, mindless grip. I’m sure I will come in and out of them. I’ll forget – perhaps even for long stretches of time – and then I’ll remember to savor again. The practice isn’t about staying present and centered and savoring, it’s about remembering to come back when we inevitably forget.

Whatever this month has held for you, I hope you’ve done some savoring. Remember that no matter what is happening, there is always something to savor. And if you’ve forgotten completely about savoring the whole month, that’s fine. Remember now.

ED000049June is Savoring Month (as designated by my own self) and every Wednesday this month, I’ll be checking in on how I’m doing as a recovering Rushin’ Refugee.

My college thesis advisor (who I was just an eensy bit afraid of) told me that people who don’t look up a word they don’t know are illiterate. Which is why for years my constant reading companion was a small dictionary.

When I started using the Kindle app to read when we were traveling in Costa Rica, I was delighted to discover that while devoid of the lovely feel of pages and heft of a book, the device allows me to simply place my finger on a word to reveal its definition.

The only problem is that (and I’m not making this up) when I’m reading actual books now, I occasionally catch myself touching an unfamiliar word on the page.

Oy.

ANYway, in the course of my Month of Savoring, I’ve found myself asking, “What is the difference between efficient and rushed?”

I ask since I think sometimes I get the two confused.

“I’m just being efficient,” I say to myself as I make dinner, prepare granola, feed the cat, and listen to music for class. “It’s more efficient this way,” I hear myself saying as I squeeze in three errands in 15 minutes before class.  In the name of efficiency, I’ll check emails on my phone during breakfast and send texts while I’m reviewing choreography for class.

And my heart is beating fast and I have an edge of irritation and all I see is what is directly in front of me.  Am I efficient or rushed?

So I turn to one of my most-visited sites, dictionary.com to see where my understanding of efficient and rushed may have gone astray…

ef•fi•cient

adjective

1. performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort; having and using requisite knowledge, skill, and industry; competent; capable: a reliable, efficient assistant.
2. satisfactory and economical to use: Our new air conditioner is more efficient than our old one.
3. producing an effect, as a cause; causative.
4. utilizing a particular commodity or product with the least waste of resources or effort (usually used in combination): a fuel-efficient engine.

rush

verb

1. to move, act, or progress with speed, impetuosity, or violence.
2. to dash, especially to dash forward for an attack or onslaught.
3. to appear, go, pass, etc., rapidly or suddenly: The blood rushed to his face.

And there it is. Big difference.

Efficient feels economical, easeful, skillful. Rushed feels fast and violent. Rushed is an attack or onslaught.

Efficient vs Rushed:  Skillful and economical vs violent attack.

savoring nourishment super size meIt would be an extreme case of choir-preaching for me to see Supersize Me. As a long-time vegetarian health-foodie, it is painfully obvious to me that if a healthy person eats nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days, that person will become extremely unhealthy. No big shock: eating what Michael Pollan calls “edible food-like substances” does not nourish the body.

But it’s not just the body. Independent filmmaker, Morgan Spurlock’s experiment also left him mentally and emotionally depleted. In our drive-thru culture, a rushed, hurried, empty-calorie meal goes along with a rushed, hurried, empty-feeling life.

Savoring nourishes body and soul.

* 50-ish Words from Morgan Spurlock

Spurlock said at the end of his McMonth, “I felt depressed and exhausted most of the time, my mood swung on a dime, and my sex life was non-existent. I craved this food more and more when I ate it, and got massive cravings when I didn’t.”

savoring nourishment kundalini paintingI can hear you.

“A month of savoring. Right. Nice for you. We’d all like to slow down to vacation pace, but I have too much to do. I have three kids (a full-time job / an ailing family member / your thing here). I’m a single parent (an entrepreneur, on a mission, your other thing here) and I can’t slow down. If I don’t rush, if I don’t hurry, nothing will get done. Savoring schmavoring.

“And don’t try to con me with your new age happy horse hooey ‘Less is More’ stuff, either. I wasn’t born yesterday. Less is less. More is more. Obviously.”

I can hear you because that’s what’s in my head, too.

* * *

About half way through the 26-posture yoga series that I practice, we do two minutes of savasana (corpse pose). After 50 minutes of active standing postures in a room that is more than 100 degrees, two minutes lying down doesn’t seem like it would do squat. But it does. Those two minutes nourish my muscles and joints, calm my heart and nervous system and let my mind go blank (sometimes). They are two incredibly nourishing minutes (always).

During the second half of the practice, we do 20-second savasanas in between each posture. Just 20 seconds but like little phone chargers, each savasana gives me rest and space and energy for the next pose. (A curse of locusts on the teacher who only gives us 15 seconds, by the way.)

And in the midst of even the most challenging posture, the breath is always there flowing in and out calmly through the nose, nourishing the body in the midst of everything.

It doesn’t take long to recharge and nourish even a depleted body~mind.

* * *

I love lists. I mean, love. At any given moment, I’ve got a slew of them going. (Hold on, let me do a count: five on my desk, two on the kitchen table, two on the kitchen counter, and a spread sheet on my laptop.) I use them to remind me of tasks and ideas and chores. I use them to get control of almost any situation or solve almost any problem. Feeling overwhelmed? Make a list. Not sure what to do next? Make a list. Have a scary health issue happening? Make a list.

I also use lists to give me a rush of satisfaction as I lustily cross out items. If I really need a boost, I don’t just draw a line but vigorously scribble out what I’ve done. Accomplishment feels good to me.

I’m noticing there is a difference, though, between just doing something to cross it off the list and doing something with my full attention and care. My attachment to getting things done can land thin and hollow if I’m just doing something to cross (or scribble) it off the list.  An empty slavery to my lists.

I can choose to let my lists stress me out about everything that needs to get done or allow them to nourish me with perspective and possibility. When I am savoring, I can look at a list, take a breath and set my priorities. What matters to me the most? What feels important or time-sensitive? What will nurture and nourish me and my people? What can only I do? What can be done later or can I delegate to someone else? Which leads me to…

* * *

… the nourishment of asking for help.

If I look at what needs doing and find myself saying, “It all needs to be done now and I need to do it all.” I know that is a time to stop, take a breath, and get over damn myself. When life feels scary or painful or like a whole lot of everything, and someone asks if they can help, I’m practicing saying “Yes, yes you can.” We need each other and any idea that we can do it all on our own is an illusion. The greatest nourishment is love.

* * *

Life is full-to-bursting with things that need doing and people who need attention and deadlines that need meeting. There will always, ALWAYS be more to do than time to do it in. Rushing to get it done leaves me as malnourished and empty. Savoring doesn’t take more time, just more attention. Savoring nourishes.

June is Savoring Month (as designated by my very own self) and every Wednesday this month, I’ll be checking in on how I’m doing as a recovering Rushin’ Refugee.

rushin refugee Volkswagen-Jetta-TDIWhen I started dating my husband Frank, I thought something was wrong with his car. It went so slowly, I thought the engine needed an overhaul or something.

“No,” he said, “The car’s fine. I just like to drive slowly. It’s relaxing.”

Yeah, well, whatever.

Whenever Frank rode with me, I noticed that he was usually gripping the seat in a decidedly unrelaxed way.

My driving habit is one of precision: I leave exACTly the 14 minutes I need to get across town to the gym or the 6 minutes to get downtown or the 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to my sister’s. I somehow figure that there will never be any traffic, never any construction, never a Frank-style driver in front of me. And of course, that never happens.

Given my habit, I am always just the teensiest bit late and just the teensiest bit anxious about getting to wherever I am going on time.

I am also annoyed. I may well be sincerely deluded about how long it is going to take me to get somewhere, but I know perfectly well whose fault it is that I am pushing and running behind. I am not annoyed with the traffic jam or the road work or the slow driver in front of me. I am annoyed with me for not leaving more time.

In my heart, I know Frank is right: driving slowly is relaxing.

Since recognizing that I am, in fact, a recovering Rushin’ Refugee, I’ve been playing with erring on the side of leaving more time to get where I’m going. Instead of doing that One More Thing before I go … I just go.

With a little more wiggle room, I am driving more slowly (especially through the work zone). I know I don’t even need to mention the enormous safety benefits to driving slowly. It’s a practice worth doing just for that.

Turns out, though, that the benefits of slowing down expand even beyond safety. Going slowly gives me time to notice things along the way: people on the sidewalk, flowers in yards, and the stretch of mountains and sky as I come over Pantops Mountain. Leaving more time gives me time to be kinder on the road: letting cars into the traffic flow, waving someone else to proceed through the intersection before me, and offering a genuine “thank you wave” when someone does the same for me.

Sometimes I get to my destination sooner than I expected, but again, this gives me more time to say hello and check in with people, including myself. Last week, I had enough time before class to plop down outside the studio and make a prayer flag for our Michael Franti project.

Breaking any habit takes time and I’ve messed up my intention to leave more time more than once. But it’s actually fun to experiment with leaving more time rather than driving myself to distraction.

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