My first thought as I wake up these days is “What’s the word of the day, God?”
It’s been an interesting practice because I often get words I didn’t anticipate but, as the day wears on, turn out to be just right.
On this gorgeous fall day I woke up in the majestic Yosemite, a trip I take twice a year with a group of women who are my personal and professional mentors. Women who at once make me laugh and cry, who will always tell me the truth, who will always honor my truth, who lift me up to the light with pride in the knowing that they are as a part of me as anyone else I know.
And, like all other mornings, I woke up this morning with my question, “So, God, what’s the word today?”
I have been working almost two years on meditation. I go in spurts, sometimes every day but often not. Lately, I haven’t meditated at all. It wasn’t a surprise, this word, because I know in my heart it’s what I should be doing. Like writing. Like exercising. Things I know to be at the core of my soul and things I resist with great intensity.
I’ve known for many years about resistance, but I thought it a passive thing that existed in the form of excuses and complaints that masked fears I knew were there but could not quite explain. This weekend, however, I’ve come to a whole new understanding of Resistance.
A couple months back I heard an interview with author Steven Pressfield about his book called The War of Art. I only heard bits and pieces of the whole interview, but what I did hear stirred me deeply. I ordered the book right when I got home.
It sat on my desk ever since.
Then early Thursday morning I started packing for this weekend. I usually bring three or four books with me on this trip; this time, though, I thought I’d only bring one (because that’s all I usually read anyway).
I looked from my book shelf to my desk at this book, sticking out from under a pile of papers yet to be dealt with, papers with lists of ideas and partial outlines and articles—all the writing I want to be doing but am not yet doing. This stack of papers with the book at the bottom sat on my desk under a picture of a woman running, exercise I want to do but am not yet doing, next to a candle I light when I mediate, something I want to do but am doing no longer.
A theme, you say? I agree.
That’s the book I want, I thought. As I pushed the papers aside to grab the book, I knocked over the unlit candle with the rough edge; it caught the picture of the woman running and tore it. I did not see that as a domino until now, three days later, writing this story as I sit in a bed in Yosemite with the window open and the river running by me not twenty yards away.
Why now? I was obedient to the word God gave me: Meditate, the first action word in the weeks of words that have come. Before I got to this bed by the window to write, I spent the afternoon in the warm sun of this most Divine place doing just what I was told to do.
But three days ago standing in front of my desk with the book in my hand I swore at the knocked over candle and the mess of papers and the torn picture. Then I stuffed the book in my bag and put the bag by the door because I was late for work.
When I got to work my friend, also my boss, also a woman on this trip, uncharacteristically approached me in the office about writing. She said she was ready to publish her book and asked me to help her do it. Honored, we chatted briefly and I mentioned, pretty much off-topic and definitely unprompted, that I was waiting to publish the memoir I’ve written because it didn’t yet feel quite right.
“That’s Resistance. You need to read The War of Art.”
Are you kidding me?
So I’m here writing this story, having finished The War of Art an hour ago and having finished meditating down by the river just minutes ago. I’m writing because out of my mediation came one word.
Interestingly enough, I initially went down to the river not to meditate, but because these women I love are so damned loud this weekend I just couldn’t stand to be in the house one minute longer. We’ve been coming here for sixteen years and never in those sixteen years have I been down by the water. I even had to ask how to get down there.
“Um, the stairs?”
The main floor of the house sits up high with an expansive deck that looks over gorgeous rocks and flowing water. I sit out on that deck quite a bit, especially when the weather is as perfectly calm and warm and beautiful as it is today. But because these women I love are so loud this weekend, the deck was not far enough away. And, come to find out, there’s a set of stairs that will take me right down where I want to be.
It hit me as I got to the bottom of the stairs, the stairs that were always there waiting to bring me down here, stairs that I had never known existed.
Right, today’s word is meditate. So off I went on a walking meditation to contemplate this entity called Resistance. According to Pressfield, I need to call on the angels to help me wage war against this very active source of energy by virtue of hard-ass work. In return for my openness to the words that come not from me but through me, the angels will reward me not only with inspiration, but also with the sustenance that comes to me only through writing. It calms me. It fuels me. It nourishes me. In order to earn those things I have to be a professional and to be a professional I have to work like a professional.
Interestingly enough, the question of how did not surface. Instead, a knowing came to town. A knowing that these concepts are ones I’ve innately understood from the beginning but instead of acting on them I’ve allowed Resistance to take charge. For the last two years I’ve been an amateur writer. I’ve also been an amateur athlete and an amateur meditator. Three things that I know will turn the volume up on my life, things that will make the birdsong more clear and the sky more blue, I’ve left those things to the whim of Resistance. I’ve grappled and lashed and cried and yelled because I knew what I had to do but for some reason I just couldn’t do it.
Then, in recent weeks, I got quiet. I didn’t meditate or write or exercise, but I did stop fighting. I realized all that lashing was doing nothing but locking me into unhappiness even harder. Like struggling with the finger trap you get out of a child’s vending machine, only when you stop fighting can you truly be free.
In recent weeks I’ve started to say out loud that this is my last year in a traditional classroom. More surprising, I’m saying out loud “I don’t know” when people ask what’s next and I calmly add, “but I know something just right is out there waiting for me.”
What kind of triple-type-A person have I become? I’m a planner and a doer and a go-damn-getter. Recently, though, I haven’t been. I’ve been doing things like asking God what my word is for the day and, instead of panicking about the ridiculous amount of things I have to do in any given day, I just trust there will always be enough time to get them done. I’ve been floating like a leaf in the river, slow and steady, the back of my head cool and light with my ears just below the surface so I can hear the calming water pull me along ever so gently, ever so gently, ever so gently.
When I stopped walking I found myself on the river’s edge. My eyes adjusted and my gaze landed on a place where the calm, slow water starts to pick up in this spot as it slides still gently but with more speed through the rocks. A blue-gray squirrel with a tail longer and fluffier than any I’ve ever seen bounced from rock to rock across the river and up the bank as I realized that God brought me here to look back and see my path. God brought me here to look forward and see my direction.
God brought me here.
And here is just right.