The Devil’s Mill

There was a time when the world moved slow
with the rounded loveliness of hiccupping days
that dripped gently into the deep, reflective pool of life

When rushing into the future was a sign of ill intent
not the industrious, enviable attitude of an elite individual
only a madman would pass up the daily spectacle of the setting sun

The wind through the reeds served its own ends
and it was an honor just to be a witness to this earth
as she twirled and unfurled a routine of majestic mysteries

Time is the tyrant that has torn us from true living
a construct of man that manifests in ceaseless obligations
a slight of hand that has convinced us it is objective and concrete

A clock will not tell you that this moment is eternal
the liquid nature of the kaleidoscope of now
if forever transforming and becoming something new

The radio static of the collective mind has gotten so loud
it's all but drown out the music of the present moment for us all
life has become the distant background noise of greater misery

But the shackles of time can still be cast off
it's not too late to emerge again into snow white infinity
the devil's mill that man has set in motion can also be stopped
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The Gift of Idleness

Paradise is promised to us
through painstaking productivity
happiness is hanging there
just past more hard work

It's shameful to acknowledge exhaustion
after hours toiling in the sweltering sun
no one dares commit the sin of sitting down
swallowed up by the fear of being labeled lazy

Capitalism is cleaver if nothing else
convincing us to become our own slave drivers
soiling our own perceptions of what it means
to savor this one and only existence

Linking the concept of leisure with sloth
until we never stop moving for even a second
losing sight of our right to be idle
and enjoy the God-given gifts of this life

Standing still is an act of shocking rebellion
in a social system that expects you
to burn your own flesh to feed the never ending
fire of the economy and sacred stock market

These collective misguided morals congeal
making virtue synonymous with profit for the powerful
a seed of shame buried deep within the conscience
of every unfortunate American child

Your blood is worth only as much as the oil
that it can replace in the groaning machine of industry
keep making the products you will always be
too poor to consume yourself

Trying to make us forget that stillness
has been the wellspring of all great art and invention
a futile effort to make us too tired to revolt
they cannot choke off my awe of the open sky 

Learning to Float

Sometimes it takes simple things
to help settle the restless soul
despite the illusion only grand gestures
could get us unstuck

The stillness below the chaos
is where true safety lies waiting
while we keep covering ourselves
with gleaming trinkets and lofty ambitions

It seems silly to suppose
a couple extra glasses of water
could cleanse this nagging agitation
simmering ceaselessly inside

Impossible to imagine transformation
taking shape from a few moments
of mindful breathing in the evening
while the mind is insisting we need more

Soft bubbles of splendid space
open up when we stop moving
savoring the sensation of buoyancy
when we finally stop swimming

Sick of Self-Care

Acts once performed with the intention of loving kindness
have become just additional burdens of mindless routine
every little task now resonates with resentment
self-care disfigured and transmuted into self-harm

Somehow I turn even healing practices into poison
to punish myself for not meeting my own expectations
what is there inside me that turns self-love so sour?
why doesn't putting in the work work for me?

Tools I was told would transform me if I was patient
were twisted into weapons of perfectionism
just more masochistic mutations of all the miracles
I used to think would some day save me

I'm so tired of this futile self-improvement project called me
the pearls of ancient wisdom I've turned to soot within my fingers
the internal pressure of trying to get better is
the terminal illness of my inner-most essence

Manifest

Early morning cracks us open
a plump, orange yolk perched upon
the rolling expanse of open acres
the symphony of dawn begins 
beneath a veil of cool, dissipating mist

The earth awakens and unfurls in an instant
with interwoven, simultaneous, upbeat bustling
as hundreds of intricate beings of all sizes emerge
to dutifully begin their humble daily tasks
unwittingly weaving the world together for one another

The swollen present swallows us completely
enveloped in the electric energy currents of pulsating life
rushing through creek beds and rustling vibrant leaves
a soothing, faithful hum that echoes inside and out
intoxicated by the sweet nectar of undulating harmony

Each moment overflowing with the simple joy of right now
lapping up the soft waters of where we belong
indistinguishable elements of the intricate, lush landscape
synchronizing ourselves to the cadence of all creation
every instant ripe with it's own inherent meaning 

Right Now

I have to remind myself how grateful I once was
for everything I now take for granted
when I first got this job I thought it was
better than anything I could have imagined

I can't forget a higher salary doesn't replace
the rare human decency I've been given
the days I used to long for community
have been gathered dust in distant memory

How elated I was at first, to have my own home
with a leafy green yard on a lonely street
to be able to walk to the waters
that have always carried me

Somehow it seems like finding ways to suffer now
will spare me a future filled with pain but
present pleasures cannot be postponed
and stashed away for another day

I won't allow fear to rob me of the moments
already filled with soft comforts and simple joy
the days ahead cannot diminish the delight
of where I am right now

Stop Searching

The healing hum that reverberates
through all the small, silent moments
can become buried beneath the louder
frequencies of frustration and forward motion

The panicked pace of ungrounded grasping
the breath that's stolen while being swept off your feet
it can feel like dying to slow down, to surrender momentum
in favor of savoring the soft rustling outside your window

Finding peace can be counterintuitive
stop flipping over rocks and just pause
to feel the cool stone against your skin
and hear the whispering stream gurgle past

It's hard to accept that happiness is here
when we've wasted so much time searching
learning to laugh at ourselves like when we've been
seeking the object that's been in our hand the whole time

It's the simple things that will save us
if we can sit with the fear that they
won't be enough in the end
they will

Trying to Remember

Ambition takes too much energy
I'd rather just exist
it feels like a fever finally breaking
when I realize I can do this

The American dream was supposed to mean
the chance to enjoy your life
not a nagging necessity to make money for companies
subconsciously convincing us to strive

I never asked for the social climbing goals of others
to become pressed upon my spirit
I have no interest in cars, mansions, or expensive clothes
these things aren't happiness, they're nowhere near it

Time is what we've traded for trinkets
as we transmute our souls to stone
missing our one chance to see the sun
and all the vibrant life it has grown

Wiping this incessant spell from my eyes every morning
that inoculates me with discontent
a centuries long mission to sever these bodies
from the intuition Source has sent

The perfect simplicity of existence is obscured
by billboard advertisements and insidious corporate greed
it takes hours of inner struggle every day to remember
I already have everything I need

When Gratitude Stops Working

It has been over six years since I started practicing daily gratitude. I have journals upon journals filled with lists of things I’m grateful for. After all of this, after so much time spent training my brain to find gratitude, how can it be that I still feel like a terminally ungrateful person?

The main issue I have with a lot of mindfulness practices is the way my clever brain figures out ways to get around them after awhile. It’s ironic that most of the “mindfulness” I have incorporated into my everyday life isn’t done very mindfully at all anymore. Whether it be meditation, journaling, or mindful eating my brain seems more adept at learning to avoid the conscious effort rather than learning to be more present like I had intended.

Finding Novelty

If you can relate to this issue, you’re probably already asking, “How can we solve this problem?” While I don’t yet have a definitive answer, one thing I’ve noticed is that of all the self-care tasks I do every day, the one that never seems to get stale is my yoga practice. The only difference between yoga and my other practices is that the yoga flows I do are ever changing and evolving. I don’t practice the same poses in the same order everyday. If I did, I’m sure that would just as easily become a mindless habit like the rest. So the only advice I can give to you and to myself is: Keep changing it up.

This isn’t the perfect solution, I know. It is frustrating to constantly have to be reimagining ways to keep yourself mindful. It would be so much nicer if we could just do a few short little identical practices everyday and reap all the benefits of a more compassionate, mindful, spiritual life. I guess the old saying that nothing worth doing is easy still rings true.

I’ve found that novelty is essential to keep me mindful, even if it is aggravating to have to always search for it. Luckily, sometimes that little tweak for my practice finds me on it’s own like it did yesterday. I stumbled upon a Podcast that referenced The Book of Delights by Ross Gay. In his book, he talks about savoring little things throughout our day that “delight” us. For some reason, just this small, almost insignificant shift in perception has made a huge difference for me. It’s amazing how powerful the slightest change of framing can completely shift our perspective on something.

Replacing Gratitude with Delight

Despite sticking with my gratitude practice for so many years, I noticed almost immediately that it was not providing the mental benefits I had hoped. Sometimes it even seemed to backfire. There are a lot of days where I struggle to think of things to be grateful for. This makes me feel awful, because I know I have such an amazing life. I know I should be able to come up with dozens of things to be grateful for every day. The guilt spiral begins and I end up harming my mental health instead of helping it.

The most important part of gratitude is actually feeling it. As someone who struggles to stay grounded in my body and emotions, “grateful” is a rather vague sensation for me. There are lots of other emotions that compile this more complex feeling. It’s hard for me to just drop into a sense of gratitude on demand. However, “delight” feels a bit more tangible most days. Just the word alone makes the corners of my mouth twitch into a soft smile. Delight. Now that I can feel.

Not only am I more easily able to feel delight in my body, it also somehow feels a bit more lighthearted than gratitude. There is something very daunting and serious about being grateful. Not to mention the reverse, being ungrateful, is tied to a lot of shame. Delight, on the other hand, brings up a sense of buoyancy and silliness for some reason. Imagining being delighted makes me want to giggle and wiggle my toes in a way being grateful does not. There is a joyous, uplifting, lightness about the idea of feeling delighted. It also seems easier to pick small things in a practice about delight versus a practice about gratitude. Saying I am grateful for the way a stinkbug stopped and looked at me when I tapped the counter next to it feels strange, but to say the same scenario delighted me fits perfectly.

Putting It Into Practice

Today, instead of a gratitude list, try listing some things that delighted you. I’ll go first. Here are just a few things that brought a sense of delight into my life this morning:

  1. Hitting that snooze button on my alarm and snuggling back into my warm blankets with my dog for those few precious moments before getting up.
  2. Enjoying that first hot, black coffee.
  3. Feeling my house get warmer as I waited for the furnace to get going.
  4. Listening to music and singing as I drove to work.
  5. The smell of the perfectly ripe, beautiful, big apple I brought for breakfast.

Regardless of what kind of list you write, it’s helpful to be as detailed as possible. Add lots of physical descriptions, trying to incorporate as many senses into it as possible. I have to admit, I couldn’t help but smile as I wrote down my morning’s delights just now.

My favorite part about learning about this new way to practice bringing mindful moments of pleasure into your life was the idea of sharing it with others. Yesterday I asked a few other people to tell me something that delighted them about their day. It brought me just as much joy and happiness to hear about their experiences and imagine them savoring those small delights.

I hope at least some of you find this helpful. I would love to hear about any other ways you’ve found to keep a spark of novelty in your daily practices. Please, please, please leave a comment and let me know what delights you’ve had so far today!

Kundalini

Energy stirring at the base of the spine
the hot embers of who I hoped to be
coiled serpent left sleeping
give me the tools to seduce it
and draw it out of stillness

Release vitality into my veins and
place my heart in the hearth of purpose
fluttering bird beneath my breast, take flight
turn me from torturous distraction
light me up with internal intention

Sizzling stimulation of skin and bone
the rising tide of the mighty sea inside
spilling over into external existence
self-sustained wheels of spinning fire
propel me forward with focus

Let me overcome the illusion
that my energy is limited
befriending the deep source
settled beneath the murky water
of this mysterious earthly form