I have a routine in the mornings.
Although, these days, any talk about routine risks smelling of being bored or in a rut. The same old same-old day after day.
Vilayat Inayat Khan the Sufi musician and teacher once said: “The human spirit lives on creativity and dies in conformity and routine.”
Thing is, if the very routine that Vilayat guards against is to nurture creativity and non-conformity (whatever that is) it is surely something deeper to be valued.
Such an attentive and cultivated routine then becomes a ritual. It is alive and vivid and outside of any comparison to the things that it is repeating.
Perhaps routine, is simply ritual that failed.
So let’s just say instead that I have a morning way.
I think you get the gist.
When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment? Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog
I am by design a morning person. My biological alarm clock begins to stir my chemistry at dawn. At first, I just sort of simmer in place as my internal programs all bootup. Listening to the magpie dawn chorus, and the first distant stirrings of automobiles, joggers and dog walkers.
The most important thing at this time is to resist the urge to reach for my iPhone.
Pretty soon my bladder forces me up to the toilet. As I pee, Juno (who has his own distinct morning way – and a simmering time just short of 3 nanoseconds) pops his head in to say good morning and wag a super enthusiastic isn’t-it-great to-still-be-alive?
This is routinely followed by some vigorous ear scratching, a little phantom ball licking, and then a thorough head to tail shake out.
OK then!….he skips back to bed where he circles once, plops down and is asleep again just like that.
Kelly is still asleep. She worked late last night and will not get up for a while yet. So I try not to make too much noise.
I pad my way down to the kitchen and boil the kettle for a cup of instant coffee or tea, but usually coffee.
There is more to it than this.
The way of it is rich in actions and experience.
The first light coming in through the kitchen window (trying to read the sky for the days’ weather), the clinking of the spoon in the coffee jar, the cold of the floor through my feet, the rolling-up boil, the cracking of god-knows-what in my ankle as I shift my weight.
Breath. Waiting. Pouring. Steam. A plop of milk. The heat of the cup in my hands.
I did it yesterday. I am doing it today. This is the way of it. Juno’s wag reminds me to be grateful, and to pay attention.
It all feels deep and wide. I have never heard anyone walking in the Grand Canyon complain that they were in a rut.
Once I have finished my coffee, I go to the study to sit Zazen (meditation).
Some simple stretches to prepare my legs, I set the timer on my iPhone for 60 minutes. Sometimes I light incense but usually not. I settle onto the cushion.
Each morning I look pretty much exactly the same sitting there on the cushion. But it is never the same.
When the bell, sounds I slowly unfold myself. Back down to the kitchen to make Kelly some tea. And perhaps, if she is lucky, some thick cut toast with gobs of melting butter drizzled with honey. Delivered on one of those little bed tables with the fold down legs. Juno bounces around on the bed and topples things and tries to make Kelly give him some toast through sheer force of cuteness.
Then as Kelly rises I will sit for a while in my favourite chair. Juno usually joins me. Reading, or just staring out the window, or if the morning sun is on me, dozing. It is probably only around 8.30am. But the time has been rich and thick and now spreads out like the golden honey into a thousand small things that aspire to nothing.
One thousand and one, if I remember to do the laundry.
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