Praise Song for the New Year

Praise Song for the Day                                                             

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

 praise song for walking forward in that light.

                                                     by Elizabeth Alexander

Exploring Habits

 An apple a day . . .

An apple a day . . .

I’ve noticed that when people think about habits they are usually focusing on what they perceive as bad habits and looking to break them.

Good habits / Bad habits, either way they structure our lives.

Habits are activities that have connected to our autonomic nervous system and have quietly transformed what we do into routine. Habits are structural in the way that they impact our lives. And the beauty of that is that we don’t have to expend energy deciding over and over again. I don’t have to decide whether to have my first cup of coffee in the morning, or whether to give my daughter a hug and a quick kiss before she gets on the school bus, or whether to review and update my list of tasks for tomorrow at the end of my work day.

Recently I had the pleasure of hearing Gretchen Rubin speak about her new book on making and breaking habits.  One thing she said really stuck with me, “What we do everyday matters more than what we do once in a while.” I got a subtle and significant perspective shift when I went from thinking about habits to thinking about what we do everyday, and my practice design “elf” awakened.

So, if daily habits are the architecture that structure our lives then the practice of tracking and appreciating what we do on a daily basis for a week could be very illuminating. Tracking something puts your attention on it and attention is a form of currency. (This is what I call a Noticing Practice.)

Start a list of your daily habits. Add to it every day for a week. Then at the end of a week give yourself 15 or 20 minutes to reflect on your list.  A few key questions might then be:

What abilities am I maintaining and even building with my habits of doing?

What neural pathways am I maintaining and building with my habits of thinking?

What are the things that I’m doing every day that presence* what matters most to me?

Then pick a few new habits to invite into the daily-ness of life.

And if, during your noticing practice you trip upon a few habits that you want to break, Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies Framework is a great resource.

If you’d like support with venturing further into inviting new habits into your daily life, or breaking a few, you can contact me by clicking here.

*Note: I’m using presence as a verb here, meaning to be able to sense and bring into the present. See Otto Scharmer’s Presencing Institute