A Meditation for the New Year
“I walk slowly but never backwards.” Abraham Lincoln.
For months now, I’ve revisited the bag, like a minor shrine. It always makes me smile inside. I believe it winks at me in return- in silent agreement.
On the eve of New Year’s Eve, I understood. What had been instinct and emotion hit what my dad called the “aw” factor. The moment when the lightbulb comes on. When experience, instinct, emotion and cognition meet.
Let me get something off the table. That’s right. Off. Not on. Two questions. “How do you like retirement?” And “When are you having knee replacements?”
There are reasons that the questions are asked, I acknowledge. That’s where the black canvas bag and the words from Abe come in. I am aware of walking some full circles, but never backward in this particular new lifetime.
It’s been a busy six months since the new lifetime began. Much of it was planned. Professional obligations to meet. Moving and re-organizing on the Homefront. Less alarm clock and commute. More mornings with a second cup of tea.
The full circles have come in unpredictable form.
- A French Horn, unused for thirty plus years.
- A Feldenkrais practitioner with a program for knees.
The trio from church was rehearsing for Lessons and Carols. Recorder, viola and piano playing A Sussex Carol.
“How do you think a French Horn would blend?”
The words were out of my mouth before a thought could be formed. Whatever was I thinking? I wasn’t thinking- just responding from somewhere deep inside. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of a new book on creativity posits that too many put away the things they loved doing at ten or eleven years old, and never return to that particular kind of joy.
Her voice on NPR’s Fresh Air mirrored the question in the previous day’s knee journal: what activities did you enjoy as a child? When was the last time you did them? What prevents you from doing them now?
My head knew the tricky part of rebuilding embouchure to play a brass instrument. The rest of me, the musician part, who had been busy with other endeavors for several decades now forged right ahead.
Wait! Musician? Where had she been hiding? Behind other job titles and demands? A fleeting conversation crosses my mind. I am thanking two visiting musicians for their Advent performance. Are you a musician? the pianist asks. I used to teach, I say. Once a musician, forever a musician she says, and the conversation moves on.
There were a few fumbles, of course. But muscle memory moved my fingers and my ears demanded- required- coaxed mostly mellow tones from the depths of the brass coils. Along the way, I discovered parts to ” In the bleak mid- winter.” My arms embrace the brass like a long lost friend.
From outside the experience it must seem unrelated – the business of non- surgical intervention for knee pain and the French horn – and the easel I got for Christmas. From inside the experience, the circle is encompassing. Foundational pieces of the adventures of this new lifetime are deeply a part of who I be , augmented by the doings of my journey. In the quiet of the Feldenkrais studio, other foundational pieces move from the subconscious to the conscious . An image- more felt than seen. Full circle not ending where it began; spiraling from the known to the unknown…..its gentle wake holding brief dream- like glimpses of sacred places of being ness.
The third session is drawing to a close. I turn slowly to the practitioner.
When I studied with Dr. Suzuki, when I taught, our lessons began with a bow, and the words, “teacher, will you help me?” The lessons ended with a bow. “Thank you for helping me.”
“Shall we?” she asks.
And the new year begins, with deep awareness that under my feet is solid ground – the integration of all that has been , the given and the earned – from which I step forward. Slowly. Mindfully. Joyfully. Forward.
A new year. A new lifetime.