What do you say when your eyes open in the morning?
Hit the alarm clock, peer through the blinds for any glimpse of light, and, finding none, burrow back beneath the covers with the hope that you don’t really have to start your day just yet?
Or perhaps that’s the wish. Perhaps instead your alarm buzzes you awake with a startling jolt and you grumble under your breath and shluff to the bathroom to begin your routine. You pull on clothes and pour the coffee, nudge the kids from their restful sleep, pack the lunches, pack your bag for work and go about your day.
Blindly. As if without thought. Perhaps actually without thought. You just do it because you have to, no joy, more resentment for being a slave to time.
What if your day, this very same day with obligations, began differently? More consciously?
With a prayer. Or a few yoga poses. Or deep breathing and 5 minutes of meditative silence. Or if you were so grateful for that cup of steaming coffee that you leaned in toward the mug, closed your eyes, and inhaled deeply the scent of the ground beans grown on another corner of this planet and realized all the machinations the beans had to go through, and the people, and the effort, to get to you and begin your day.
Every tradition, every community, has rituals for beginning a new day. There are prayers for every moment of the day, for every miracle you encounter, for the beginning and closing of events and of simply waking and laying down peacefully to sleep.
Many of us never recite them and for those who do, sometimes we fall into the routine of recitation so we don’t actually feel the words as we feel the beat of our miraculous hearts keeping us alive.
I’m trying. Trying to start the day with consciousness and go through my days with reverence and awakening. Gratitude. Happiness.
I am trying to be kind to others as a reflex, and to see the good in every situation, even the ones when a child yells at me and a bedroom door slams. When I pick up laundry from the floor for the millionth time and remind the same beloved kids to make beds and they still go to school without doing it, I am trying.
This concept of saying a blessing, of blessing time, of remarking on this moment as if it is special, it’s important.
Last night, my daughter played beautifully in her orchestra concert. There she sat on stage, her long, luscious blond-brown hair cascading all around her, her eyes sparkling, her small feet poised in black patent leather wedge-heels, and she sat erect and proud, her viola on her shoulder and her bow poised to make beautiful music.
I sat in the audience, with my husband, my sons, and my parents. I thought about how, if my children are getting older, then I must be, too, and then of course my parents must be. My grandmother has already left us. Time marches on.
For that moment, I felt so incredibly grateful to be alive and healthy and youngish. I realized the quick passing of time from youth, which we take for granted while we are gloriously in it, to young adulthood, which we embrace with such vigor, to middle adulthood, when we start to realize our mortality. Older adulthood is not far away.
This morning, my father and I shared a quiet breakfast in a favorite restaurant, our weekly ritual of coming together because we love each other and we are so grateful for this time together. We started having lunch or breakfast once a week several years ago, when I realized that time would pass whether I cherished it or not, and so would relationships.
One of my favorite parts of the week is my time with my dad. Sometimes we talk about important things and sometimes we don’t and every time, it is wonderful. Precious. An incredible gift.
You see, there are so many opportunities for blessing the moments that pass us by. I am as guilty as the next. But what if we stopped to truly see how fortunate we are?
What would it be like to live each day, each hour, each minute, as if it were the only one? For it is, you know. And to complain or whine or wish it different is the scourge we bring on ourselves. For life is truly good. And so are we.
This morning, I blessed the new Hebrew month of Shvat with a group of women in my synagogue. We came together to ring in the new month and ring off the old month that has already passed. To step in with open eyes and open hearts and make of the coming days what we want them to be.
All of our traditions give us the gift of prayer and community to make life more meaningful. Let’s use it wisely. If you don’t find a prayer to start your day that resonates with you, write your own. Find the words, whether 2 words or 25, to shake yourself awake with the recognition of what a gift this life is.
Then live it like you mean it.