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What’s Guiding You?

By Alexander Irving

Recently I woke up feeling sluggish and lethargic, reluctant to engage in the various activities I had planned for the day, including meditation. As I dragged myself out of bed I noticed a bit of a struggle in my mind between the wish to meditate and the desire to...what? I'm not sure but certainly not to meditate! Instead I turned to my phone and before long I was lost in the comforting embrace of online window shopping (who knew electric bicycles were so interesting).

But then something happened. I noticed that I was feeling lethargic, clearly and without judgement. I felt it, the texture of it, the quality of the heaviness and dullness in my body and mind. And then the lines from a poem popped into my head:

Today like every other day I wake up empty and frightened.
Don't open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty you love be what you do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

This poem from the Persian poet Rumi has stuck with me over the years. Anxiety is a well known visitor so I know what it's like to wake up feeling frightened. But today it was lethargy not fear visiting me so the poem might begin:

Today like many other days I wake up sluggish and lethargic.
Don't turn on your phone and start shopping.

It would be so easy to hear the first line as a criticism but the non-judgemental quality of mindfulness allowed me be curious about the experience of lethargy, bringing some energy into my body and mind. From there I could receive the second line as a friendly word of guidance (which I am inclined to listen to) rather than a critical admonishment (which I am not).

So what next? I don't play a musical instrument but I do dance so I turned on some music and began to slowly move and stretch and before I knew it I was warming my body up for the day.

Let the beauty you love be what you do.

The title of this email "What's guiding you?" could also have been "What do you love?" So often we are guided by critical voices, inner and outer which, whilst they may have good intentions, can end up leading us further away from ourselves. Can we develop an ongoing, intimate connection with our deepest aspirations and values? And in the clamour of everyday life can we touch into these, so they can guide the choices we make?

You might think that in good mindfulness teacher fashion this story ends with me sitting for an hour in meditation but actually I went for a run. For me what's more interesting than what we do is how we engage with ourselves and the world around us. As Rumi says There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. I take this to mean that there are many ways we can serve ourselves and others.

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