“Build your life brick by brick.
Live a life of truth,
And you will look back on a life of truth.
Live a life of fantasy,
And you will look back on delusions.”Order “365 Tao Daily Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao”
Waking, shaking my body free of sleep in the mornings, any morning, is a ritual, more than a series of routines, habits that one is guaranteed to fulfill because they are a robot and not a live, breathing human being. There were other mornings when I would crawl out of bed on hands and knees because my mind and my body were so poisoned (you pick the poison, alcohol, drugs, the despair that comes with no sleep from breaking night) that I could barely testify whether I was in a dream or a nightmare or death.
Sleep was an interruption to a stress-filled rush of time measured by how fast I could speed through minutes, hours, or a day that it all became a blur; a series of events, people crashing into each other with no purpose or goal other than it just was and my body would carry me along praying (not in a religious sense but in the sense of desperation) that it would not drop me. Until it often did.
Now, I know better after years of falling hard. Of getting my head crushed under the weight of failure and disappointment, I get it. You can either let time control you, or you can control time. Your time. No one else’s time, just yours. And it begins with that moment you wake. You know this is another opportunity to discover, to be someone new, to build a day brick by brick different from yesterday, more beautiful than yesterday, to live with purpose and not just glide through with no hope, no moments of joy, allowing yourself to be in a time of being.
“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.”Henry David Thoreau (1817-62)
That second that I push or pull (aging can do that) myself up from the bed begins my morning ritual (I will not lie; I am often in awe that I am still here). Shaking my body to the bathroom with each step, eyes opening from looking down to looking straight ahead, from stumbling to erect, catching my stride from wariness to determination.
The water flows, warm, over and through my hands, washing over my face, erupting every cell in my cheeks, mouth, nose, eyelids, and neck. The electric toothbrush in my hand vibrates in my mouth, stimulating every cell ending awake and alive.
I stand in the quiet of my bathroom in our house (I recognize that I have the privilege to have one). No one else is there with me, another privilege knowing I am lucky as fuck to have my own space while everyone else is still asleep at five in the morning. My only companion is the quiet that accompanies me to the kitchen and the Keurig coffee maker as I scan the world outside through my phone to ensure the outer world is still here (those news alerts).
The sound of coffee filling my cup (we have cups from around the world, and it’s always a happy moment to celebrate Tokyo, Barcelona, Paris, or New York). The smell of Bustelo Coffee wafting into my nose, bringing back memories of that first spoonful Titi Bebé would give me, of that strong coffee when I was too young to be drinking coffee at all. Flashbacks to 2595 Third Avenue in the South Bronx when my memory swears, I could smell the roasting coffee coming into our apartment from a nearby Bustelo factory.
Cup in hand, I walk, determined to my office. No hangover (I am sober twelve years this September) and no scratching mistakes from the previous day out of my mind.
There’s a ritual. I recheck the day ahead. It’s all laid out before I go to bed (yes, I have a ritual then too). My headphones pump meditation music into my brain, creating a cocoon of thought, wrapping me in a warm blanket of sound, and giving me peace and inspiration. I open my meditation writing notebook and begin a reading and writing ritual that opens a universe before me. Wise words followed by their meaning for me, how they inspire me to create my definitions, and my interpretations for what opportunities I may build brick by brick for my day ahead.
A poem, a narrative, a story built from memory, or a fiction coming from somewhere deep inside of me whose origin I cannot trace, and I swear it didn’t come from a book I read or a video I watched, or a podcast I heard or maybe it came from all those things. Maybe, it came to me when I was fifteen years old on my way to school on the number 26 bus rolling over Westchester Avenue, or was it when I was lying prone in my vomit when I was thirty-two in a stranger’s apartment after testing my limits with alcohol and failing miserably. Stories, true or false, come to all of us in the strangest of places and times if we can remember them all. The truths that would rise.
“Take the breath of the new dawn and make it part of you. It will give you strength.”Hopi saying.
In my quiet time, I gather my truths, my strengths, the courage, and determination to throw the past behind me as lessons learned, know that today will be one day part of that past and that I have the power to shape it, to make it shine with beauty and peace and wisdom during my morning ritual.