Oh, it has become all too easy. I see it in myself so many times a day. I reach for things. I grasp.
I’m in my car, stopped at a traffic light, and instead of staying inside my head or looking out the window, I quickly peek at my phone. What’s new in the last three minutes since the last traffic light? What emails have landed in my inbox? What news alerts? Who has posted what on Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? The light turns green, and I put the phone down, my head abuzz.
Or I’m sitting at my computer, working on an essay, a book review, a story, a blog post. I hit a snag. The words aren’t flowing easily. So, with a single click, I head on over to the amusement park that is the Internet. Those cute pants I saw on a friend last night might have gone on sale. Or suddenly, it seems like a good moment to take a look at possible destinations for spring break. Or maybe I just want to Google someone I met at a dinner party last week. Now I’m no longer doing what I was doing. I’m no longer in my creative headspace.
I’ve reached, grasped, and numbed myself to whatever it is that feels…too hard. Too daunting. Uncomfortable.
Or wait. Maybe it’s the evening now. I’m cooking dinner for my family after a long day that has been full of ups and downs, and I pour myself a big glass of wine. Maybe even another. A pleasant sensation warms me from the inside. Aahhh. My mind slows down. The spiky edges are softened, blunted. A respite from the daily grind, the disappointments, frustrations, setbacks—even joys and pleasures—that are just too uncomfortable to feel.
How do we become willing to feel everything?
I recently had the privilege of being in the audience for an extraordinary story-telling experience while I was teaching at a retreat on Whidbey Island, off the coast of Washington. This immersive story-telling experience was about humanity’s place in the cosmos. As I lay back in a dome and was taken back light years through time, it became more and more apparent what a miracle this is, this planet of ours, this confluence of the sun and the moon, the habitability of the terrain and water, the gravitational pull that keeps is in a steady, beautiful, life-giving orbit. What struck me that night was how unlikely it is to be a human being on planet earth. And how, given the near-impossible circumstances that allow us all to be here together, essential it is that we wake up for it.
Days pass, and the years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles—so goes the ancient Sabbath prayer.
Today is marked by a new moon, the beginning of a new year, and I don’t know about you, but something about the roundness and largeness of the number—2014!!!—feels auspicious and full of hope. Many of us may have resolutions as we enter this new year. We might resolve to eat better or give more of ourselves or practice more yoga or meditate regularly or whatever. These are all on my list. And all that is great. Important. But it seems to me that resolving to feel everything, to be awake and alive to every moment, may just be the subtle, yet seismic, shift that so many of us are looking for.
May we enter this new year alive, awake, aware, breathing into each and every possibility.
@DanijShapiro (Click to Tweet!)
Dani Shapiro’s most recent books include the bestselling memoirs Devotion and Slow Motion and the novels Black & White and Family History. She teaches writing workshops nationally and internationally. Her stories and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, O The Oprah Magazine, Elle, Vogue, The New York Times Book Review, and many other publications, and have been broadcast on NPR’s “This American Life.” She lives with her family in Connecticut. You can also follow Dani on Twitter and Facebook.
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*Image courtesy of www.indiwall.com.