Sunday, December 11, 2011

Being and emptiness and exercise

I have been feeling increasingly lethargic in the last few months.  I don’t sleep well, and in the morning when it is time to get up I feel more tired than I did when I went to bed.  I had been assuming this was due to a lack of sleep – I have only been getting a few hours a night for many days, and often crash completely on the weekend, waking up after 10am, still tired.

But today, W. had a different theory.  She suggested that I am actually sleeping too much, not too little, and that I could correct it by getting less sleep instead of more.  As far as the tiredness, she suggested that it is just because I am over 40 and people over 40 left to their own devices will be tired all the time, and if I wanted more energy I should get some exercise.

It sounded sensible, so I decided to combine these two things.  The next day when I woke up at 4:30 or so, instead of struggling to get more desperately needed sleep, I forced myself to get out of bed, get dressed, and do some power walking.

Perhaps not surprising, this was extremely difficult to actually do.  Bed was warm.  Outside was cold.  It was pitch black and about 24 degrees outside.  I had to dig my snow clothes out just to stop myself from freezing.  But once I stepped into the darkness, it was clear that the idea was not merely sound, but almost transformative.

The night was crystal clear, in the way that only really cold nights can be.  Countless stars shone down.  The night was utterly still and silent.  There are no streetlights where we live, so the darkness was inky, and starlight the only illumination on the landscape, which was coated with a thing layer of crystal-like frost.

As I walked down the deserted road, I noticed a deep red presence in the corner of my vision.  It turned out to be the moon in almost total lunar eclipse, low over the surrounding hills.  It was the color of a smoldering ember.  I hadn’t heard that there was supposed to be an eclipse this evening – one of the disadvantages of not engaging in any broadcast news I suppose – and so the eclipse felt particularly personal, as if it were some kind of portent specially arranged for morning walk.

I picked up the pace – more to prevent myself from freezing than for any concerned for more effective cardio – and soon fell into a rhythm.  More than just a rhythm – an understanding – me, alone with the universe – and the utterly uniqueness of individual existence.  I was reminded of a line from a poem I wrote long ago:

The universe around me
And yet – you found me

Thinking of that, with the body distracted with its locomotive task, I was able to finally break into a bubble of emptiness that I had been seeking.  The place of peace.

Sometime later, I found myself walking back into my driveway.  I had been outside for 45 minutes, and even with my gloves, my fingers were completely numb.  The traffic was starting to come out, and my solitude was over.  For today at least.

But there are more mornings waiting.

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