It’s not even officially winter yet and it’s already cold and dark in Ohio. The first week of December has filled with those gray Ohio days where the sun rarely, if ever, makes an appearance. I’ve got to make a decision on my exercise routine. The five-mile walk is pleasant in spring and fall, can be hot in summer, but in the winter can be downright brutal.
Yesterday it was in the 20s with a steady wind. As I made the turn for home, the last mile and half, the wind was biting at my neck making it not just a little uncomfortable, but downright painful. Last night I checked the forecast and it was supposed to be a low of 18º today. As I wake at my normal time which used to be the time the sun was coming up, it’s pitch dark. There is no sign of the sun. There isn’t a peek of light to be found. The bed is warm and cozy. I’ve been listening to the wind chimes in the backyard. I can tell the wind hasn’t slowed at all. It’s that steady wind, no gusts, no lulls, just steady and it blows right through you. It would be so easy to just fall back asleep.
Mind, body, and spirit. We are triune beings. We must take care of all three. We can’t be all spiritual all the time. We have real world concerns and this vehicle that carries our spirit around. The sad truth though is when we are going through the toughest times that’s when we tend to stop taking care of ourselves, compounding the problem. Fortunately, when Shayna passed I was already into an exercise routine. The exercise not only helps keep my body healthy, it’s a time when I can meditate and contemplate. It’s the time when I listen to spiritually uplifting messages. But, it would be so easy to just sleep in in the morning. It’s tempting to just veg out on the couch and watch Netflix. It’s cold enough that I have an excuse to at least skip today. But, today, during the raw conditions, it’s especially important that I press on. I get up. I put on a sleeve to protect my neck. I find my running gloves I bought at Costco a few days ago. I put on three jackets. And then I put on my hat. I fire up Dire Straits and I hit the road as the light filters through the clouds that aren’t going to part today.
Meditation is another part of my routine to maintain my sanity. One of the nice things about my meditation space is my altar is just under the window in our bedroom. That window is where the afternoon sun comes in. Sometimes in the summer it can get a bit hot. In the winter, sitting in the sun in the afternoon is a real treat. I’ll look forward to that half hour. But, as I said, there’s been no sun lately. I’ve been sitting in the cold and dark even in the middle of the afternoon. On those days when I’m particularly stressed, when my mind is racing with worry, when my heart is full of sadness, the last thing I want to do is sit quietly alone with my thoughts, in the cold. Those are the days when I have to push myself to go hit the cushion. On those days I will listen to a guided meditation instead of sitting in silence or listening to ambient sounds. The guided meditations keep my mind from drifting too far from my goal.
A couple of days ago I had to make a trip to the mall first thing in the morning. My normal routine is to rise, exercise, have a cup of black coffee (no sweetener) and fast until at least noon. I fast every day from dinner until noon or one the next day. A break in the routine can make the fast difficult. I was at the mall for an hour waiting for Apple to complete a repair on my phone. As I sat on the couch outside of the Apple Store I notice a donut stand about 20′ away. Warm donuts any way you wanted them. Boy, would those be good with raspberry topping and a cup of coffee. I decided to go for a walk around the mall instead. My walk took me through the food court where the vendors were just firing up the ovens and grills. Everything smelled so good. I figured I deserved to treat myself. This, however, was the time of testing. Was I going to maintain my discipline or have a donut. No one would know. And I don’t fast every single day. Every couple of months I’ll eat in the morning. I decided that today would be a test though. To sit in the food court and take in those smell and to make a conscious decision to not eat would be a part of my practice. So, I did it. I waited until my phone was ready, picked up, left the mall, and I had lunch when I got home, at my normal time.
The only way I make it through the literal Ohio winters and the figurative winter of my life is these little routines, these disciplines that give me purpose, direction and strength. I’m back from the walk in the frigid weather. It’s been an hour and a half and I can actually move my fingers enough to type now. Every day when I start out on that walk, the first few hundred yards I think “What am I doing? I don’t feel like doing this today.” When I take those last few steps up the hill back to the house I feel a sense of accomplishment though, especially on days when it’s 14º.