Life at the Center – December 2015
Midnight meditation & waking joyfully – Vol 29, December 2015
Almost every night these days, my eyes open sometime between midnight and about 3 am. I sit up, ready to go to work. Even though we’ve already published the 2016 Still & Moving Center Almanac, my body and mind still wake up, primed to go collecting and arranging quotes.
About the time we were opening Still & Moving in 2011, my sleep pattern changed on its own. I frequently found myself unable to sleep through the night. I was tempted to fret over the change and label myself an insomniac. Instead, I decided, there must be some purpose to which I could devote my nighttime waking spells.
As a college student with a hunger for a spirituality that was universal and excluded no one, I had been highly inspired by the Aquarian Almanac. This remarkable yearly publication took quotes from thinkers and doers around the world and from every tradition and era, and organized their inspiring words of wisdom by weekly themes. I developed the habit of starting every single morning by reading that day’s uplifting thought. Even after the almanac went out of print in the late ’80’s, I couldn’t imagine living without one, and I continued to read daily from one of the old almanacs.
Now here I was, 20 years later, with time on my hands in the middle of the night. It didn’t feel right doing “work” work; the wee hours always feel like a sacred time to me. We were in the process of creating Still & Moving Center as a place where people could find regeneration for body, mind and spirit. Surely there would be folks who would appreciate a new almanac in the way the old almanac inspired me. Maybe I could come up with such a publication in my late night hours!
Using the old almanac as a starting point, I created spreadsheets of fixed and moving holidays from around the world: Christmas, World Environment Day, Hanukkah, and Diwali, adding Hawaiian holidays, such as King Kamehameha Day. On another sheet, I entered important historic events, such as Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic, and so on. Our programmer, who promised he could convert my spreadsheets into a printable book, added the astronomical information that I don’t know much about, but other people find useful in almanacs.
Now came the creative yet challenging part: choosing the themes for each week and quotes for each day. I found an old almanac that started on the same day of the year a2011, and I began with the weekly theme. If the old almanac’s theme for a particular week was ‘The Chidagnikunda’, a Sanskrit term, I might instead use ‘The Hidden Heart’ – a rough translation. I wanted to honor what had been shared with me in a way that was authentic to my understanding and ability to put into practice – however imperfectly. In Nia class, I cannot lead my students in a movement from someone else’s choreography that I haven’t learned to perform myself. Similarly, with the Still & Moving Center almanac, I needed to start from what I understand and share from that standpoint.
Some themes correspond to holidays occurring that week, so I move the themes around to adjust for holidays that migrate through the calendar, such as Buddha Purnima or the Islamic celebration of Ramadan. Sometimes I just choose a theme about movement, health and the body.
After determining the themes and quotes for the weeks, I move on to the quote for each day. I like to say we include everyone from Dolly Parton to the Dalai Lama! Some of the original quotes are immediately accessible to me, and sometimes I need to find more modern quotes or translations. This is where I always tread cautiously. How can I be relevant to my readership and not give them short shrift because of my own ignorance? What if I choose a simple quote from Oprah and I neglect to use an amazing passage from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s brilliant, complex poetry – a passage that someone else might have found deeply moving?
Maybe it’s for this reason that I work on the almanac at nights. For my intuition to be keen, I need my head uncluttered by the practical worldly concerns of the day. I collect sometimes a dozen or even twenty possible quotes for a week, then sound them out in my intuitive mindheart to hear which ring true.
Almanac work educates me. If Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday happens to fall in the week themed “The Mountain”, my research in Wikiquote might lead me to King’s “I’ve been to the mountaintop!” from his last speech, in Memphis, Tennessee. I also pay attention when Google changes its look for a day, which often means they are celebrating a remarkable woman in history unknown to most of us, and frequently mentioning her quotes. While I’m searching for particular quotations I’m also squirreling away other wonderful quotes like precious acorns of wisdom for a future week or year.
Starting last year we included a few pages of Sustainability Tips, and the year before we added a reference guide to the many famous personages whose words grace our pages. It’s a project that definitely satisfies my creative muse!
As long as I keep plugging away steadily throughout the year, I’m ready for a small team of proofreaders to catch my many typos, and we manage to get an almanac together for each new year.
That first year’s culmination was rather dramatic. Were all these spreadsheets of data and quotes really going to turn into a readable book? I put my year’s work into the hands of the universe and my programmer, pushed the button to generate an almanac, and … after a few hiccups and corrections …voilà, there before my eyes appeared the text for our first 2011 Still & Moving Center Almanac. Magic!
Ever since then we’ve offered our lovely almanac as an aid to contemplation. It helps to create a connected consciousness at Still & Moving when many teachers start their classes with a focus like “Dancing through Life”. We talk about the quotes at our Sunday satsang/potluck and at staff meetings, seeing what relevance they might have to our daily lives. A few quotes each year revolutionize the way I look at and live in the world. I’m chewing on this one right now: “We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction,” by Henry A. Ironside. I think living these words might hold the real key to transmuting an angry, unhappy heart.
This year we managed to get the 2016 Still & Moving Center Almanac into print in time for me to pack ten shiny, fresh-off-the-press copies into my suitcase for Thanksgiving with the family. Whew! BUT…my bodymind didn’t know we had completed our task for the year, so it kept trying to get me out of bed! I don’t mind that any more. Creating the almanac is really a meditative practice for me, and I always want to harness the inventiveness of that precious midnight time.
It’s still 2015, and I’m writing to you pre-dawn, just itching to start the 2017 edition!
Wishing each of you a season of peace and good cheer, while…
Resting in Stillness and moving in Joy with you,
Do you have a QUOTE that really moves you or explains life more clearly? Please email me to add it to my treasure chest of beloved quotations for use in a future almanac!