Michele Minehart

words & yoga

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A Good Winter’s Sleep

Because the winter’s temperatures rose above 2° around here – nay, they rose to the 50s! – I resumed the morning walk habit for two days in a row. Yesterday the spring-like conditions drew my attention to the melting snow and wet grounds. Thankfully the earth is equipped with the capillaries to direct the water where it needs to go, even as a few deeper ditches kept hold of their dirty piles of ice and snow.

I find it fascinating that the earth – at least here in Ohio – comes equipped with this season where it hardens up and lets everything remain on top. It doesn’t let stuff sink in during the winter. It just sits under blankets of snow, doing nothing, creating nothing, though a wealth of energy still circulates through its inner body. This freezing, though appears as idleness, serves an essential role to the entire seasonal process.

When I was younger, my grandpa Bud – one of those farm men who knew how to do about anything (except drive a zero-turn lawnmower, but that’s another story) decided to grow an apricot tree from the pit of another apricot. He showed me the process: he took the seed, wrapped it in a wet paper towel, and stuck it in the freezer. He explained that the pit needed the coldness to learn how to break open and begin to grow.

We haven’t done a good job of taking cues from the earth and the apricot tree. We don’t make a season of being covered in blankets, allowing ourselves the sense of rest and dormancy that the natural world undertakes. Our culture of Go! Do! Accomplish! Win! beckons us to hurry out the door for another long day of achievement. Our internal systems have no opportunity to find dormiens,  dormancy.

The body heals itself during sleep. When we’re not spending extra time on the couch or in bed, we’re generally out and about with other people, spreading germs, and wearing down our physical selves. Thus, H1N1 outbreaks. Even our holidays, days added to the calendar so that people could be free to cease from the strain of work, add so much activity to our lives that we require a recuperation from our celebrations.

We’re taught that idleness is of the devil, that doing nothing is a recipe for a failed life. While I agree that a life of meaning includes work, I think we missed the design for effective work. Processes exist to allow a cycle of production, not a never-ending output. My friend (the notorious KLR) owns chickens which lay eggs based on the cycles of light. Because my fridge took a winter’s hit, I told her I would buy them a nice warm light, but the chicken doesn’t benefit from endless egg-laying.

Our bodies, our minds, our very selves, are designed for a period of dormancy. Quietness. Days of being covered in blankets without the need to absorb and create and produce. It’s in this long winter’s nap that our internal energy recharges so we can greet spring with a new life and begin the creation process anew.

So here’s what I’m advocating for, in our house, during this next round of winter weather: Blankets. Books. Naps. Movies. Popcorn. Minimal-effort baking. Gentle movement. Warm beverages. More books and blankets. Fuzzy slippers. Mindless tasks, like crochet or knitting or coloring. Board and card games. We’ll emphasize less what we can accomplish – unless it’s finishing the current novel – and more how we can simply be.

And if you need a permission slip to do nothing today and tomorrow (pending your speaking engagements and classes are also cancelled), here you go. It’s your Hall Pass to stop being productive. Now, go cozy up with a steaming mug of coffee.

 

Ferdinand’s Third Way

While the Bigs & JJ ventured to Star Wars, I took the littles to see Ferdinand last night. (Spoiler alert: the cow lives. If not, I would be writing a much angrier blog, as my sensitive 4-year-old had enough trouble understanding why can’t he just go home?  A dead bull would’ve caused extreme woe.)

The movie, about a Spanish bull who doesn’t want to fight, comes down to putting him into the ring when he knows the bull always looses. It’s a rigged system, but the bulls were bred to believe they could win, thus keeping the system alive. “You fight or you die,” they tell each other. Ferdinand literally bursts onto the scene with another message: there is another way.

If this isn’t a gospel – good news – message, I’m not sure what is.

Throughout the movie, the cows urge one another to “be brave” and “buck up” to match our egotistic versions of what it means to have courage. At the end, Ferdinand (like another story I know, in books Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), sits, bows his head and – without words -says, “If I have to die to show you and everyone else that this system is broken, than I will.”

Good news for young children everywhere – and unlike our early Current Era manuscripts – the crowd grants reprieve. The bull and the matador can both live. (Which sounds a lot like the lion laying down with a lamb, doesn’t it?)

I picked up a copy of an older-but-contemporary-in-the-scheme-of-things theologian’s book, The Courage to Be and in the first chapter, Tillich explains that the words associated with courage always carry the connotation of a willingness to die. But when we politicize this idea, pairing it with country and rights and even religion, we miss the point.

Our sacrificial characters weren’t brave because they were willing to die for their own team, they were brave because they were willing to live in another way, one that would include the enemy, the other, the one who was “against.” Ferdinand put his life in the hands of the fighter (and the crowd) because it was it was a step toward peace. Someone has to take that first step, and bravery is often deeply connected with the humility to be the first to bow before the other. Perhaps it’s closely associated with the advice to “love another as yourself.”

This Third Way living isn’t a new concept Blue Sky/Fox felt the need to suddenly share. Shane Claiborne is one of the loudest contemporary voices; he has been talking about it for years on behalf of the other saints who have gone before us.  And once you begin to turn the scriptures slightly, shifting what you’re looking for, the scriptures reek of peace. Like the message we heard in Christmas Eve services just a few nights ago, behold, I bring good news of great joy which will be for all people. Behold, a Savior has been born… This baby will show us a way to live that no one has to die to prove how brave we are; instead, we’ll have the humility and the fortitude to begin to love one another instead of looking at people (specifically those not of my family/clan/tribe/nation) as the enemy.

But, I mean, it was just a movie, right?

10 Things to Add Meaning to 2018

It’s my conviction that it’s not what we do, but why we do it, that makes or breaks “resolutions.”  If you simply want to gravitate towards a more meaningful 2018, here are my recommendations of a few things to add to your life.

Books

  1. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. The history of the world, from our primate beginnings to our ability to destroy the third rock from the sun. His view is expansive, and I love the way he incorporates the many elements of culture. Sometimes our worldview is clouded by our own experience, so hearing about society from the perspective of a scientific approach was refreshing.
  2. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.  I literally just finished this one – it kept me up in the wee hours of the night. It’s published posthumously by the wife of an up-and-coming neurosurgeon who dies quickly and at a young age of cancer. He walks through his process of deciding upon medicine as his career as an attempt to understand the meaning of life. In his illness and death, he returns to that search, integrating his education in literature with the understanding of the brain and his work directly with patients. Captivating, brilliantly written, and you will cry at the end.
  3. You’re a Badass At Making Money by Jen Sicero. I’ve been parsing through my beliefs about money and this book was a game changer at revealing hidden thought patterns. If Brene Brown persuaded you to believe that scarcity holds you back, this book talks about how to live expansively beyond that limited framework. I’m actually using a lot of her ideas and applying it toward the idea of time, namely, that I do have enough. (I’ll keep you posted on that one.)

Podcasts

  1. On Being with Krista Tippett. First of all, her voice is like butter. Second, I love the way she asks really good questions.  In her interviews with brilliant people from across all disciplines, she takes it back to a life filled with meaning. You will look forward to this weekly release.
  2. The Robcast. I’ve been a fan of Rob since pre-Love Wins-gate, when he was exiled from evangelicalism and resurrected in the world of the Nones (people who don’t necessarily have a religious tradition but often are very connected to the idea of a spiritual life). He’s upfront about talking about “the Jesus tradition” and will break into  Hebrew etymology, while also talking to to bands, political activists, and performers. Like Krista, he pulls from across the spectrum of professionals, with his emphasis being that “everything is spiritual.”
  3. Home with Laura McKowen and Holly Whitaker. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon these ladies, but I love what they’re putting out into the world. Both of them are in the non-AA recovery movement, and while I don’t turn to them to learn about how to live a sober life, I do love how they relentlessly return to dealing with “their stuff.” They actually introduced me to the money book, among other ideas of how to live presently in the world.

Poetry

  1. Salt by Nayyirah Wahed. First, follow (and fall in love with) her on Instagram. I traded up one of my books to have in my hands for a while and have loved the presence of this work in my home. I’ll sadly return it to Andrea and probably buy it to have nearby.
  2. Without by Donald Hall.  A fellow booklover on Facebook recommended Don and when I brought home this collection about the period of time when he lost and grieved his wife, I was undone. Raw, real, honest, and still with a glimmer of humor. Somehow, hope rises.

Movement

  1. Yoga. Because, of course. But do it to balance you out; if you’re the flexible sort, come at it to add strength. If you’re strong and mighty, see how you can lengthen and bend. Not just more of the same.
  2. Walks. Right before the weather changed, I asked my friend & neighbor (the notorious KLR) if she would take up walking with me in the AM. I had just finished my once-every-3-weeks run and knew I needed simplicity and consistency. So 3 mornings each week (when it’s above 10 degrees), she walks the .45 miles to my house, then we walk back that same road to her house in chatter, and then I return home in silence. It’s quick, gets me moving, and we get to connect. I’ve decided life can really only be lived a half mile at a time.
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