This morning I worked in the garden. The crisp morning air still carried the hint of yesterday’s Spring snow, and last year’s dead growth was saturated with the melt. The sun warmed my cheeks against the chill, and even after an hour of work, I remained in the comfortable softness of my light blue hoodie. My hiking boots were heavy. I felt like a clumsy giant trying not to stomp the new growth.
The old stems soggily resisted my pruners, bending at random angles with each snip. Clumps of weeds pulled from the earth with a satisfying lurch, showering dirt and trailing roots and mud. I inhaled the smell of soil and wet leather from my gardening gloves. Neighbors passed, offering encouragement. Dogs and their owners avoided my dog’s protective airs, while I worked on his ability to “stay” while they passed. He did pretty well.
The thing is, I really don’t like gardening. Waking up this morning, with my wife proposing “Let’s just spend an hour in the front yard” – I can’t say I liked it. I wanted it to be done, sure enough, but first thing, unplanned on a Saturday? I agreed anyway. We both like it to look good…we’d just prefer to skip the labor.
So in that two hours of work, she verbally echoed my own distaste of the whole affair. Her complaints brought up my own irritation about the whole thing, and I’d stew and pull weeds and wish I was doing anything else and how could there be so much overgrowth and …
Well, then I’d remember to take another breath of cool air, and feel the weeds yield to my tugging, and notice the little blue flowers in the ground cover and feel better. And I’d notice the tension of my little irritation fade and my shoulders relaxing and my knees sinking into the soft ground. I’d remember to let the sensual experience of this moment course through me. That is Everyday Ecstasy.
That’s the pursuit of a Modern Hedonist – vibrant, sensual Everyday Ecstasy.
Believe me, I know that life is full of mishaps, curve balls, tragedies, sorrows, anger, pain, suffering. On much bigger levels than me struggling with being stuck in the garden.
Small or large, I think that too often, we end up stuck in those feelings. Depression. Fear. Anger. We dwell on them to the point that we lose track of everything else. I see it in my practice every day. People lost in indignation, sorrow, guilt and pain, weighed down by the burden of the past and the fear of the future to the point that they haven’t felt happy in years.
And then I help them find their joy. Help them to experience it in their bodies, live from that space, make their decisions based on happiness, and replace the old negativity with new light, love and possibility. Not just in their minds, but in their bodies, their emotions, their souls. That, in my mind, is everyday ecstasy. Making love with the life you have, and changing your focus to the pleasures of living.
The experience I had in my garden today is a great way to practice. Bring your attention to the sensations of the moment. Taste the wind, feel your feet on the ground, smell spring emerging from winter. Breathe deeply. Notice your feelings as bodily sensations – a lightness in your chest or strength in your arms or heaviness in your belly. Use your focus, your breath, and all the attention you can muster to infuse the beauty of that moment into your cells. That is where the transformation begins.