12/12/12: You say it’s your birthday . . .

What tools do we use? One only.  It’s called attention.  – Charlotte Joko Beck                                                                    

Monday, December 10th. A dreary morning, the sky gray and spongy, an invitation to head out for  a walk, into the mist. A good pace (coupled with temperatures above normal) keeps the dampness from settling in my bones. It does not keep me from paying attention, my eyes lighting on drops of water not quite ready to let go of the branches where they have settled.  You could almost mistake them for buds. Except for the fact that it’s winter.

I can’t say I love cold weather, but I can say I love what the season brings:  daylight eclipsed by early darkness is nothing if not a metaphor for introspection and reflection;  at the same time, those beautifully bare trees speak to a feeling of being exposed.  Is it all of a piece, that sense of internal exploration and external vulnerability?  The mist takes on the full thickness of fog when I reach the lake.  I stop, entranced by its mystery, paying attention to what might surprise me. I can almost see the fog move.

Last week found me at a Chanukah Retreat, a day marked as a ‘rededication to your soul.’  I infused myself with the wisdom of rabbis, one who led a mindfulness meditation workshop, another who explored Jewish dreamwork. A yoga teacher brought the themes of Chanukah – light, fire, strength – into a workshop.  There were other workshops – sacred chant and movement, Mussar (i.e., spiritual self-development) – but my choices spoke loudly and clearly to me. What I experienced was both new and an affirmation of where life seems to be taking me. I learned that the Hasidic Master, the Sefer Emet, taught that the real miracle of Chanukah was the discovery of the light hidden in the darkness.

It’s not uncommon for my birthday to coincide with Chanukah.  This year is no big one in terms of decade markers, but 12/12/12 cannot easily be dismissed.  My husband has now dubbed this the celebration of my birth week:  Monday night, Gustavo Dudamel at Carnegie Hall (tickets I bought months ago); Saturday brings me to Boston, Leonard Cohen in concert (the gift of a friend);  then there’s the day itself, a once-in-a-century numerological alignment that may (or may not) bear some relationship to the Mayan calendar, with its own calculated wisdom.  The way I see it, if  everyone born on December 12th celebrates in a way deserving of the date, there will be no bang, not even a whimper, to what the world holds on 12/21/12.

Here’s what I plan to do:

Light a candle and meditate

Put aside disappointments and sorrows

Go to a yoga class

Head into the city, first to the Rubin Museum, a sanctuary for me. Then a funky blues club I’ve been curious about, followed by dinner with a few of those dearest to my heart at a favorite SoHo restaurant.  It might have been synchronicity of the highest order to land a ticket or two to the121212 Hurricane Sandy Relief Benefit Concert, but the price of the ticket, even for a charity event, gave me pause.  Not that I didn’t try, what with a line-up like that, my long-time favorites among the stars performing. The truth be known, a show I had the good fortune to attend in 2009, the 25th Anniversary Rock  and Roll Hall of Fame Concert, would be a hard act to follow.

Then again, maybe the stars this day (or this week) have something else in mind for me. The exhilaration of music new to me (Silvestre Revueltas’ La noche de los Mayas) conducted by the oh-so-dynamic Dudamel/Jr. Mack playing blues guitar/the unmatched voice of Leonard Cohen in one week? What more could a birthday girl want? Maybe a little poetry before falling asleep, although my anything-but-Zen husband has his own brand of wisdom.  “Sometimes a giggle in your throat is better than poetry in your head,” he quips. So delightfully consistent with the same man who  takes me to the Carnegie Deli after Carnegie Hall. And who buys me flowers.

I have an app on my iPhone, Zen Garden.  ‘App’ and ‘Zen’ would seem to be an oxymoron, and, yet, it speaks to a certain kind of yearning; the world of spirit is in flux, ways of observance evolving to encompass those of us with a sense that something bigger than a rock concert, more powerful (if less visible) than an app that places a rock garden in my palm  connects us, even as more orthodox orders dig their heels in the sand.  A Zen saying appears on my screen when I open the app; if I exit too quickly before absorbing the message, it disappears. Maybe that’s the point. There are no shortcuts to enlightenment.

Today’s message is one that makes me linger: The quieter you become, the more you hear – Baba Ram Das

So maybe it boils down to this:  Reminding myself, again and again, to cast aside all the ‘what if’s’  for the one ‘what is’ I face each and every moment of the day.