The treasure of an ordinary day

It was the softest of mornings, the quietest of sunrises, the loveliest day to step out into. I cherish these September days — the silky air, the damp, sweet scent of summer succumbing to fall. I walked across the wet grass, sat on a rock, and watched the mists drift across the valley, the sky brighten, a single bird soaring high, silhouetted against the sky. Never do I appreciate the beauty of home more than on a day when I have to leave it.

I type these words in an airport terminal, waiting for my delayed flight to Atlanta, where I’m giving a talk tomorrow on “the treasure of an ordinary day.” These invitations still catch me off guard; the idea that someone would think of me as a public speaker, as a person with enough wisdom to impart that my appearance is worth organizing an event around. But I’m learning to trust the people who ask, to gather some thoughts, and to go where I’m wanted.

Of course, I have nothing to offer those who come to hear me speak that every one of us doesn’t know already. The themes are plain and simple: That life is precious. That we already have everything we need. That we can choose to be grateful. To see what’s right in front of us. To be in the present moment. To slow down, rather than racing so fast through our own lives that we miss them.

I also know how hard it is to remember what we already know. If you’re like me, you probably have to remind yourself, over and over again: to notice where you are, to accept what is, to love that. Sitting still helps. Coming to a stop and allowing my busy, wild mind to be at rest is the only way I’ve found to be truly mindful. It’s why, after years of not meditating, I finally do. Walking helps, too. It’s why, although I love to run, I also spend hours each week walking alone on the empty roads near my house, allowing my thoughts to drift and noticing everything there is to notice.

Last week, I spent a few days alone at a friend’s tiny, secluded cabin. There was no internet, no opportunity to toggle back and forth, as I tend to do at home, from e-mail to a friend’s latest blog post to my own stop-and-go writing to the most popular stories in the New York Times. With nothing to do but sit and write, I sat and wrote. With no company to keep but my own, I got back in touch with a deeper, quieter part of myself. With no to-do list to whittle away at or schedule to keep, I felt the expansiveness of an hour, an afternoon, a day. Time became generous.

I tried to carry some of that spaciousness home with me. To remember my own capacity for quiet, focused attention, whether I’m alone in a cabin or standing at a podium in front of a room full of strangers. I can react to events, get carried away by stress, allow myself to be distracted and distractible. Or I can simply do the next thing that needs to be done, with care and commitment and faith in the rightness of things as they are. Without making a fuss. This is the way I want to live. And yes, I do need to keep reminding myself.

The photo my husband took at dawn this morning captures the fleeting beauty of the moment. It says “peace” to me. It’s easy for me to be grateful when I’m sitting in my own backyard, feeling blessed to have these gentle mountains as my neighbors.

Now, held captive in an over-air-conditioned terminal, with CNN blasting away, boarding announcements crackling over the loudspeaker, and the smell of pizza in the air, gratitude is a little more challenging to practice. But it occurs to me that living mindfully isn’t just about sitting and meditating, or about appreciating a beautiful sunrise. The real practice comes when we are called to keep going even when things aren’t exactly going our way. It’s using what’s at hand, and being ok with that. And so time is generous here, too. I have hours and hours to myself, with no place to go and nothing to do but wait for my delayed plane to arrive at the gate. Annoyance, or grace. The choice, of course, is mine. Perhaps the treasure of an ordinary day is always right in front of my nose; all I have to do is decide to see it.

for my reflections & inspiration

your comments

  1. Lynne Wallace says:

    SO lovely, inspiring and insightful. I’m grateful for your continued presence in my life and find myself wishing that our time at Kripalu hadn’t been so jam-packed that I missed getting to know you.
    Thank you for your grace, courage and talent!
    All the best to you,

  2. Annie Stevens says:

    I am in awe of this beautiful view you get to savor each day. I just wanted to tell you how much your Book “The gift of an ordinary day” touched me and has made a difference in my life. My 3 children are 20,14,& 11 and I have learned to appreciate the changes and growing pains they are experiencing. i need to remind myself when they are challenging me, that I will miss that when they aren’t here and just live in the moment. I feel as if the words you write, you have taken from my own soul. Thank you for sharing yourself so openly in your book and here on your blog. It makes a difference to me. Enjoy this ordinary day;)

  3. Wow! What a great reminder that the choice is ours to make. Thank you yet again for putting into words what is in my heart xoxo

  4. You have no idea how much I needed this today. I spent much of the morning and afternoon and evening cleaning up messes – blood from a skinned knee, sweat my husband dripped all over the hallway after his run, pee on the bathroom floor, broken glass on the kitchen floor, mud and yogurt on tee shirts.

    Annoyance or grace. Thank you for reminding me that it is my choice.

  5. I have often wondered about the pictures that accompany your blog. They are always spot on to the theme of your words, and beautiful unto themselves. I surmise from this blog that your husband is the taker, and I have to say that I find them inspiring, an added bonus to your message of the day. Thank you for your continuing reminders of what is important, and thank you to your husband for his vision of the beauty, grandeur, and simplicity that surrounds us.

  6. Thank you.

    I love that you said that we need reminding of what we already know. I feel that so often, and I laugh at myself — “That, again?” I think. Yes, again. And again. And again!

  7. Every time I see your name in my inbox, I am so happy. The treasure certainly is in front of us at every moment. We only need to see it fully. Reminds me of Dorothy realizing that happiness was right there in her back yard. Or the Little Prince learning that what is essential is invisible to the eye. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.

  8. You were in Atlanta and I missed you?!?! Your words continually remind me of what I know, but may have forgotten momentarily. Thank you for honestly and openly sharing your experience.

  9. “Annoyance or grace. The choice is mine.” A choice I make daily…sometimes multiple times. Will I make the right choice the next time it presents itself?

  10. I have not yet read “Ordinary Day” but plan on it once I am able to get out and about (I had unexpected surgery earlier this year). Recovery has given me lots of time to surf the internet and I stumbled over your blog on a yoga site, as yoga was recommended once I am done with physical therapy. Anyway – this blog certainly resonates to something for I recently discovered through my spine issues that I can not control – my time, my job, my family, etc. I am learning and also constantly remind myself to enjoy the moment. I have been reflecting on whether or not this was God’s plan to make me realize I couldn’t control every second, every aspect of my life. I was lost in the control and now am redirecting my brain and body to live for moments instead of through them. Thanks, Katrina, for your talent and your perspective in this lesson for me (and so many others, I am sure). Can’t wait to read your book…

  11. Even though there was mediocre pizza and CNN in the air around you as you wrote, you managed to conjure peace and love and put it into the offering of this post, which literally slowed me down, reminded me to stop reading and be present to my children before I took them to school, and then this post, your words, your love and peace waited patiently for me to return to them and drink them in as mindfully as my whirring mind could manage this morning.

    I keep reminding myself to slow down, stop trying so hard, even to help and give, much less get or “get there” to some halcyon mental emotional state… and it’s so nice to come home in my own home to the eternal now of your words and well wishes, so nice to hear it from you in this authentic and generous way. Namaste

  12. thanks agai for reminding us to live and be present

  13. nancy franke says:

    Your timing was so great. I have been trying to focus on slowing down and deciding what’s really important to me. Thanks for the clarification.

  14. It is so true what you say, that, “The real practice comes when we are called to keep going even when things aren’t exactly going our way.” It’s not unlike relaxing on vacation — that’s easy to do! The real question is can you carry that feeling home with you?

  15. Katrina, Your birthday blog has such sweetness, the taste of gratitude. Celebrating the fullness and letting it rub off on me.

  16. Tanya Wilkinson says:

    Katrina, your thoughts always speak right to me. It seems like I read them right when I most need a word of encouragement or a reminder to enjoy this life I’ve been given. As a mother of two very small children, I find myself sometimes wishing the days would go by faster; but then there you are telling me to savor these days. And you are right. The days might go by slowly, but the years will fly, and these precious creatures God has entrusted to my care will be grown before I know it. Thank you for helping me to remember that I am enough and that this life is precious.

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