I miss my normal gym routine, but where a door closes, a window opens, and a light shines through.

For the last three months, rather than pushing through an early-morning workout with several dozen like-minded friends, I slip into the garage alone and raise the door. There, facing the sun’s first hour as it breaks over Pinehurst Lake, I flow through a 40-minute “routine” of stretching, yoga and meditation.

Most mornings, I am serenaded by a full-throated, rush-hour riot of birdsong. It’s beautiful, and doesn’t quite, in my mind, line up with the fact that most of these songs are not gentle greetings of the day but boys on the make or vocalizing to ward off interlopers.

With the avian choir above, I go through a totally makeshift routine begun sometime in the early stages of the COVID-19 shutdown. It began as a 20-minute routine that has grown over time — and as the gym stayed closed — to incorporate more “core” workout and a focus on controlling breathing. A couple of weeks into it all, I added four minutes (now five) of meditation.

I can be more Perry White or J. Jonah Jameson than an enlightened, laid-back yogi. Doctors — and others — over the years have tried to light the way for me. Meditation is good for the heart, they’d say. It would help me focus, lower my stress level. Yeah, it never “took.” The key to meditation is a calm mind. Were you to pop the top on this head, you wouldn’t normally find calmness in the gear works.

But sitting there in the garage, facing the sun’s rise, serenaded by songbirds, I drew a deep breath, held it, let it go — and then let myself go.

This is now one of the best parts of the day; I miss it when I don’t do it. One of those would-be teachers along the way suggested focusing on a single word to reflect on, either repeating it or turning it over in my head. And when the brain wanders — and it always wanders — I just come back to that word.

I spent several weeks using a different word each day: strength, peace, joy, love, faith, calm. But the one I kept coming back to — the one that I almost use exclusively now — is “light.”

“Light” is an adjective. It’s a noun. It’s a verb. It’s as physical as it is spiritual.

As I close my eyes and look eastward, I raise my face to the morning sun. Through those shut eyes, I can feel that early light warmth upon my face. So I focus on that.

Then I start turning over the word.

The physical: let your burdens be light. Let your heart be light. Lighten your spirit. Lighten your mood. Lighten your grip on the world’s troubles. In all things, tread lightly.

The spiritual: let the light, that passes all understanding, enter your soul. Be the light to another. Let light fill your heart. At the end of that five minutes, as the chimes sound an end, I open my eyes feeling at peace and ready to face the day.

Nothing can change the stress and chaos of our time, or the responsibilities that come with this job, with being a single parent, with the everyday struggles we all have. But even during these moments, I feel a new sense of calmness that flows through me. It’s one of life’s small victories.

So while we’ve all lost out during this time of crisis, we also have gained or established new paths to enrich our lives, lighting — and lightening — our way.

Contact editor John Nagy at (910) 693-2507 or john@thepilot.com.

(1) comment

Monika and Robert Brown

I am moved by your reflection. In this time of public pandemic and your personal tragedy, I pray that you-and your readers--continue to find such occasions for "lightening" your spirits.

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