Nancy Conger, CPCC

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Everyday Ecstacy

A traditional Irish tune had never quite sounded this way. Four of us were gathered for one of our delicious music jams, where we spend a night improvising, experimenting, and surprising ourselves through rhythm and sound. The play is sometimes crazy, sometimes sweet, and always ecstatic.

We were doing terrifically wild variations on Swallowtail Jig, playing it over and over, becoming ever more driving and fierce, accelerating-- until suddenly, inexplicably, all four of us stopped. The last slamming chord hung in the air, and the song's echo skittered around in the silence as if it didn't know what to do without us. I felt electric, completely connected to these three others. Then we burst into astonished laughter at the thrill of the "group mind" stopping us at the same moment, with no signal.

The night and the music wove on. Late in the evening, the air coming out of Pete's big drum blew out the candle in the center of our circle. As we beat a primal, tribal rhythm in the dark, I closed my eyes and took a ride on the music. Soon I found myself yelping percussive syllables, my voice now a rhythm instrument. Moments later, Pete, Sid and I were locked into a mysterious, three-part chant that seemed to come from some other land. The harmonies were in perfect tune, sending vibrations deep into my bones. Our three voices moved like one, wandering through the atmosphere. Energy permeated my body like a cellular massage. Gradually the chant and the drums diminished to a whisper, and trailed off into a silence that thrummed with energy. I drifted on the afterglow.

I need ecstasy in my life. It may come in different forms--sexual, creative, spiritual--but it is all one grand elixir. All of it leaves my body better, healthier, energized. All of it advances me on my life path. And all of it is wondrous good fun. I love the moments of "flow," of losing track of time when deeply immersed in making art, cooking, playing violin, embracing my husband, being in nature, or giving maximum athletic effort to something.

What would your life look like if it were fraught with ecstasy? Would you go outside more, paint more, make love more? Would you eat differently, construct your day differently? Would you change jobs? Would you pay more attention to what's already at hand--play more games with your child, notice the colors and smells of your food, enjoy the heat of the water while washing dishes?

Sometimes we get so separated from the ecstatic that we forget what gives us that high. But most of us have had it! Remember the unabashed joy you had as a child playing outside? Autumn glowed, with days that seemed to crackle with sound and smell. The sun was warm, the air scented with dried leaves, and you ran through piles of them until your legs ached with pleasant tiredness and the streetlights came on.

It's time that we adults reclaim the ecstasy that permeates everyday life. It is impossible for life to be boring or uninteresting if we are awake, sensing, aware, and grateful. Even with our grown-up jobs, money puzzles, and responsibilities, it IS possible to be ecstatic on a daily basis. If bliss isn't popping its head in your door regularly, here are some everyday ecstasies to get lost in:

The Adventure Walk
Allow two hours or more for a meandering, curiosity-directed exploration. Stop and look at worms, flowers, dog doo, and people because you have no agenda, no distance requirement, no aerobic heart rate to achieve--just a massive interest in an awesome planet. Crush leaves and smell them. Make a rule that for the next block you can't step on twigs. Stop and admire the whooshing treetops in the breeze up high. Sit next to a tree for awhile and just watch all that happens around you.

Spa Night
Declare an evening "spa night," and allow only beauty and comfort into your space. Buy or pick glorious flowers, turn off the TV, let voice mail answer the phone, put on music you love or just enjoy the velvet quiet. Eat a light, wholesome meal, draw a scented bath, light candles as the sun goes down, linger over a book, massage every inch of yourself with can design the evening that will delight and rejuvenate you best.

Body stretch
You can do this one right now. Like a cat, stretch every angle and appendage of your body. Enjoy the feel of muscles and tendons reaching their maximum length. Contort your face and feel the massaging action of your skin. Notice how every part of you hugs defining bone. Be grateful you have a body.

Play with a child
One of the most beautiful days I can remember is spending an entire day with a ten-year old on a small sandy island in the middle of a lake. We played Queen of the World, creating altars and castles from sand, shell, rocks, and twigs. We rolled down the steep dune. We walked at the edge of the water, watching our feet press water out of the sand, then little waves foam around our toes and fill in our heel prints. Find a kid--yours, your brother's, the neighbor's, or the one in front of you in the grocery line. Smile at that child. Make a face or animal sounds. Play peek-a-boo. Throw a ball around. Join in hopscotch. Play in the sandbox. Imagine you are unicorns. Turn off your pager and be with a child for awhile.

Grateful prayer
Every night, give thanks for the chance to be alive and conscious of it, and name five other things you are especially grateful for that day. Nothing is too small. The prayer I remember most is from a 6-year old: "Dear God, thank you for trees and sweaters."

Come up with anything on your own that will help pop you back into the natural state of bliss. I garden barefoot, enjoying the silky feel of soil on feet and hands. You might eat supper on the front step, dust off your bike to whiz around town, or lie naked in the sun. Be awake. Be alive. Be ecstatic. Remember the proverb: First ecstasy, then laundry.

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