August 26, 2008

Morning Yearning

I commanded myself to spring out of bed as soon as the alarm went off. No snoozing or contemplation of further sleep. Like a quick band-aid being torn off, I know myself well enough to know that I cannot afford any delays, or else risk derailing the entire morning routine project before it has even started.

(Warning approaching tangent!)

One of the main components of this transformation project is a cognizant, self-aware reconnection with nature and re-entry into an eco-system I can recognize. As I have previously stated, and will no doubt repeat like a mantra, living in the desert makes it difficult to feel like you are a part of nature, let alone a denizen of the planet Earth. The barren landscape coupled with the unnatural heat makes one feel as if he or she is a colonist on a distant planet much closer to the sun.

I have, however, been trying to find certain elements of everyday life to remind me that I am indeed an earthling and that nature, even in this stark setting, is still part of mother Nature’s script. I notice small birds bathing in the sand outside my window, shrubs and weeds along the side of the road, but ironically the two bodies that have connected me the most significantly with the earth here in Doha are the moon and the sun.
When I go to cross that river
She is a comfort by my side
When I try to understand
She just opens up her hands

There’s a big
A big hard sun
Beating in the people
In a big hard world

Eddie Vedder
I am sure everybody has a certain novel appreciation for the sun. A basic grasp of photosynthesis should be enough to convert any person into a sun worshiper, and if elementary level science is not enough, any one who has spent anytime outside on a hot sunny day can appreciate that the sun is not only the source of all life on earth, but a beautiful deity in her own right. Without her energy no life on earth would exist. I find it strange that millions of people devote their faith to a god no one has ever seen, but the most people take the very source of all life on our planet for granted.

My casual understanding of the sun was dramatically altered after reading The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight. (all quotes in this post are from this text.) Since finishing the book, I have come to better understand the true magic of our nearest star. Since this new discovery, I can now see that the sun is not merely a part of our eco-system here on earth, it is the root of every food chain on earth. It is the source of all energy. It is wrong to think that only solar energy comes from the sun.

At their most basic, fossil fuels are nothing more than ancient sunlight stored in decaying animal and plant life. Oil is an organic battery hoarding energy from the light that hit the face of the earth millions of years ago.
Almost all of Pangea was covered with a dense mat of vegetation, rising hundreds of feet into the air, creating a think ground of cover rotting and dead plant matter that became, in some places, hundreds or even thousands of feet deep. The mats of living and dead vegetation became thicker and thicker as this phase continued for over 70 million years.
This mat of rotted organic matter is the very oil that fuels are cars, electricity plants, tanks, war planes, processed foods, children’s toys, you name it- this ancient stored sunlight energizes our entire modern industrial society. The problem is that the earth was designed to operate using current sunlight energy only.
The planet’s human population grew beyond the level that the Earth could sustain if humans were using only local “current sunlight” as an energy and food source.
To put it simply, we are using energy that is not sustainable. The sun produces only so much energy, this amount of energy is enough to sustain a functioning population of Earth inhabitants, but humans have tapped into a hidden source of ancient sunlight, thus growing our population exponentially, and throwing the balance out of order. We now have a population dependent on more energy than the sun can produce, so when our credit runs out, the sun will not be able to produce enough energy to sustain the population we have created.

I didn’t mean to go on that rant, for more detailed explanation of these lessons please read the book. I just brought up the sun, because I wanted to illustrate why I have become so uber-aware of its role in my life. Nothing is more effective to show a person the power and worth of the sun, then feeling it on your skin in the Arabian desert. There is also something about the longitude and latitude of this region and the amount of sand in the air that makes for spectacular sunsets, and from what I realized today sunrises as well.

Today was the first day I woke up at 5:30. I made myself a cup of tea. (I really need to not buy tea in tea bags anymore. The waste of each bag seems ridiculous. Loose-leaf tea will eliminate so much unneeded waste.)

I hit the elliptical machine and felt my thighs ache from non-use. Onto push-ups/sit-ups and a short stint of Zazen. It was the easiest ten-minute session I have ever had. I could feel my heart beating, tiny globules of sweat danced on my skin; I mediated on a spec of dust in my field of vision. It stayed in place when I was done. Then I floated away to work and it too was gone upon my return.
Another day another chance to get it right
Must I still be learning?
Must I still be learning?

Morning yearning…


  1. I just cut coffee out of my regular routine, and switched to tea. On several friends' recommendations, I tried Nettle Tea. It's good for, um, well, everything. It's better as an "infusion" (which is just fancy talk for tea that you leave to steep overnight) and (here's the best part) you just dump a handful of the dried herb into a quart jar, and then once it's steeped you drink it all, leaves and tea. No waste!

    If you like green tea, you'll like nettle tea. If you don't like green tea (and I don't) then nettle tea might take a bit to get used to, but I knew right away when I first tasted it that it had all sorts of things in it that my body wanted. It only took a few days before I loved the taste, as my body learned how good it made me feel.

    I have no idea how hard it is to get in the desert. Here, I can order a pound of the dried herb for about $8 from Mountain Rose Herbs.

    I also don't usually drink all the leaves with the tea. The texture isn't quite right for me. But the leftover leaves make really great compost material. And even if you throw the leftover herb in the garbage, at least there's no packaging waste.

    Here's the link for

  2. Anonymous8:00 PM

    The sun is the basis of every particle of life. So far so good. We are all consumers; we all depend on plants who depend on the sun to eat. Alright.
    And yes, the sun is beautiful.

    But when I go outside on a hot day, well, I feel like going inside.

    But oh! the beauty of the night...

    Oh, and about the book - humans have never been able to tap the full "current" energy of the sun because we have never researched the basic organic principles that allow all living plants to photosynthesize.
    In theory, we could build enough solar panels to replace all the oil we longer need. Uranium - that is, nuclear synthesis - is on the other hand something which is not defendant on the sun and could create enough energy to last billions of years, could we but safely use it.

    But enough of my rant too.

  3. Anonymous6:45 AM

    There was a wonderful softly flickering breeze in Doha late this evening, slightly cooler than anything felt recently. Another way to relate to nature in this desert is to look for and feel the change in the winds and breeze throughout the year.