Friday, January 2, 2015

We Try Meditation

            With the New Year comes a new meditation regimen for me—and a reminder that I am squirmy by nature. Stopping and just being is a struggle for me, but I’ve determined that it is worth the attempt. Too much is passing me by; I need to pause, to let the important things begin to sink in.
            I am also inflexible, my body rejecting the lotus, with legs that refuse to bend but a spine that is all too willing. Once I am in position, the fleeting itch begins, jumping like a flea from back to head to arm to foot, then starting the circuit again. My regular life is not an itchy one. My meditative life is a constant, invisible rash.
            I choose to sit in the dark room in front of the Christmas tree, if only for the treat of opening my eyes to gentle, colored points of light. When I close my eyes, I can still make out soft hues from behind my lids. It’s a promising start. I begin the slow, deliberate breathing, pulling breath in through the nose and down to the diaphragm, holding it for a few beats, then expelling it gradually through my mouth before starting the process again.
            The breathing itself is always a revelation. I don’t often fill myself with oxygen, to the point that I can feel it in my abdomen. For me, it’s usually shallow breaths that don’t get much farther than the area of the sternum. Full lungs just feel good. Sometimes I even get a little air-drunk—lightheaded from the oxygen bubbles in my head.
            But the sitting is hard. My body is not as pliable as it once was, and the lotus position would require effort and pain. I’m no Zen master, so I’m not certain of this, but I don’t think it’s worth it to try. I opt to sit cross-legged and stretch my spine skyward. Within a minute I’m sagging, more like a bowling ball than a pond flower.
            Meditation shouldn’t be difficult. It’s as natural as, well, breathing, since that’s what it is. When the normal daily drive is to go and to move, it’s hard to make yourself breathe, as if your only job, your only imperative in life, is to process air.
            There are two things I can count on as I sit and breathe. One is the company of a cat, who is the very model of what it means to be fully present, if by “fully present” we mean “constantly underfoot.” As I sit, Salami Sandwich (that’s his name) comes to me and stretches out beside my right leg. He positions his head under my upturned palm. After a few moments, he gets tired of waiting to be petted and he bites me. I’m not sure if the act is intended as prompt or punishment, but I think there may be a lesson in it—something about not denying our true nature.
            After a few strokes, Salami settles down and begins to purr, a thrumming om that cats default to so effortlessly. I set my alarm to allow ten minutes of meditation—a fine start for a novice, I think—but I am mindful that another impediment is in the next room, and that at some point he will likely toddle in to where I sit and demonstrate his love by, oh, punching me in the eye or pulling my hair. It’s a gesture of love, really, for a little one—he is announcing his presence and making a play for my attention. Teaching nice touches is part of my job description.
            While I sit and breathe, I try to control the so-called monkey-mind, but part of me is always on the alert for a thwack or a pinch or at least a shout. In through the nose. Hold. Out through the mouth. In through the nose ….
            When I register his small feet approaching, I feel him stop in the doorway and look. I am doing something different—something quieter and strange. I wonder how he will respond, but I keep breathing. In through the nose ….

            What I would not have anticipated is the feel of that small person settling in beside me, sitting on my right side and leaning against me. As I breathe, he joins me, and I fold my arm around him. For a few moments we exist that way, quiet and still. Until the chime sounds, I’m sure I can feel a wash of color staining our skin.

3 comments:

  1. I don't meditate...but I womdered: when I run, I concentrate on breathing in, breathing out. :) does that count?
    alas, I fear it doesn't. ;)

    Love how this post ended.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kazuko! :) I think it does count. Actually, I got so involved with my little cleaning project yesterday that I felt like I was meditating then as I was picking up Legos. I just slowed down and did it mindfully, and it was really pretty amazing. If there's such a thing as walking meditation, surely running can be, too. :)

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  2. I will keep this in mind. When I am not thinking about some linguistic puzzle, or some organizational things, it is really breathing in, out, out, out, breathing in, out, out, out. :) especially when it is hard. But I'm not sure. I think I should learn to meditate properly, before branching off to meditating while running. ;)

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