Grandpa Joe was a pragmatist's pragmatist and according to him, I have a problem. As a matter of fact, I'm in the midst of a full-blown crisis and I've been here before. Catastrophes happen to people who meditate and to people who don't. The other times I've experienced crisis, I was not a person who meditated. Let me say definitively: it's better to be a person who meditates. The crisis still swirls around me, but I am not sucked into its vortex. My life goes on, I worry, at times I'm consumed, but the situation outside of me stays on the outside. This is a new experience and I am so grateful to be exactly where I am.
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Meditation is not about ambition. It is about intention. It is not about doing it right or being the best or even about becoming enlightened. It is about sitting in stillness for twenty minutes every day. That’s all. Now, see what happens.
I aspire to meditate daily.Within my normal routine, I may skip a couple of times here and there, but mostly I get to it every day. But when my far-flung family gathered in one city, I rearranged my priorities. My parents who live in Florida, my son who lives in Los Angeles, my son and his girlfriend who live in Chicago, and myself and my husband who live in Cleveland, all made our way to New York City to welcome the newest member of the family into the world: my new baby granddaughter. Meditation requires just twenty minutes of time and a solitary space within which to find stillness, but I was not willing to chop off any of my prescious minutes to devote to a solitary activity. I didn't want to take a chance on missing a moment of available time with my parents, children, husband, granddaughter. It's not that there was not a twenty minute block available here or there (of course there was), but I never knew when my daughter might call and say the baby had just woken up or just been fed and was ready for a visit. It's the spontanteity I was not willing to give up.
So for the past couple of weeks, I've meditated only a couple of times and here I am trying to figure out what effect this has had on me. If there's one thing meditation has taught me, it's that you can't really figure out how meditation does and does not change your life. Conversely, it's not so useful to try to figure out what effect lack of meditation has had. I quiz myself: Am I more irritable? More anxious? Less productive? In other words, am I a different sort of person when I meditate and when I don't? It may be a question without an answer, but nevertheless it's the question foremost on all of our minds. Will this meditation thing do something relevant and immediate for me? I can see a trail of my accomplishments from the time I began to meditate almost a year ago until now and if that is a measure of change, I can see those things. But I can't see what would have happened had I not started to meditate. I feel powerful when I refuse to accept coincidence and am open to the synchronicity that surrounds me, but I don't know how things would have played out were I still a person that noticed coincidence and then went blithely on ignoring the connections.
Maybe all the meditation I've done over the course of the past year has built up a reserve in me so the gap in my meditation schedule was of little matter.
Mind the gap. Cope with the gap. Meditate again.
Day Nineteen: With half an hour to spare before an appointment, I squeezed in the meditation. I figured I only needed twenty minutes, right? Plenty of time. The dog did not cooperate. He whined and scratched at the closed door until I let him in. He played with his ball and was intrigued by my stillness. He was compelled to investigate. I finally put him out, closed the door on him, and tried to resume from where I had left off. This was actually more successful than you might think. I was at the point in the process where I had relaxed my body and was ready to begin to meditate. After the disruption, I was easily able to resume the mode and rather quickly begin to coax my mind's eye toward my heart. The problem was that the running commentary in my head was that I would now be late for my appointment. When I opened my eyes to check whether or not my twenty minutes was up, it was five minutes early. I resumed. Checked again. Still two minutes to go. In my last session with Lee, she emphasized the importance of a kind of cool down period after meditation. She advised sitting for a few minutes after meditating, gazing at the floor, and letting your senses slowly get used to being back in focus. But since I was worried about being late for my appointment, I checked back in very quickly.
Day Twenty: was a very good day. The student I tutor at a charter school in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District got 100% on his reading test on Kafka's Metamorphosis, the book we read together over the past couple of months. This morning I woke up with an epiphany about the tutoring program. It all became very clear. Channels are open and firing, at least for the moment.
My twenty minutes took place on the porch of my parents' Florida condo. It's an interesting weather day here, storming one minute, sunny the next. Wind and slanty sheets of rain made it more practical to be inside, but the porch was the only quiet private place. The predominant sound was the rush of water through a drain pipe, very loud and distinctive, not at all the peaceful sound of rain drops. Not exactly irritating, but not relaxing either.