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Some time in the fall, I fell off the meditation cushion. I didn’t even actually have a cushion; I sat in a large armchair with my legs crossed, trying to keep my spine straight. It was a good practice for me, that meditation. My mind wandered away like an escaped helium balloon and I caught the string again and again, pulling myself back to the moment, the breath, and the stillness. With every breath in I felt the ocean tumbling onto wet, firm sand; with every exhalation I felt the water rush away, rattling tiny shells and stones like a beaded curtain.


In the fall I got busy with a new job and the start of a new school year. I began missing the morning session of quiet focus because I was too busy. It delayed my shower, I rationalized, and there always seemed to be something more pressing to do. By Thanksgiving I had gone from daily practice to a kind of guilt-induced and awkward session once a month. There was no flow, no ease, and no slipstream into a consciousness greater than my own. I snuck glances at the timer. Long after I stopped meditating I would try to remind myself to stop thinking backwards or forwards in time, and to be present. Sometimes it worked, but sometimes I could not stop myself from gnawing some old bone or catastrophizing about the oncoming train.


Considering this particular failure of discipline, I wondered why I had not gone bat shit crazy. It’s difficult to live in my head; I have both the anxiety and distorted perspective of the truly insane and the cool rationality necessary to refute any argument that life is, in fact, good. I spin thoughts frantically, embellishing slights, fretting over the future, and discounting all that is warm and comforting. I have resisted the efforts of therapists, pumping a mental fist at my triumph over psychobabble only to realize that I have basically shot myself in the foot. In meditation, I found respite, and when that ended, I should by all rights have suffered some awe-inspiring backlash of suffering.


Cooking dinner last night, I understood. For maybe an hour, longer than have I ever properly meditated, I was so absorbed in my work that I lost track of time. I diced, I sautéed, and I watched the eggs for the moment when the inner circle was white and firm before I flipped them. I listened to sitar music in my warm, spice-infused kitchen, and thought of nothing but the work at hand. It was, in fact, meditation. I ceased to exist, all of my spinning stopped, and I was part of the process, the eye that judged the translucency of the onions, the hands that scooped and sorted, the tongue that gauged saltiness. Taken out of my head, I rested, balanced, and emerged with a pan of really good hash and an even keel.


It also happens when I write. I can’t write and worry about my parents’ 50thanniversary dinner, the dandelions in the yard, or whether I accidentally hurt someone’s feelings in an e-mail. I am un-distractible, indestructible, and totally present at the keyboard. When I’m finished, I feel lighter and cleaner. There is no cushion, no following of the breath, simply immersion into a space in which my mind is channeled wisely and constructively.


I am planning to start “sitting” again; it is not only good for me but also an important part of my spiritual life. I was thinking about buying a fairly expensive, buckwheat-filled cushion so that I could sit more authentically. It seemed, for a time, that I might be more effective and dedicated if I had the right stuff. In the end, I don’t think it matters. I could spend the fifty bucks on a cushion, a boning knife or someone to clean my house while I write.


Or I could just give it away on the street, and get back to the work at hand, needing nothing more than I already have.


About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

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