« Excerpt | Main | A Merry Octopus »

Doing It Is Better Than NotDecember 20, 2013

I'm still thinking a lot about this whole meditation thing. I'm not willing to go all religious about it, but it sure has been nice to practice it every day. (I'll reiterate again with no paid compensation, etc -- I'm using Headspace to learn how to meditate. It's been ideal, making it simple. Simple doesn't preclude educational, and I've learned SO MUCH.)

This just in  -  Meditation is like writing is like knitting.

1. If you just do it, it gets done. So simple, right? The secret of everything. Right here. And yet sometimes, SO HARD.

2. A little bit every day adds up. Meditating every day has made all the difference. Even if I'm just doing it at the end of the day to help myself drift off, it's taught me how to relax. I've never, ever known how to do that before. (Oh, holy cow. I just checked in with myself, and I was literally holding my breath as I typed that, hunched into a ball over the computer. I often do that. Most of the time I don't notice it. But just now I relaxed. I let my muscles unknot and my facial expression soften and WOW, in the time it took me to type that last sentence, my shoulders knotted up and I had to relax them again. This relaxing could be a full-time job. Wait. How do I get that job?) 

3. On the days it's bad, it's still pretty damn good. On bad meditation days, your brain goes WHAT THE HELL IS THAT WHAT IS THAT NOISE DID THE CAT JUST THROW UP OMG DOG STOP BARKING I HAVE AN ITCH ON MY EYEBROW I MIGHT DIE WHO ARE YOU WHEN DO I GET TO STOP. But you know what? Afterward, you'll feel better, even if only incrementally. On bad knitting days, the yarn balks and you swear at it and you end up with twenty percent fewer stitches than you had at the beginning. But you've still touched something that no one else could make. And on bad writing days, you write the worst words in the world, words that are pure dreck or worse, words that are the scummy film that grows on dreck under rotting porches. 

But this fact remains: The days that you relax and sit in the now for a few minutes, the days that you touch something you're physically bringing into existence, and the days that you get your thoughts onto a page are way better than the days you don't. 


I'm reading a FANTASTIC book right now called Zen Confidential: Confessions of a Wayward Monk. It's the memoir of a Zen monk who writes from where reality lives, not from a soft tussock on a blessed mountain. I have no interest in pursuing Zen Buddhism, because I'm not that hardcore (aughhh -- those very words inspire this response inside me ---> YES I AM WATCH ME) but I'm fascinated by this guy and his essays. The memoirs I love (and the one I tried to write) are the ones that say something simple and obvious but then wade neck-deep into the embarrassment and shame that come from being human on any given Tuesday. I like watching memoirists hold up the darkest parts of themselves and own them. Shame is the most interesting human feeling, I think, and it's unique in that upon airing in public, it disappears. Shozen Jack Haubner goes there, and then he crawls underneath and inside of there and rolls around in ecstatic agony. It's wonderful. 

Here's a taste of it for you, from the section in which he goes home to his parents' house for his once-yearly vacation from the monastery: 

I dine. I dine again. I dine thrice. Then, pleasantly nauseated, I collapse on the leather La-Z-Boy and flick on a flat-screen TV the width of an RV windshield. Naturally, it is tuned to Fox News. My parents are the Fox News constituency. They voted for G.W. Bush, had four years to think about it, and then went ahead and voted for him again. 

Just hearing the voices of the Fox telegogues makes my skin crawl. My father, not content with leaving work at the shop, has hung guns from every wall in the house--ancient guns, modern guns, guns for dropping rhinoceroses or a fleeing Navajo squaw at a hundred yards. I consider pulling one down and silencing forever this TV, which is as large and loud as a helipad, its sound waves rippling my cheeks like air blast from propeller blades. 

My father enters the room. I am sitting in his chair, which fact I am reminded of by his shadow as he hovers over me silently. I repair to the couch as Dad navigates our TV watching from Fox to a dramatic medical reenactment and then roots for a seventeen-inch tapeworm as it makes its dramatically reenacted black-and-white exit from the tastefully blurred behind of the woman offscreen, who is shrieking "Ain' no one told me my mama's home cookin' gonna lead to this!" her voice competing with the one ricocheting throughout my skull: Why-in-the-HELL did I come back home again?!

The whole book is like this. I highly recommend it, though I'm only half-way through.

I'm also reading The Light Between Oceans. I'm DYING, it's so good. I'm in my favorite reading spot, which is smack-dab in the middle of reading a great memoir and a great novel. I'm also smack-dab in the middle of writing my next novel, which is ALSO my favorite place to be, though it's not quite as much fun as lying in the tub reading someone else's hard work. (Okay, I'm lying. It's way more fun.) 


I adored The Light Between Oceans. So glad you're loving it, too.

Headspace is amazing! I downloaded the app last time you mentioned it, and I was in love just from the intro videos! It is so easy to follow for someone with a scatter brain like myself. I do the daily meditation right before I go to bed and when that doesn't relax me the count backwards from 1000 always does it! I have only made it to 0 a few times, and I am starting to drift in the 700's now. I am convinced you are a genius!
My holiday tradition this year has involved taking whatever is on my needles to the beach, park, or anywhere beautiful and calming, to knit the day away. It has made such an improvement in my mood! It's amazing what a clear mind can do for your soul!
Lots of love to you and your family!

#1. Yes! So simple, but so often forgotten!

I work in the drug & alcohol treatment field. What you said about secrets made me think of one of the lines in our House Philosophy: "Until they suffer others to share their secrets, they have no safety from them."

Thank you for giving book suggestions. I'm always looking for books to read. :-)

Did you read Code Name Verity? My favorite book. Not that it relates to what you were writing about, but I just love to get people to read that book. So. good.

I read a lot, A LOT!! and The Light Between Oceans is one of the best books I read all year.

I also loved The Light Between Oceans. It was quite a story dragged me through many emotions.

Every time I tried meditating on my own I fell asleep. And, yes, I did feel better afterward, lol. Then I read A Gradual Awakening by Stephen Levine, and the guided meditations took me to a very different level. It was wonderful.

I have missed you! I was given a tablet for my 50th birthday back in May (instead of the trip to Rome I'd been hinting - aka telling anyone who'd listen - about).
Somehow that meant my RSS feeds got left behind on the laptop.
But I've finally found an app I can use (feedly) and you're back!
You always make me laugh, sometimes cry and often think hard.
Merry Christmas!

The comments to this entry are closed.