Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Problem solved.

I figured out the equivalent to a swaddle for adults - meditation! Not like the general every day kind but the kind where you intentionally SIT and don't move and hope that your mind will just quiet down already.

I've been confused about meditation for a while now. Like most things, I was totally over-thinking it. I wanted rules and specific dos and don'ts. I couldn't grasp that something that seemed so profound could be so simple. There were plenty of times that I would be still and quiet and not thinking about anything at all. Then I'd think, "Man, I wish I knew how to meditate. Imagine how great my life would be then!"

Saturday's Za Zen meditation practice was a great wake up call for me. It's the kind of meditation that does have rules and specific dos and don'ts and I think that structure helped me finally let go of the obstacles I had created. Now I see that "meditation" can happen at any time. As long as I'm experiencing the present moment and not letting unconscious thoughts and actions take the wheel, I'm golden.

A friend of mine was leading the class and I was really excited to see what it was all about. Not excited enough to get myself there on time but excited all the same. Walking in two minutes late to something silent that you've never done before is pretty stupid. A few years ago I would have turned around and high tailed it out of there. No way would I be that person! Things have definitely changed. Last week I walked into a Pilates class at the YMCA 30 minutes late and just set up my mat and joined the class. To my credit, the time was posted wrong on the website so I didn't realize I was late. But still - when class ended 15 minutes after I arrived and I figured out what I had done, I wasn't nearly as mortified as I maybe should have been.

Where was I? Ah, yes, interrupting meditation.

I sneaked in, found a pillow, sat down cross legged and closed my eyes. Once I sat, I really stayed put. Usually I have to pull down my shirt, fix my pants (they always seem to ride up when I sit like that), look around, crack my neck, stretch my arms, you name it. Not giving myself the option to move was so much easier than I thought it would be. I was shocked at how still I was able to sit (I didn't even move when my foot fell asleep!) and my mind was pretty quiet, too. It was the most uninterrupted quiet time I can remember in recent history and boy-oh-boy, was it relaxing.

Everything was going swimmingly until a loud CLAP! made me jump out of my skin and look around in a panic to see what was going on. Everyone was standing up and forming a line that just happened to face me. I did what they did and then realized in horror that I was the line leader. My friend tiptoed up next to me and whispered that she would clap the wooden blocks once and we would walk slowly and then she'd clap them again and we'd walk quickly. I tried my best to play it cool. I mean, if she thought I could do it, surely it was no big deal. I would lead the class in some sort of walking meditation. No problem. She clapped the blocks and I started walking REALLY slowly. My eyes were closed and I was feeling my body as I intentionally placed one foot in front of the other. I never turned around to see if I was doing it right because that's so not Zen. I just kept placing one foot in front of the other in my own little world. I was about to walk face first into the wall (slowly and with intention) when my teacher grabbed me by the shirt and led me to the back of the line. Why I thought I could walk with my eyes closed and not run into something remains a mystery.

We walked slow and then fast for about 10 minutes with our eyes sort of closed but open enough to see (eyes closed, you're sleeping; eyes open, you're dreaming). Then we sat again for about 30 minutes and chanted a little and that was it. Za Zen Meditation!

Having a beautiful, quiet space like that and time set aside for nothing but peace and relaxation was pure luxury. I will definitely do it again. More importantly, now I know that I can tap into that presence anytime. Yesterday I was fully present while folding laundry and you know what? It was kind of wonderful. I thought I hated doing laundry but when I actually did laundry instead of sloppily folding clothes while watching TV and thinking about what I would rather be doing, it wasn't bad at all. The clothes were clean and smelled good and when I folded a t-shirt just right and added it to the stack of neatly folded clothes, it was darn close to perfection.

The real test will be doing dishes. And making dinner. And mopping the floors. And cleaning the bathroom. And...

Finding joy in the little Scotch tape.

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