A panic followed me into the St. Mary’s River where I’d hoped for a clear-eyed, early morning canoe trip on glassy water. I rolled up my pants and pushed off the sand with my left foot, the other inside the boat on its center line, my hands steadying me on either lip of the canoe’s thin walls. Paddling up the bank, I looked down into the muddy water next to me at the occasional stones. I steered clear of the channel’s current, never going too deep, yet both the murky unknown and the riverbed terrain, where I could see it, were frightful, one mysterious in its opacity and the other bone-chillingly undisturbed, like a graveyard. I trained my eye on the shoreline ahead, paddling assiduously, keeping up pace and imagining my grandmother’s petite figure on the bow seat as it often was, once, a Velcro back brace stiffening her posture, laid over a white turtleneck and hidden by a woolen sweater. This imagined scene didn’t much calm me; a haunted canoe ride wouldn’t soothe my …
Set the meditation timer to five minutes. Consider whether you set a low bar for yourself in all aspects of your life. Set the timer to ten minutes. Remember that you have 14 things to do before the day officially begins, and set the timer back to five minutes. Allow all the nagging thoughts of errands and obligations and forgotten tasks to simply fall away… so that deeper fears of self-doubt and wasted purpose can really come to the fore and shine. Glance down at the timer, notice you’ve winningly achieved 43 seconds of mindful bliss. Add the State of Nirvana to your dream destination list, pack it in and get on with your day.
Way #2: Strut to the neighborhood crossroads in slacks and a button-down with tall, spring green palm fronds emerging from the collar, encircling your head and framing your face, like that fellow from last Wednesday around 4:00 pm. Go about your business at the local shops as though it were customary to sport fresh flora. Be regal, be purposeful, carry conviction. And make swift turns so that the palm fronds echo your movements like back-up dancers, or a loyal school of fish.
I’d learned the basics, how to guide the boat up and down the lake, and how to get out of irons. The instructor announced that our next lesson would be the climax of the series: how to right a capsized boat. I had come to adore sailing, but I thought he was crazy–we would capsize the boat on purpose? Create a catastrophe in the middle of the lake just to (try to) fix it? Was this some kind of Navy drill? Had I been drafted? Was this necessary? At my desk this week, hands shaking uncontrollably above my keyboard, I likened my state to a capsized sailboat; I’d tipped over a bit too far, it seemed, and now found myself somehow upside down under water, trying to figure out how to right myself again. From underneath the surface, without oxygen, light filtered through brown muck, every normal thing is pressurized, every mundane task, every movement a thousand times heavier, a thousand times more difficult. Everything is scary, and the accumulation of fears starts to hurt, and starts to wear, and takes its toll.