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.
The year also brought a whittling of the self, especially a recognition of my limits. Time expands beyond the moment to the far reaches of age where, if I’m lucky, I’ll look back fondly on slow walks down the stairs, on the lines of schoolgirls in long, bright yellow hijabs like flocks of canaries, on the hot stacks of loxoox in the kitchen each morning, on the frigid hop from bed to closet on winter mornings. I think about my aged years as though I’m already there, ruminating over a life well lived or not, observing wrinkled, spotted hands, remembering when they were smoother, tighter, and when I took them for granted. I feel fullness, and a gentle longing, and fullness again.
What matters are the earnest embraces of greetings and farewells, the unique infusion of scents that accompany the people you love, the sparks of energy that scatter with their laughter, the loving gaze of those who know your story and bear witness to the triumphant and crushing steps on your upward spiral. While living overseas amplifies the magic of those moments it also rarefies them, detaching you even when you most need them.
Unable to rouse my mother from slumber, I quickly became a virtuoso of the breakfast vignette: aged kitchen table awash in rosy morning light, blackened toast atop white plate, dabs of melting butter, knife glistening with jam. Pile of pithy clementine rinds. Milk glass, butter dish.
Slowly, over time and broken hearts, I learned to engage stillness purposefully, finally grasping its value in a harried world. For too long I had clung to my own fretful flaws, muddled and spent by repetitious self-defeat. A still life remains an aspiration, even today; I’m more drawn to the itinerant moon, always heavy, if not always full, distracted by the night’s brightest company. But I identify less readily with restlessness, I recognize it as a passing mood instead of a way of being.
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.
I’m living for the weekends lately, for the deep breaths and slivers of free time. It’s Wednesday in Hargeisa, so we’ve got one more day until we can relax (work on side projects). Here are a few links to get us all through!