Monday, July 30, 2012

I'm meditating. Officially, I mean, although that's an odd way to describe something that should be as organic as breathing. What I mean is that in addition to the few minutes of deep breathing I do before I go to sleep, counting my breaths, I am attending a weekly meditation group. Every Tuesday night at church, a small band of us, usually 3 to 5 people, sit in a candle-lit circle, read a brief illuminating passage  from some inspirational work and then meditate for 20 minutes to a CD of monks chanting "HU".

Hu, apparently, is an age-old name for God. Never heard of it before. Since, I've found it mentioned in two books. Go figure.

I am not really a meditative person. My thoughts tend to scamper around like a puppy on a short leash. Especially when I'm awake and sitting up. It's a lot easier to call my deep breathing exercises "meditation" when it really should be called falling asleep. But I have done at least enough meditation to know that this is normal and I shouldn't freak out about it. I keep pulling on the puppy's leash and try and get her to behave. That was the first week and I did pretty good and it sure seemed like that 20 minutes went really fast. The next day I felt a bit more centered, I have to admit.

The next week went about the same. Meditation runs from 7-7:30pm and when I open my eyes in the middle of it, the setting sun is setting the stained-glass Jesus alight and then the whole window is glowing with reds and blues and greens and that's pretty cool. I start to get antsy at some point but then the leader realizes that the chime has never gone off and we have meditated for 35 minutes.

Week 3 I am very fidgety, which I tend to be anyway-ask my husband. And I've a tickle at the back of my throat which I keep trying to ignore and that only makes me want to clear my throat urgently. Also, everything itches: my foot, my back, my mosquito bite. I also try to ignore these and when that doesn't work, I scratch them as unobtrusively as I can. At the end of the meditation we talk about this, and Awat, who led the group this week, says that when you do meditative practice long enough, this goes away. You should just acknowledge, "my foot is itching" and it will no longer bother you.

Awat is interesting. He's from Nigeria and I've seen him at bible study as well. He always has something good to say and between the content of his words and the way he delivers them, with a rolling cadence, you want to nod your head and go, "yes, that's it exactly" when he speaks. Awat comes to church on Sundays dressed in a shirt and pants in an African print and style. His youngest son, also Awat, looks and dresses just like him, so we have Big and Little Awat. The first week of meditation, Awat shared this story with us. A few years ago, he had a hairline fracture of his femur. He was home with crutches, told not to walk on the leg and he was supposed to go for surgery on a Monday morning. Sunday night, while asleep, he dreamt that his mother, who had passed away, came to him, asking him about the leg and where it hurt. Then he dreamt that his father, who was also dead, came into his room and starting showing him an xray of the leg without any fracture and told him, "Your leg is not broken." Then his mother took her hand and placed it over the area where he told her it was broken. He felt warmth from her hand and saw an orange glow. Then he woke up.

He felt his hip and it was hot to the touch. Gingerly, he got out of bed and stood up. The leg didn't hurt. He walked to the bathroom and his leg didn't hurt. His wife woke up and called to him in the bathroom. He said, "I'm ok." And he cancelled the surgery. His doctor, who did not take to kindly to the surgery being cancelled, called him and asked him what was going on. Awat told him, "my leg is all better." Being a doctor, he wanted some proof, so Awat came back in, first for an xray, then another MRI(he had already had these prior to surgery). Nothing. The tests came back showing that Awat's leg wasn't broken and had never been broken.

A miracle? I tend to believe that the initial tests were wrong, that he never had a broken leg. Maybe they mixed up his films-that does happen. But I'm willing, just a little, to think that there are powers in this world that defy explanation, mostly because people who exist solely on rational thinking give me hives.

Anyway, by the latest meditation effort, I decided that my mind is not an unruly puppy, but more like a small, wayward child. Like a toddler, who wants to go after shiny things, even if that shiny thing is a pair of sharp scissors. So, like a good parent, I gently redirect baby while quickly putting the shiny thing away where it wont distract her. Because, you know, you should be gentle with your brain so that it'll grow up being gentle back to you.

All this meditation has made me pick up Rumi again (who speaks of Hu, even if I hadn't noticed it before now):

Work. Keep digging your well.
Don't think about getting off from work. 
 Water is there somewhere...
 Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that 
is a ring on the door.
Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who's there.  


Sunday, July 22, 2012

I'm reading Nabukov, Invitation to a Beheading, which is probably not what I need to be reading. I already feel like the world is contrived and artificial, I don't need help from him.

Like I went to a baby shower yesterday, which seem about as staged as a Catholic mass. Everyone enters, pregnant mom arrives, everyone yells surprise. Greetings continue, then the organized, slightly frantic friend will make various announcements: time to eat, time to play a shower game, time to open presents. Then cake. That was the best part, I think.

It was lovely, really. And kudos to the mom-to-be, who gets to go home with a lot of schwag. (Most of which I think is unnecessary to raising of young, I mean Diaper Genie-whatever). Maybe I'm just jealous that they are doing it "the right way." Get engaged, get married, work and save, buy a modest house and raise your kids, send them to college, retire and die. Which wouldn't even be such a prison sentence if you could at least enjoy it. Mom-to-be is going back to her low paying job almost immediately. But it doesn't matter-lawyers and doctors, cashiers and waitresses, even Anjelina Jolie I suspect, are all on this treadmill going nowhere. So how am I expected to enjoy a baby shower when I can't even find a Meaning For It All.

So, this morning, full of ennui and self loathing, I went to church. I didn't want to. And the service was pretty tame-regular pastors were not in attendance, student preacher preaching. Lackluster song choices, if I may say so, and one that was so hard to sing that we all just mumbled through it. Bitchy of me, I know, but I was in a critical mood. But I did see one old friend who I gravitated toward and she gave me a big hug and I told her I woke up on the wrong side of bed and she said that that's ok, just straighten it out now. And I got a few more hugs from people who genuinely like me. And I saw that the lady I helped last week when she almost passed out from the heat was back in her pew. They didn't have to admit her after all, just gave her a tune up and sent her home. And another parishioner who I saw in the ER this week was ok. And the wife of another good old guy I took care of a few weeks ago told me that he's going home, there's nothing more to be done and he wants to spend his last days sitting in his chair and looking out his window and that it's ok. And it was ok. Because sometimes ok is enough.

So, I got hugs and a reminder that I am both liked and useful, which is not too shabby for a Sunday morning. I like church. I'm still not sure who I'm praying to or what all the details are, but it is a tonic for those things that can't be fixed by either logic or therapy.

I got back home, still a little irritable (really, now, STILL?), wanting to write and getting interrupted a dozen times with "Mommy, can I...?" Just when I thought I would lose my stack, and S could tell, she went and brought me a sticker. Of a dragonfly, because she knows they are a special to me. And we stuck it on my phone so I can have a substantial reminder that I can't always get what I want, but sometimes I get a gentle and loving reminder not to be such a poop head.