1. Wake Up.
2. Say thank you and plant my feet on the floor.
3. Do my day. Work. Try to stay present. Succeed sometimes. Fail often. Spend a lot of time daydreaming about my new boyfriend, Yoga and his cute friend Blog.
6. Meditate with Oprah. (chopracentermeditation.com)
This is an immersion program. I'm psyched. I'm enamored. Okay, I admit it. I'm attached. As is often the case with new love, I find myself turning down other dates, neglecting my friends, eating cereal and string cheese for dinner so I can spend more time with the object of my affection. But tonight is Thanksgiving Eve, also known as The Biggest Bar Night of the Year, and Courtney is determined to put on An Outfit and Go Out. Infatuated as I am, I'd been considering a second yoga practice today, an evening class in addition to the Wednesday lunchtime class I've been doing lately at work. I feel drawn to my evening routine, and I feel vaguely freaked out to let it go tonight. This yoga stuff, all of it--the meditation and the practice, the reflection and the formulating--it seems to be doing me good. What if the good doesn't stick once I've had a couple cocktails in a crowd? It feels new; I feel vulnerable.
I'm reminded of an article I read several years ago in an issue of Shambala Sun that was given to me by my favorite undergrad English professor Marti. The article was a profile on Buddhist psychologist Jack Kornfield, who's known for teaching a pretty practical form of mindfulness which combines Eastern spirituality and Western psychology. What stuck with me about the article was the idea of synthesizing, rather than separating, spiritual practice and everyday life. The title of one of his books says it cleverly: After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. I love his position that the laundry is the spiritual practice, not a removal from it. Maybe it's a tiny stretch, but if sorting the lights from the darks is a spiritual act, I'm thinking maybe a little bar hop could be too. So I ready myself with some mascara, some boots and a strong resolve to appreciate everything. It's funny that fear shows up this way tonight. It's unexpected.
Around the same time that I read the Jack Kornfield article, I learned a strategy for meditating where I imagined myself under water and visualized my thoughts as boats passing overhead. The goal was to passively notice the "boats" without jumping up onto one and riding it too far away. A form of detachment. The Kornfield article, the meditation tool and the fear of leaving my cozy yoga comfort zone are all facets of the same challenge, something I often wrestle with, the Biblical idea of being "in the world but not of it." How do I engage fully with my life--its wonderfully weird characters, old habits, random funky vibes, unavoidable gossip, all of that--while moving ever deeper into stillness and centeredness? It's a question I've thought about and wrote about for a while. I wrote this poem about it a few years ago after reading the Kornfield article. Little side note here: putting this poem into cyberspace is absolutely the scariest thing I've done all week. Scarier than Anjaneyasana to Warrior III. Boom. Posted. Fear tackled with the help of a new mantra: only three people read this blog. Here goes.
Detachment: Kornfield’s Blues
Were we supposed to break the surface
with our water logged limbs, heave our tired bodies
onto the hull and then make something of it, or were we to stay
in the deep and learn how to breathe under water?
In stillness, watching thoughts float by unmanned overhead,
everything’s ok even when it’s not, but when it’s not,
who’s up there with the punch line? This is grief; come aboard.
This is something rare and special. This is a color you’ve never seen
in a sky, and also the feeling that comes with it. This is just
like being fully alive: the ache and tenderness of bearing
witness to some unbelievable shifting shade, here right now
but leaving. This is the struggle of trying to find words for it.
You should’ve been there.
He said to his teacher, “This is a piece of cake: suspended outside
of metaphor, between surface and floor, watching the boats,
simply boats, that keep passing over head.”
And his teacher replied, “Now try to breathe.
You’ll need someone to show you how
to turn your lungs to gills and my dear, all hands are on deck.
Even with a home down here, you’ll need lessons in living fully.
Even here, you’ll be better with age.
There’s plenty of time and there’s no time at all,
so hop on up there and learn something
about sunsets, about taking the oxygen out of the sea.”
Tonight, the synthesis of yoga stillness and life's routine chaos comes easily. It's simple. It's laughter. Two beers, two friends--Courtney and her husband Nate. We make a whole night out of laughter, our persistent link to the present moment. It's ujjayi laughter, belly laughter, down into the diaphragm, with an occasional snort through the nose. We walk way down memory lane, back to high school where we all met and then to the weekend in July when we threw ourselves into a series of adventures to distract our scared brains and kill time while we waited for biopsy results. We project ourselves months into the future by planning a "survivor's trip" this spring, pulling up plane tickets and National Parks on our smartphones. Even looking forward or looking back, the "you are here" vantage point is clear and it's as unassuming as a yoga mat: it's a high top table in a busy bar on the north side of town. That's where we are, quite fully, laughing so hard we can't catch our breath.