Stories From California

Still-Life With Gardener - del Rey, CA

So, I'm sitting in front of my little meditation setup. Candle, shells, smooth rocks, tiny buddha, smoldering sage. I am ready to focus on my breath. It's a little cold this morning and I am wearing my fat winter socks, the ones I bought for North Dakota, when I was reporting about Standing Rock and how the Native Americans were trying to protect their sacred land from building the pipeline, trying to protect their water. Our water. Mni Wiconi. Water is Life. Now I feel like I'm a little bit like back there in the blizzard, feeling those socks warming my feet. I wonder how the tribes are doing who came together, now that Trump allowed for the pipeline to be built after all.

See! That's how it goes with me and meditating. My mind strays. It wanders all over the place. I know the meditation teachers say that that's ok. I'm not supposed to be trying to get into a certain state of mind when I'm meditating. But honestly, I'm still sitting down every frigging morning to figure out how to get some kind of peace of mind into my life. I know, I shouldn't. I should just sit down and breathe. In. And out. Be present. That's it. It kinda works.

But it's really not that simple. I am confused even before I sit down. One teacher on my meditation app tells me to breathe in through my nose and then push the air out through my mouth. Another one says: 

no pushing at all, just gently letting the air go. One teacher tells me to breathe into my belly. Another one wants me to focus on my nostrils, the next one encourages me to breathe into my heart. Nobody tells me what to do when I have my asthma and breathing is anything but a nice calming flow of in and out. 

I know, these are all thoughts. I am supposed to let them go like the clouds in the sky, or a balloon, or a leaf in a river. Well, those are pretty different pictures, right? So, my thoughts can be white and fluffy? They might come from a party store? Or drift away on some kind of moving water? If that's nothing to have thoughts about, I don't know.

Anyway, today I'm sitting down again because, I guess, that's really the point of the whole thing, to sit my butt down and be quiet. Being still would even be better. "Stillness is the canvas we paint our lives on", one of the teachers says. I love that line even though I am not exactly sure what it means. My canvas in the morning is already a Jackson Pollock painting. I'm a bit edgy because today's to-do-list is a kicker. If I want to get even half of the shit on that list done, I'd better move my butt instead of sitting it down here on that cushion. 

But, here I am, because like I said, that's the point of it all. At least, as I understand it. 

Candle. Buddha. Sage. Birds chirping outside the open window. Here we go. The bell rings. Breathing in. Breathing out. One more time. Breathing in. Hold the breath. Let the air out.


The word 'noise' doesn't even come close to describing what is exploding in my ears. Nails and srews screeching on a metal sheet. A WWII panzer hitting the house. A rocket getting ready to blow down to hell. Exhaust, that puts my mind into an Indian metropolis at rush hour, expands through the window into the room. The little bundle of sage has no chance against that plume of pollution.

It's the neighbor's gardeners. It sounds like they started lawn mower and leaf blower at the same time.

I hold my breath. My eyes are closed. I wish, I could hold my nose and ears, but my hands rest on my legs, soft pants. Wait, what is that little thing under my right hand's thumb? Probably a chia seed from breakfast. No, it's too big. Maybe an oat kernel. Or maybe an animal? Oh my god, please let it not be an animal. My feet are warm now. My clothes are lose. I'm wearing my favorite rainbow-chakra-hoodie. That's perfect. I know, I'm not supposed to be judgemental. But hey, I'm trying to find silver linings to handle the landscaping side effects. Like, that I can sit here and meditate. It's much better than getting up before sunrise to tend to some other people's yard and coming home at night smelling like a canister of diesel fuel. I can sit on this nice soft cushion. It is yellow and orange, my favorite colors. I still like blue, for sure. It matches my eyes. Anyway, life could be much worse. I could be living in a country where I would have to wear a full body cover all day and probably trip twenty times on my way to the market alone. If they would allow me to go to the market, that is. I would for sure not sit in front of a tiny buddha, candles and shells. The shells I collect at the ocean are all broken. I am always attracted to the broken ones. 

Anyway. This is how I meditate.

I let the air out. The noise is still here. And the fumes. And that little hopefully-not-an-animal-thingy under my thumb. And my to-do-list. And my soft cushion. And the warm socks.

I take another deep breath in.

I'm getting there. Where I don't have to get anywhere.

OK, no more thinking. May my thoughts flow like a leaf in the river. It should probably be ON the river. I think, I like a  leaf on a creek better then a leaf on a river.

Breathing out.

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