My mindfulness journey – Frustration and Beauty

Since I believe that mindfulness is such an important part of nonviolence in general and as a parent in particular, I am going to occasionally share stories about my own mindfulness journey and I hope that you will share yours. By seeing how others undertake this process, I am hoping that we will all feel less alone along the way. I wrote this piece in January.

Photo courtesy of flickr user Luigi Torreggiani

Photo courtesy of flickr user Luigi Torreggiani

After a month of regular meditation practice I still can barely keep my body still, much less my mind. I do not feel calm or centered; I feel frustrated. I keep trying different positions, different cushions, but my knees and back ache. I set the timer and give myself a pep talk. “You are resisting. Give it time. If it was easy, everyone would achieve supreme enlightenment.” So far, my time on the cushion has not been spent in deep contemplation, and certainly not in a state of alert relaxation. It has been spent persuading myself to stay there.

Stillness is not comfortable for me. Neither is patience. This is why I’m on this cushion in this cold room in the predawn darkness while my family and my left foot sleep. My need to control, to painstakingly, meticulously craft every moment for myself and the people around me through a flurry of nonstop action, is no longer working for me if it ever did. I know it is time to abdicate authority over my life to something greater than myself, I know it in my bones, yet my zone of comfort is well-fortified by ego and maintained by inertia.

I think about my first car, affectionately called The Tank. It wasn’t in great shape when I bought it, and after seven years of faithful service to me it was clear that it was time for The Tank to retire, but I had worked hard to buy it and I wasn’t ready to give it up. It had given me many miles, many fun road trips. It was ugly, embarrassing even, and increasingly unreliable, but it hadn’t always been that way. Against all reason, I held out hope that one more trip to the mechanic would bring it back to life.

I return to my breath, wiggle my toes and check the clock. Ten minutes have passed. It feels like it’s been ten hours. Armed with a list of things I’d rather do with these rare moments of quiet, I decide to bail.

I am about to rise from the cushion when I’m stopped by a breathtaking scene emerging beyond the window. The sun peeks over the horizon, illuminating the fog while bold calligrapher’s strokes are etched across the stark white canvas of mist. I watch the sun inch higher, the moisture burn away, and the black lines become the limbs of familiar trees before my eyes. I am surprised when the timer rings and my thirty minutes are over.

I want to capture what just unfolded. I try to photograph the scene through the window, I sit on the wet pavement of my driveway, but it is gone. That particular instant of fleeting beauty is unique to the particular vantage point of the zafu on my office floor and a particular moment when the weather and the sun’s position in its ascent are just so.

I think maybe I’ll sit again tomorrow.

I sent this to my Sensei, and his response was, “Keep sitting. Expect nothing.”