In the Meantime

Last night we walked Leonard in a cold wind. It’s odd how the actual temperature has little to do with how much cold the body perceives. I had to consciously force myself to look for the things I could find delight in. Again (because I’ve written about this before): I’m not looking for gratitude. I’m not going to try force it – whatever “it” is.

I am looking for things to admire. Find delight, as Ross Gay describes it. Hashtag joyspotting on Instagram (except I don’t require nearly as much beauty to spark delight or a flicker of joy).

I hope real gratitude will eventually well up from wherever it wells-up from. The heart, not the head. From the whole-body life, and not an objective, intellectual attitude toward the “other” and what it can do for me: make my life more pleasant.

Last night the sky was pink. My toes were numb, my fingers aching while I stood there looking for the reflection I knew should be there. Was there, pink in the water-logged mess that was part of the playground. If it had been a warm night, it would have not been more delightful moment.

I’m not trying to make any tired statements about how the unpleasant sets the pleasant in relief and makes us appreciate it more. That’s an intellectual exercise.

I am thinking more about letting go of the need to judge each moment according to expectations and stories. To physically be in the moment and notice what I am perceiving, letting go of the illusion that it can or should be anything else.

It’s humbling. All this powerlessness. Even the powerlessness in rejecting the stories that my mind wants to cling to, to make sense of the world. To give myself an illusion of comprehension, of control. If I can’t change things, I can put them in boxes.

Numb toes are “bad”. When I get back to the house, they’ll hurt as the circulation begins again. I should hurry back to the house. Don’t stand here and stare at the pink water.

I’m not an idiot. This animal body of mine will avoid what is unpleasant and will seek what is pleasant when it can. This meaty head will justify it all somehow.

But where I put my attention in the meantime is my choice.

In the meantime. That’s an interesting word: meantime. I looked it up. It means during a time when something else is being done, or during a time before something happens.

My life is a series of meantimes.

I’ve been working now for a while on a manuscript that focuses on time and impermanence. And I have been considering my own relationship with the concept. Like an anorexic with food, I put a lot of attention and effort into controlling the hours of my days. But like an anorexic, the more controlling and precise I become, the less nourishment I am able to take in. I am not using my time well. I want to stop time until I “figure it out”. But time is unavoidable.

And time rushes at me in the meantime. But there is no “there” there. Except for death.

I recently read about complexity as a form of avoidance. Systems, calendars, plans. Over-thinking. This should all be so simple. To stop telling myself the stories. To be here now – and not in a meantime.

a train is passing
and blackbirds are chattering –
a windowpane can’t
stop the day from moving on
taking me with it always

An Ordinary Day

Last night I fell asleep on the shakti mat. E. says I snore when that happens. Hardly the image that I’m ( — uh — not) striving for with my meditation practice.

I read textbooks for another two hours before bed then woke thinking about work. But I felt refreshed none-the-less. They weren’t stressful work thoughts, but energizing ideas. It’s been a long time since I felt this way about my job. And I can’t point to any reason for things to have changed.

Something has lifted. Even in this darkness.

We ran this morning in the cold, then I did my morning yoga practice and meditation. It never fails: 20 minutes into the asana work, I lie down for a bridge and Leonard takes it as a cue to lie with his head on my face. His chin on my lips. I think maybe he thinks he is doing me a favor: indirectly pinning my shoulders to the floor so I get an even deeper arch as I lift my hips toward the ceiling. But it could be that he is just being a jerk. Sucking out my breath like a demon cat.

To be honest, these kinds of mornings make me nervous. This “high”, for no reason. This clear-headed, spacious sense of time and equanimity. This “lightness” that threatens like a helium balloon that I may lose my grip on.

This familiar sweet-spot before mania.

I haven’t written about bipolar tendencies for a very long time, and didn’t intend to today: what thoughts come, when one questions the present.

Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.ALBERT CAMUS

They say “Trust is earned.” But I am thinking that trust is also learned. Finding this middle path between distrust and blind trust, and knowing that staying in the moment doesn’t require trust at all: it requires relinquishing the fear that is rooted in thoughts of the future. I can give all my attention to the moment and spare myself disappointments. It also requires giving up my hopes.

It’s about being a realist: hopes and fears are both imaginary.

“Trust me, everything will be okay.”

“Trust me, everything changes: stay in this moment and breathe in through the nose.”

I know far less than I’d like to about Albert Camus. And about Dharma. I’ve often considered setting up a structured plan for investigation, but at the moment, I rather like how ideas wander into my field of perception and juxtapose themselves with one another.

I believe this is also a kind of beginner’s mind.

In happy baby pose — Leonard having given up on me, and stretched himself over the sofa — I notice the chandelier’s shadow stretching over the ceiling. Fading, as the sun rises and shines through the glass doors.

I consider the concept of generosity, and it juxtaposes in my mind with equanimity, and I visualize a natural spring and a basin of water. I consider the wastefulness of a stagnant pool. I consider a water clock and decide I want one for Christmas.

I don’t think I am doing this right.

So for today, I’m giving up on expectations. I sit here with a cup of coffee, a white computer screen, and an inarticulate image for a poem that’s going nowhere.

I’ll sit until it’s time to catch the train.