Continuing my Contentment series, Gabriele’s here with a guest post.
I continue to learn so much from Gabriele and am always enchanted by her beautiful, acutely observational, writing style.
Hoping you all love her post as much as I do! (I know you will!)
“I’m going to meditate for 15 minutes. In and out, my breath seems jagged. Wish I had more stomach muscles so that I could feel them engage when I hold my breath. Hold my breath? Why am I holding my breath? Oh yeah, extend your breath by slightly holding at the inhale and the exhale. My foot feels jammed into the floor. I should put a blanket on my mat to make it softer. Knees are tight but not bad. Ahh, my knees, when will I get a doctor’s opinion about whether they are shot? I hate doctors. No time to start that process. I’m holding my breath again. Long exhale………I should scan my shoulders. Are they tight? Tiny twinge in my neck. That is where I hold all my tension. I’ll put my shoulders back and sit up straighter. That feels good. Has it been 15 minutes yet? Peeking at the clock……What, only three minutes have passed. I think I may have found the secret to stopping time. Meditation!”
I posted those words on Facebook some time ago and many people commented with laughter and agreement. I was taken back because I thought I was being fairly serious, yet, it came across so funny. Perhaps we all have an unsettling relationship to the notion of meditation. It helps to keep it light and friendly. But, seriously, I came to meditation through a call for more mindfulness. It really was a call from a higher source, and it was insistent.
On an early Thursday morning, I was driving to do some shopping. I approached what I thought was a flashing red light, and seeing that it was my turn to proceed through, I did so. Car horns blared, brakes screamed and I instantly knew I had made a terrible mistake. I made it through the light and slowly processed what had happened. The light was not flashing and I almost caused an accident. In the shopping parking lot I tried to regain equilibrium. Sensing that someone was watching me I walked into the store, shaken emotionally. When I came back I saw a piece of paper attached to the windshield. Shame flooded my head to my heart. I just knew this message was intended to severely criticize me. It said.
“I watched you run a red light on Roxbury. A woman in a silver Prius had to suddenly brake to avoid being hit by you. She had a child in the car. Please be careful. Stay safe.”
Even as I read these words today I am amazed at the daring of this observer and also at the kindness. I needed to pay more attention to what I was doing. Mindfulness was thrust upon me and I grabbed it like a life-preserver.
Now I have motivation to meditate because I believe that meditation will strengthen my ability to pay attention. For almost two months I have been faithful to sitting each morning for at least ten minutes, mostly twenty. It has offered me a refuge from negative thoughts, solace from feeling lonely, and peace from futurizing. That freedom may be short lived but it is available every time I sit.
In everyday there is contrast. Even as dark recedes and light shines forth there is hope in change. But, everyday also reveals variations of color which are infinitely interesting. Paying attention, or being mindful brings up a rainbow of experiences which we could miss because of preoccupation with a past mistake or future success.
Thanks, Gabriele. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your piece (and found myself chuckling at the first part, too!) and hope everyone else will too!