Outside the window a tiny hummingbird touches down on the pale violet flower of the green and white hosta.
The bird is gone before I can finish the sentence.
I am sitting here feeling fear spiraling up and down in my chest.
Why should I be afraid? I have everything imaginable. Good health. All sorts of material blessings. A loving family and so many friends. Writing. Painting. Gardening. Photography.
My life is full of love and my mind and fingers are full of ideas and words.
IRONICALLY, I AM AFRAID OF HAVING NOTHING TO DO. I will type that again:
I AM AGAIN AND AGAIN TERRIFIED THAT I WILL HAVE NOTHING TO DO. This is not how it was in the old days. I used to be a supreme multi-tasker. I was raising three children, writing novels and short stories and poems, teaching at the University, taking guitar lessons, painting and doing photography. I never remember a moment when I wasn’t busy. I loved being busy. I loved accomplishing small and large goals.
But these days, there are so many fewer things going on. And I don’t seem as interested in my old hobbies.
One thing I know for sure: I have no fear when I am sitting in front of the meditation candle paying attention to my breathing and focusing on awareness.
The hour or more I spend meditating and writing each morning is very precious to me.
But soon afterward, as I think about the day spreading out in front of me, that’s when I start to panic.
I HAVE NOTHING TO DO AND I AM PETRIFIED OF IT. How can I get through the day? How can I get through those moments when I am feeling frozen inside?
Yes, I’m afraid it’s back to that frozen feeling. Again.
At the very worst moments I go into Rich’s study and I start blubbering. “I have nothing to do.” His patience seems endless. Over and over again, my husband tries to help me cope with my misery.
He tells me, it’s ok honey, JUST BE. It’s OK not to do anything.
But asking him for his help is pointless because I’m the one who has to figure it out.
Sitting here now, staring out into the mostly empty garden I feel reassured. My fingers move easily
across the keys
birds are chirping and bleating and otherwise making noise.
Now what I want to do is stay in the NOW all day long. But as soon as I say that I start to feel afraid. HOW CAN I DO NOTHING BUT STAY IN THE NOW ALL DAY LONG?
THE WORLD AROUND ME IS SO FIRMLY GEARED TOWARD PEOPLE WORKING AND ACCOMPLISHING THINGS.
But then I think, what do I want to accomplish today?
I will plant the last perennial, a purple coneflower. I will pull up a few weeds. I need to eat and and do yoga and shower. Take a walk with the dog.
All that will use up a couple hours.
WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO TAKE ECKERT TOLLE’S INSTRUCTION DEEP INTO YOUR HEART? WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO SINK INTO THE NOW AND JUST BE PRESENT IN EVERY MOMENT?
How ironic that I am scared.
Because scared is just a two letter switch from sacred!
Tolle says the present moment is a portal to the unmanifested: THE SACRED.
WHENEVER YOU FEEL THE LEAST NEGATIVE THING, IT’S TIME TO AWAKEN TO THE SACRED PRESENT MOMENT.
9:45 a.m. When I reread that last sentence, I feel some serenity. The adult in me is ready. I am going to sit here and force myself to
And yes there is tension, there is anxiety but I am ready to do the best I can with the rest of this day, the last day of August, 2020.
At some point later in the morning, I open a book by Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun and one of the world’s most highly respected spiritual leaders. What I read in The Wisdom of No Escape is exactly what I need to read:
“In many traditions, including Tibetan Buddhism, the circle is a powerful symbol for the sacredness of all things…there are rituals [in these traditions] in which the image of the circle is used like this: by drawing a circle around yourself and standing in the middle of it, you realize that you are always at the center of the universe. The circle that surrounds you shows you that you’re always in the sacred space.”
Later she dives into the subject of meditation:
“People often say, ‘Meditation is all very well, but what does it have to do with my life?’ What it has to do with your life is that perhaps through this simple practice of paying attention…you begin to realize that you’re always standing in the middle of a sacred circle, and that’s your whole life. Wherever you go for the rest of your life,”
you are always in sacred space and “whatever comes into the space is there to teach you.”
When she started talking about the NOW I realized this book has indeed arrived to teach me. What she writes is exactly what I need to read this morning:
“Now. That’s the key. Now, now, now. Mindfulness trains you to be awake and alive, fully curious, about what? Well, about now, right?...The more you can be completely NOW, the more you realize that you’re in the center of the world, standing in the middle of a sacred circle. It’s no small affair, whether you’re brushing your teeth or cooking your food or wiping your bottom. Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it now…It doesn’t matter what you’re given, whether it’s physical deformity or enormous wealth or poverty, beauty or ugliness, mental stability or mental instability, life in the middle of a madhouse or life in the middle of a peaceful, silent desert. Whatever you’re given can wake you up or put you to sleep. That’s the challenge of now: What are you going to do with what you have already—your body, your speech, your mind?”
“The trick about nowness is that you can let go and open up again to that space. You can do that at any moment, always. But it does take making friends with yourself. It does take coming to know your anger, coming to know your self-deprecation, coming to know your craving and wanting, coming to know your boredom, and making friends with those things.”
A few minutes ago, I took Poco out for a walk. She and Rich and I hiked four or five miles yesterday so she wasn’t particularly energetic. I had to find patience while she stopped every few feet – or inches – and stood there while she sniffed the weeds. Then she peed and we moved on.
As I stood waiting for her, I tried to be in the NOW but I could feel the irritation of boredom swelling up inside me. I could feel myself itching to do something, to get somewhere, to accomplish something.
Was I really in the NOW? No of course not. I could have paid attention to the sky, I could have felt the sun and wind on my face. But instead I was impatient. Bored.
So as soon as I got home I planted the purple coneflower in the top center position of the almost empty garden, between two limestone boulders. Eying the perennial now, it feels right. It rests between the two orange coneflowers that serve as bookends.
Another hummingbird lands on the hosta.
My son, who works remotely for a solar energy company in California, is visiting this week with his girlfriend. No matter where he is working in the house, his voice carries to where I’m sitting. He is intensely wrapped up in the solar energy business, about which he is passionate.
I admire him for his work, but it is a constant reminder of the world that I once worked in, before I retired. I don’t inhabit it anymore. And now, when I have nothing to do, I am contending with boredom and he is just making it worse.
Pema Chodron is so right. You have to come to terms with yourself. You have to become friends with yourself. And your cravings and wantings. And your boredom.
So here I am right in this moment I’m writing I am just plain scared of boredom. Something feels broken. Something needs fixing.
Nix the last two sentences.
a cup of my turmeric and tension tamer tea.
And then I am going to do a spiritual practice. YOGA NIDRA. In yoga nidra, you lie on the floor while the person leading the practice guides you to focus on and relax each part of the body, in sequence.
3:17 p.m. I am so much calmer. The hellish feeling of anxiety has passed.
5:17 p.m. The boredom is back. I feel like I want to climb the walls. I go out for another longer walk by myself. And when I get back it’s time to start fixing dinner. I turn on the evening news and start chopping daikon and carrots and radishes, to make Vietnamese spring rolls.
This whole day has passed with me feeling often anxious and confused. I seem unable to accept the life that I profess to want, a life in the NOW. How did I manage to get caught up in this very basic contradiction?
September 1, 1020
Oh what a difference a day can make!
Circumstances haven't changed overnight. But I'm not struggling today. I am sitting here quietly, not paralyzed by fear like I was yesterday.
The great irony of what I wrote yesterday hit me this afternoon as I was strolling through the yard with Poco. I kept saying I want to stay in the NOW but don't know how.
All that time I was saying I had nothing to do, I was forgetting something rather obvious: I was WRITING.
Mary says to stay with the writing. The meditation. The yoga nidra. All the spiritual practices.
And accept the fear. The anxiety. The frustration. All of it.
Accept everything. Accetta tutto.
Oh how easily I forget.