Saturday, August 20, 2011

Once Upon A Time, I thought It Was Writing that Made me Most Happy

I sit staring at the candle, watching the puddle of wax that swims around the flame. I stare into the flame. The longer I stare, the more amazing the flame appears. The more I find myself asking. What is fire?What IS fire?

Like so many things we contemplate, the reality of the substance -- air, sunlight, clouds, flowers, recedes as we stare.

The flame is transparent at the wick. There is a slight blue glow. The flame rises to a point and sways ever so gently back and forth. I let the thoughts go. I let the thoughts go.

My eyes rise along one side of the flame as I inhale. My eyes drop along the other side of the flame as I breathe out. I trace the flame, over and over again. I inhale, I exhale. I let the thoughts go.

At some point, this thought arises: when I started writing this book, Sister Mysteries, way back in 1995, I was a different person in so many ways. I had not completed my first novel. I wasn't sure I could. I was totally convinced that the only thing that made me really happy was writing, even though it often tortured me.

I had three children who were 11, 9 and 6. I was so busy working and being a mom that I had to squeeze writing between things: between making beds, washing tons of clothes, fixing breakfast, lunch and dinner.

In 1995, I had not started meditating. I had no idea how profoundly meditation would change my life. My way of seeing the world. I had no idea that it was through meditation, and not fiction-writing, that I would find happiness.

Most of all, I had no idea how writing this book, Sister Mysteries, would help to change the way I looked at the world.

I started the book as a giant "binary." A "he said/she said" story. A diary by Sister Renata. A set of stories by her crazy cousin, Antonie. A back and forth between them. (Castenata is the actual story of Renata and Antonie, the story that captures the back and forth!)

A diary in which Renata proclaimed over and over, her innocent ways. And the stories in which Antonie portrayed Renata as a seductress. A nun who shed her black habit for a red flamenco dress.

Was it all his wild imagination?


But what I came to see as I wrote this book is that all of us, all the time, look at the world in "binaries" -- big binaries. Love and hate. Life and death. Black and white. In fact, the very way we think. The on/off blink of consciousness. And in our very language, we create binaries: the minute we say, "this is a chair," that statement implies that everything else is NOT a chair.

What happens in meditation, as I sit here staring at the flame, is that for a few minutes, the incessant binary, the back and forth, collapses. Stops. I sit here in the presence of the flame feeling the infinity of the Universe fill me up every time I breathe in. I feel calm. I feel complete.

This book has been a mystery. This book has been a miracle. It has brought me here, to understanding. And so much peace.

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