Strange Blessing (written 2017)
Over the holidays I was fortunate enough to catch a minor cold bug. Just the niggling sort that makes life a little inconvenient. That reminds you of the great gift of good health, and that slows you down some because it saps your energy. The timing was ideal, really, because there was already some space carved into the usual schedule of the days. Not so many places to be. The temptation in such times, for me, is to fill the time with home-things that I normally haven't time for. Baking, cleaning, sorting, organizing. As well as self-directed writing projects that have been put on hold during busy times.
But a head cold is the perfect antidote to such plans. The mind gets fuzzy. The body gets heavy. It's difficult to stir up the energy to do much that means moving out of a comfortable chair. Especially if that chair is in proximity to a cozy fireplace.
So once the family part of the vacation wrapped up and my darlings went home, I let myself cocoon. Lots of reading, lots of drifting moment to moment, lots of reflection and meditation. And maybe a few yin poses that didn't require bending over and disturbing the sinuses.
Coming out the other side, there is a resurgence of energy that floods into the quiet pool of “just this” that I'd been dwelling in. But perhaps because I'd deepened the pool with meditation and not just vegetation, I find the energy enters like a deep undercurrent of welcome heat, rather than a whirlpool of agitation. I'm thinking it is a shame that life can become so busy in a way that is subtle enough not to be noticed. A commitment here, a meeting there, an appointment, a few errands, a deadline or two. And the day begins to be measured in ticked off boxes in a day timer rather than the precious breath flow of one's own life, days that won't come again. This even when meditation is part of every day for me, even when mindfulness is an ongoing effort. Still, there can be a false sense of the urgency of “things to do”.
Thich Nhat Hanh talks of gratitude for my non-headache, my non-toothache. Today, as the breath I am focused on comes more smoothly, and my closed eyes are without stinging and tearing, I am grateful for my non-cold. Yet, I wonder why it is so difficult to feel this gratitude profoundly when I haven't just been sick. Our memories are both long and short, aren't they? We hold to hurts and losses and preserve them in our mind-cellars, yet we also, simultaneously, seem to forget so quickly some kinds of pain, some kinds of interruptions to the normal. I wonder if by next week my watching of the breath will contain this great pleasure in its ease, or whether by then the ease will be “just what is” until it is interrupted in some way again.
My day timer pages are busy again. Classes and appointments and errands. When I reflect on this, I think that there are two kinds of clearing I could do. I could clear the pages, an external task, or I could clear my heart and mind, an internal one. I don't have to believe the voices of urgency. I can fall into each moment and be with the driving, the shopping, the waiting, the talking, the listening, the doing. We often hear the injunction to “be” and not “do”, but this isn't really the “either/or” it looks like. The days do not have to be lived as a series of busy-tasks, interrupted by mindful breaks, but rather can be lived with full attention, being and doing braided together. I've done a little arm chair retreat over the holiday season. And my wise head cold teacher has been a good guide, bestowing on me this strange blessing to carry forward into the new year.