I wake one morning and draw the blinds to view a murky storm blowing above the pine tree that sways outside my bedroom window. The weather feels like a reflection of the thoughts that begin to rapidly roll inside my consciousness – only minutes after opening my eyes from sleep. Fortunately, following several years I have finally settled into a groove, to meditate on a regular basis, and will do so even on this moodiest of days.
First, I saunter to the kitchen, turn on the range and place the tea kettle on a burner to boil water. I feel antsy. My thoughts are fast and plenty. I move to the sink to wash dishes from last night’s meal and am hardly present for my mind is already preoccupied this forenoon. As a result I grunt, open my eyes wide and shake my head as one hand grips a pot and the other washes the inside of it with a bright green sponge. Damn… there’s a lot going on in my head this morning. Perhaps the hot curry paste I used for dinner has caused this agitation? Maybe yesterday I did not hydrate enough from teaching and walking through the city and thus the broodiness? The kettle whistles, I rinse soap from my hands, prepare a cup of tea and accept that beyond blaming the food, spice and lack of consumption of water, I must apply more concentration in my daily being as well as in my seated meditation.
I walk to the living room, open the curtains in front of the sliding glass doors, move down to the floor then land on my zafu and drink black tea in preparation for a sit. Oh tea how I love thee… Even in the blue, black and chalky white of this swarming morning I am warmed by the aroma and temperature of this ancient beverage. I notice that by contemplating another cup of tea, as I finish this one, I am averting the task at hand which is to sit and meditate. I grunt again. I place the empty cup on a side table and set my timer for 25 minutes then press start.
I send my gaze through the window of the one glass door and set it on a crack of the patio. I take a breath to set my rhythm when suddenly one of my neighbors appears outside, right in front of me, hopping then stopping. He is a black squirrel fattened for the colder months with fur soaked of water droplets from the whipping rains. I say, “Well, if he’s continuing with his routine in this weather then I must continue with mine – and I’m inside.” We make eye contact. Perhaps he thinks that I am the nutty one.
I breathe. I focus. The thoughts are strong – bastards! Today this thinking I produce is thick and heavy just like the low ceiling in the atmosphere of this chilly autumn sky. Oh boy, there I go getting wrapped up in them, and then I catch myself. I breathe to return to the present. I refocus my gaze on the patio… My body is positioned and very much aligned but my mind… Where is it really? Seconds later, concerns with rock climbing adventures float through my brain, followed by contemplating a relationship, then my yoga seminars… Hah! I caught you thinking again, Mind! AND I am breathing to return to the present and refocusing my gaze and am here again, yes, good job.
My neighbor scurries up a Japanese maple that still holds a few red leaves on it’s gnarled branches. I see him in my periphery and then he’s gone. At least my gaze remains steady and I think… Yah! I catch my mind again thinking away and inhale to return to the present then exhale to stop congratulating my self, for the aim here is to be present – and to cut through the bullshit.
This pattern repeats over and over and over, until gradually after many minutes, it all begins to calm down… There is then a relaxing, a settling, a sense of more space… And it is not what I am thinking. I am feeling it and actually being it… I am this gaze… I am this respiration… I am this moment.
I feel a bit buzzed and anchored to the floor like a huge stone in a garden.
Om Shanti. Peace.
3 responses to “Meditation and the Squirrel”
I suspect the squirrel was right about you, my nutty friend. And your writing is such a pleasure to take in.
Yes, the squirrels !
– and I must agree with Freud,
for some days I feel like more monkey than man…
Tat Twam Asi!
I follow a similar path of distraction, then patient refocus that you seem to have today. I was checking email one more time before shutting off the ‘puter and radio and sit and repeat my mantra. Then I can have a more focussd, joyful and effective day. (And possibly be 2% less of an ass at times, to boot!)
As a tour guide driving my pedicab around the Mall, I notice people more interested IN THE SQUIRRELS than all the history and politics that surround them. I have a few pictures on my blog of folks fascinated with these furry little buddies, overlooking the Lincoln, Korean War, etc. memorials.
OK, (and I like the grunts comment too- Freud says we are apes with culture), now to shut down and open up and train the gifts given to me, via yoga and meditation.