Thursday morning I was barreling down Mopac Highway at seventy miles an hour, trying to get from the express lane on the far left, to my exit on the far right, while bopping along to the Beach Boys song, “Kokomo.”
Bermuda, Bahamas, come on pretty mama. Key Largo Montego, baby why don’t we go?
Not the most profound lyrics perhaps, although you can sense a longing for a simpler time and place. I had just turned onto Scofield Road, approaching the endless developments of brick houses and condominiums, when this lyric popped out.
Kokomo, we’ll get there fast and then we’ll take it slow.
I had to laugh because I was rushing down the highway to get to morning zazen at Sol Healing and Wellness. I do this every Tuesday and Thursday, race around the house so I can leave by 8:30 and then zoom up the newly opened express lane to sit still for twenty minutes.
It’s worth it. Our leader, the spiritual guide and companion Cynthia Lovin, set chairs and backjacks in a semi-circle facing the garden. We look out on pecan trees and a tall sycamore, lush green grass, and a statue of Buddha. Prayer flags and tea lights hang over the porch.
Cynthia always begins with a short teaching or a poem, reminding us that we are here to open to the fullness of our lives. Whatever she she says or reads, it is exactly what I need to hear that day.
This Thursday it took a long time for my thoughts to settle, to be able to focus on a single breath, but I gave myself permission to watch and not try to wrestle my brain into submission. Also, my neck hurt and my back ached, and I realized I hadn’t left enough time to stretch before sitting down.
At the end of practice, someone said they hadn’t realized how tired they were. I told them that when my husband teaches his high school students meditation, the first thing they realize is that they are exhausted. (If you think your life is overwhelming, take a look at what our culture is asking of our children.)
“Meditation is a good diagnostic,” said Cynthia.
I love that. It’s like running the engine and seeing how the parts are working together, or not.
Writing practice can also be a diagnostic.
Sometimes members of Continuous Practice worry that their daily writing is nothing but a litany of complaints or a to-do list. This leads them to believe they should give up. Who can stand it? Plus, it doesn’t feel productive.
But what I learned from 365 days of Continuous Practice is that the page reflects the mind the same way meditation does. Some days you are clear and grounded and the words flow. Other days, not so much.
If you can see the jumble of thoughts as simply the mind doing what it does, you can separate and perhaps develop some compassion yourself.
Some people refer to their morning writing as a brain dump. I don’t see it like that. I recognize the value of getting the crap out of your mind and onto the page — that helps you get clear — but it is also an opportunity to see how and where you are.
It keeps you honest with yourself.
I’ve been listening to the podcast, Writerly, with Danielle Trussoni and Walter Kirn over the last few days. In one episode, Kirn speaks of the importance of being honest in all areas of your life. He says that as a writer, it is his job to tell the truth, and if he starts lying in any area of his life, it leaks out onto the page.
In a busy world that too often runs at high speed on a loud volume, it’s good to have a time and a place — a practice — that allows you to see your mind as it is. It is a diagnostic and also an antidote.
If you live in Austin or find yourself visiting, you are welcome to join us at Sol Healing and Wellness any Tuesday or Thursday for zazen. We gather at 9:00 and sit for twenty minutes.
While you’re there, you may want to spend some time in our co-working space, which feels more like a library than an office. The first visit in on us. Let me know if you’re interested, and we’ll set you up.