I’ve been practicing meditation lately. Not the kind of meditation where I sit for thirty minutes at a session, empty my brain of all things Andrea, and go blue with bliss like that scene in Eat Pray Love where Elizabeth Gilbert hits nirvana as the greeter at the Ashram or leaves all her problems at the top of the bell tower, walks down, and three chapters later is having wild sex with Felipe in a bed that resembles a floating parachute. (That happens to me every day, though, trust me.)
I’m talking the kind of meditation where you just allow yourself to be where you are at any given moment. There is no judgment of thought. No should’s. (I mean really, people, I’m so tired of shoulding on myself!) No. It’s about just letting whatever is be what it is. Life on life’s terms.
If this meditation practice of mine was compared to a baby’s journey toward development, you could seriously put me in the “Crawling on Her Belly” category, but even us crabs have to scuttle before we can swim.
Take yesterday’s event after Stink’s tennis practice. I didn’t hyperventilate.That was a form of meditation! Hooray! After all, panicking about the future wasn’t going to get my car keys back.
Today, with Stink’s new vocal tic resembling Bobby Brady’s scratchy voice during puberty, thinking about how he was teased about a similar sound a few years ago is simply not helpful. I went on a walk instead and allowed myself to speak truthfully to my spouse about something that had been bugging me. He handled it well, I took his suggestion, he decided to work on his part… boom! So much better than sitting in the den, listening for squeaks with the obsession of a hound dog hunting runaway prisoners.
I’m finding that for me, the real answer to peace is to somehow enjoy the moment exactly as the moment is. Sometimes, it simply means finding a prayer square.
What’s a Prayer Square?
A prayer square, for me, is an upgraded version of “standing on my square” that my friend Barbara used to tell me to do. When I’d ruminate and complain and spin more than a tilt-a-wheel on truck stop java, she’d tell me to get my head out of my arse, clean house, trust God and help others.
One day, after one of her “pep talks” she told me find a square in my kitchen and stand there. “Plant your feet, look at them, and let all your energy and anger and pain just go from the tip of your head down to your ankles and root yourself in the floor.”
At first, that sounded pretty stupid. Sure, I’d try, but inevitably I’d focus on my stained tennis shoes and the damn dog fur, not to mention that the grout in my tile was not a natural black because I am such a bad housekeeper and OUCH! Without fail I’d virtually fall off the prayer square, hit my head on the tile, and wind up with a massive headache from trying too hard.
But eventually, it got easier. Because, well, my best thinking got me nowhere. And as silly as it felt to stand on a square in the middle of my dirty kitchen, it felt better than lying on my couch in a heap of misery over what I couldn’t change.
But something was missing so, not one to stick with dogma just for the sake of dogma, I switched it up a bit. I threw in some prayer.
For me, it’s hard to have monkey mind when I’m thanking God for something in my life. “Thank you, God, for this moment. For this kitchen in all its imperfection. For my life, with all the beauty and all the warts. I feel your energy from the tip of my head to the ends of my toes. Thank you.”
It worked. It really did. Eventually I started being able to stand there longer and longer. But, well, since life happens with kids and dogs and renters and husbands, it became apparent that I would have to leave the house. Every day.
Since it wasn’t always feasible to run back to my kitchen when things got wonky (which for me were, um, a lot,) I found prayer squares in public. Take last night, for example. While hiking up the park lawn to the office, only to find the doors locked for Yom Kippor (Happy Shana Tova, my Jewish readers!) my eye landed on a beautiful pepper tree. Something about the night sky, combined with the warm air and its branches hovering over me like a warm embrace made me feel safe. For a few seconds, I wasn’t thinking about how I would get home without a set of keys. I was focused on the love of that tree.
“Go lie down under it!” my gut told me. And believe me, I almost did. But given it was 8:30, some homeless bums were eyeing me from the office patio and I didn’t feel like being raped, harassed for food, or perhaps even asked for food while I was being raped, I decided it wasn’t a good idea. But I made a promise to it to go back. “Hello, sweet tree! I can’t wait to see you again. I will sit under you, and look up at your branches and just feel whatever I feel. And I thank you for not kicking me out. Because, well, with what I think about sometimes, I’d kick me out.”
Trees are like the best of friends. They listen and they don’t talk back. I hope to be a better friend like that some day, not because I ‘should’ but because that’s what being a friend is all about.
And if you, my friend, happen to be in my area, perhaps we’ll go sit under that tree together. And we’ll not worry about what we cannot change. We won’t fear the future or regret the past but just relish the absolute joy of the present moment with the earth at our feet and the sky over our heads. We’ll just revel in our prayer square and feel God’s love from the tips of our heads to the ends of our toes.
Sounds like a hoot, eh?
Until next time, remember to accept the tics you can’t change, change the tics you can, and have the wisdom to know the difference.