Monday, August 18, 2008

Mindfulness in Nature

It's not exactly difficult to meditate for ten or fifteen minutes when you're surrounded by beautiful trees, blue skies, mountains, and you're breathing in clean air. It feels like quite a high actually, but years ago, being here was hardly easy.

We would arrive after a long flight and a long drive, and a stop at the grocery store in Willets, and then we'd have to open up the cabin, turn on the water (sometimes there wasn't much of it), set up the beds, take down the sheets and towels from the attic, and all of this was with Zoe. The first time we came she was two months old and we came almost every summer as she grew up.

Relaxing - was never something I was all that good at. I would always get bored and anxious and want to leave after a few days. There was no electricity, no phones, no TV, no indoor showers, it was basically about one step up from camping, which I really could never handle. Now we have cell service, some electricity, L&L have a large screen TV, all of that makes it easier to stay here. I like hiking and so I always do a little of that, and it's hard not to appreciate nature. Over the years we had many fun times here, barbecues, singing camp songs late at night, swimming in the Eel River. I will put some photos up when I get back. It truly is gorgeous. But for most of the past twenty years - after one week - I was ready to get back to NYC and eagerly packed up the sheets and the towels, swept and closed up the cabin and couldn't wait to go home.

Somehow, now my meditation practice has made it much easier to be in the moment. I'm reading a wonderful book called "Wherever You Go There You Are" by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Here are a few good quotes: "It is a commonly held view that meditation is a way to shut off the pressures of the world or of your own mind, but this is not an accurate impression. Meditation is neither shutting things out nor off. It is seeing things clearly, and deliberately positioning yourself differently in relationship to them."

"One way to envision how mindfulness works is to think of your mind as the surface of a lake or of the ocean. There are always waves on the water. Sometimes they are big, sometimes they are small, and sometimes they are almost imperceptible. The water's waves are churned up by winds, which come and go and vary in direction and intensity, just as do the winds of stress and change in our lives, which stir up waves in our minds."

"It is possible through meditation to find shelter from much of the wind that agitates the mind. Over time, a good deal of the turbulence may die down from lack of continuous feeding. But ultimately the winds of life and of the mind will blow, do what we may. Meditation is about knowing something about this and how to work with it."

"The spirit of mindfulness practice was nicely captured in a poster of a seventy-ish yogi, Swami Satchitananda, in full white beard and flowing robes atop a surfboard riding the waves off a Hawaiian beach. The caption read: "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf."

So here I am, about thirty miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, surfing.

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