Category Archives: Meditation

When the Going Gets Tough…

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…the tough go to the circus.

The Kinoshita Circus is Japan’s largest* and it’s a real circus, staged in a tent, complete with clowns, jugglers, contortionists, acrobats and animals. It was pure delight from start to finish (except for the motorcycles in the giant sphere. That act was entirely too loud and scared the pickles out of me). It was charming, totally professional and yet not quite, especially when the juggler dropped his bowling pin for the third time and the acrobat missed the trapeze and fell into the net. Kudos to him, though, as he climbed right back onto the platform and completed the act. There was an aged elephant who stood on her front feet, then her back feet, then looked right at me as if to say, “Well, what do you expect?” Four bored-looking zebras trotted around the ring in one direction then the other, barely stifling their yawns, eager to get back to their cabbage and carrots.

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We weren’t allowed to take pictures. Just imagine George’s feet times 100.

But then there were lions. There were eight lions, two each of tawny males and females, and four pure white females. They didn’t do much, just jumped through a hoop and did a couple of group poses. The males reared up, but there was no pretense at fierceness, no gnashing of teeth or snapping of whip. The tamer clearly loved them and was loved in return as he patted their magnificent haunches and tugged on their swishing tails. They walked around the ring, swaying their powerful shoulders and flipping their enormous paws. And we were seated less than ten meters away. I cried openly throughout the act, overwhelmed.

By the time we got home that evening, my scalp was beginning to show. So the next morning, armed with the lingering flush of being that close to so much feline magnificence, I plugged in the razor, took a deep breath and mowed a swath right along the top of my head from the middle of my forehead, a reverse Mohawk, an irreversible, total commitment. When I asked Rochi to help with the bits I couldn’t reach, he didn’t flinch, even though I know he was at least as scared as I was.

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Picking up that razor brought back the feelings of waking up after my second surgery. As I gradually became aware of the tubes leading in and out of my body, the machines I was attached to, the medical staff bustling around, the difficult and painful recovery that lay ahead, I panicked. All I could think was, “I can’t do this. I just did this. I can’t do it again! I can’t!” I wanted to leap off the table, yank out the tubes and run away from the sterile room, the sterile hospital, the entire sterile, surreal medical world.

Instead, I remembered a visualization I had learned. I closed my eyes and found myself sitting comfortably on a warm rock in a sunny glade under trees swaying in a breeze lightly scented with jasmine. Surrounding me was my tribe, who had taken the form of pastel colored unicorns. Waves of empathy, compassion and love flowed from their soft, gentle eyes, all toward the center of the circle, all toward me.

I experienced all of that in just a few moments but it was enough. My heart stopped pounding. My breathing slowed. I opened my eyes.

Over the past few years I have kept having experiences that left me thinking, “Wow. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.” And I keep being wrong about that. But I have learned a valuable lesson: Courage isn’t a lack of fear. Courage is being afraid of something and doing it anyway. And I give thanks every single day for continuing to find that courage in myself and in the people around me.

*Big, squishy clowny hugs of gratitude to Randy and his friend for making this happen.

Potato Therapy

After a couple of rather difficult work weeks, some old friends popped into town with their kids. We spent yesterday together at Disneyland. It was a fun day with fun people and I’m not too proud to admit I rode It’s a Small World twice.

The Disney trend this year is over-sized plastic characters filled with candy covered popcorn.

Now, what could possibly cheer me up more than a ginormous popcorn-filled Mr. Potato Head?

A ginormous Mr. Potato Head dressed up as Dracula and giving a high five, of course!

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During this morning’s meditation, I noticed the kink I’d had in my neck for the past few weeks was gone.

Chalk it up to Disneyland. And friends. And kids. And Potato Therapy.

Smiling Eyes

During yesterday morning’s meditation, I was just starting to flirt with the edges of bliss when the byatch who lives next door started opening the shutters on her windows, and she does this with a vengeance. Every evening she slams them shut and every morning she slams them open, always wearing over-sized slippers that make irritating thwack-thwack shuffling noises on the concrete. It would be funny if she were wearing a rainbow colored wig and red nose. She’s got all the ineptitude of a clown with none of the charm.

Randy clown(This is a real clown. His name is Randy. He’s very funny.)

The shutters make jarring metal-on-metal screeches that fire directly into my eardrums, a barrage of painful sound bullets tearing through my equanimity. The woman seems to be taking out her anger and frustration with the universe. My gut reaction has become a sudden eruption of seething rage, not unlike my champagne bubbles of light, but again with none of the charm.

Yesterday, it struck me that maybe she’s got things to rage about, too. The absurdity of my rage hit me, and by extension, the absurdity of me letting the noise bother me so much. I took a deep, cleansing yoga breath and let it go, and then discovered what it means to smile inside.

And just then I felt the corners of my eyelids curve into smiles.

I didn’t know they could do that.

Such magic doesn’t happen every time I meditate. Each session is different; some are sweet dewdrops of peace, others are the box of milk that’s been in the fridge a little too long. That unpredictability is the difference between fresh blueberries and blueberry jam, the thrill of the unknowable level of sweetness versus a homogenized jar of Smuckers, delicious but guaranteed, unvarying. While the comfort of the predictable is appealing, most of the time I’d rather take a chance on the unknown.

And maybe I need to get myself a red nose.

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Training the Mind

This morning marked my 104th meditation session, 1920 minutes of being mindful.

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I’m doing an online guided meditation course. It keeps track of these things. I took great pride in watching the numbers rise on my quit smoking meter, but there’s something oddly unsettling about Big Brother knowing how much time I’ve spent looking inside me. At least he doesn’t know what I’ve seen there. Probably.

Yesterday, The Voice told me to visualize a point of light in the middle of my chest and allow it to grow and grow until it reached the edges of the universe.

Today, the light turned into an effervescence that bubbled up and out of me like champagne from a shaken bottle. I can’t find the words to describe how good it felt.

The Voice also told me to take time to revisit that state of mind several times during my day, so I did. As I was standing on a platform waiting for a train, I closed my eyes and the bubbles started pouring out of me. The train had to drive through a great cloud of them as it pulled into the station. It reminded me of the light parade at Disneyland and I couldn’t help smiling.

There are few things as mind numbing as standing on a platform waiting for a train. Anything that can turn that experience into champagne and Disneyland is worth pursuing.

Murder Is Bad

murder-meme1Peas and Cougars is one of my favorite blogs and the woman who writes it, Rae, pointed out that I would be a bad person and bad things would happen to me if I didn’t share this meme. Just to be safe, I decided it deserved a whole blog post. Allow me to explain.

It’s true that English, especially American English, greedily gobbles up words from other languages, generally mangling the original pronunciation in the process. Excellent examples include kimono, karate and karaoke. I learned the latter here, so the first time I heard it in the States, I had no idea what the person was talking about.

American friend: The place has carry-okie on Thursdays.

Me: Oh, is that some kind of ethnic food?

The other day, we were recording some English lessons for sixth graders and part of one lesson was, ‘I want to be…’ We had ‘I want to be a doctor.’ ‘I want to be a farmer.’ ‘I want to be a patissier.’ The narrator pronounced that last word American style with a hard R at the end. I told the client the correct pronunciation, pointing out that since it was not an English word, we should probably use the proper French pronunciation. Better yet, we could use the perfectly good English equivalent, ‘baker’.

Client: Oh, no. We can’t change the word and we have to use the American pronunciation.

Me: But it’s not an English word. There isn’t an ‘American’ pronunciation. If you say that word to the average American, they won’t know what you’re talking about.

Client: That’s OK. Japanese understand it.

Me: (Carp face.) Uh…OK.

There was a time when such an exchange would send me into a murderous rage, causing my head to explode and raining sticky bits of brain onto the client and anyone else unfortunate enough to be sitting nearby.

But that didn’t happen. I shrugged. I sighed. I let it go.

Meditation Cat says…

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Yoga is good. Meditation is good. Not murdering anyone is very good.

Voices in the Trees

Meditation is reaching into my psyche and teasing loose unexpected and wonderful sensations. It’s like following a path through Hansel and Gretel’s forest but instead of leaving a trail of crumbs, I’m collecting a trail of treasures someone left along the way.

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The other day, when I was walking in the park, I looked up into the trees and they suddenly took on an almost surreal clarity and vibrancy. I could see the outline of each leaf and sense the nuanced differences in the gradations of their greens. Each one was unique. I experienced a profound connection to those leaves; it felt like I could name each one and describe its personality.

Alfred Greenleaf likes chocolate ice cream and once shoplifted a packet of colored pencils. He still feels guilty about it.

Wendy Leafblower dreams of one day going skydiving. In the meantime she crochets tea cozies and is addicted to reruns of Friends.

Howard Leafmealone is something of an introvert and wishes the other leaves would give him some space.

Brenda Longleaf is self conscious about the length of her veins.

Merry Greensleaves wishes she was a needle on a Christmas tree.

George Mapleleaf is something of a sap.

While that babel of personalities was revealing itself to me, at the same time the voices of the leaves seemed to be humming a gentle melody with layered harmonics, the autumn breeze smelling of sunshine and playing a woodwind accompaniment to chirping crickets and the last of the summer cicadas.

It was as if all of those layers of life and energy and music had always been there, just under the surface, but I had never noticed them.

What other wonders are waiting for me just around the next bend in the path?

Meditation Cat Says….

Meditation is turning up some very interesting sensations: movement in the mind although the body is stationary, warmth, lightness, realization. I didn’t feel like it this morning but did it anyway. I’m glad I did.

If only the dickhead down the street with the jackhammer would knock it off.

Meditation Cat says…

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Stay on the path.
Don’t worry about where it leads.

The journey is the only destination.

Meditation Cat says…

During this morning’s meditation, I had a moment of ultimate clarity. I was totally synched to the universe, at one with myself and all the energy swirling around me. It hit me as hard as a punch to the gut, but a punch delivered by a unicorn wearing cotton candy boxing gloves.

I can only hope that sort of thing will keep happening. It sure made going to work easier.

Having a sparrow ask for a bite of my sandwich at lunch didn’t do any harm, either.

That…just…doesn’t…happen.

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Have I moved into some sort of parallel universe where the impossible becomes possible? Has the inside of my psyche become the Magic Kingdom? Will I be required to pay royalties to Disney for that?

Or has the continuing heatwave finally melted the last tenuous strands of sanity knocking around inside my head?

Meditation Cat says…

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Om Feeling Better

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This morning was day 45 of my meditation journey. I sit on a cushion in front of a window and look at Meditation Cat until my eyes close and I sink into myself seeking calm and space and rest.

I was lost at first, but now I want to do the practices, even need to. I’ve never been a morning person, but find myself waking up extra early on work days so I can practice before I leave. I’m becoming greedy for that feeling of peace. When I can’t find it, I feel sad, frustrated. For the rest of the day, it feels like my socks are inside out and my ponytail is too tight.

But then there are brief moments when nirvana opens its limpid eyes and glances at my soul. Those are moments of pure bliss, of lightness and freedom and I want to laugh out loud. On the flip side, those moments are sometimes followed by equally brief but equally powerful bursts of pure emotion, often grief, and I want to sob.

Grief, regret, sadness, pain: none of these feelings do my spirit or the world any good. While I cannot deny their substance and reality, I can refuse to let them control me. I’m learning to embrace those feelings, acknowledge their existence, give them a hug and a scratch behind the ears, and then let them go, pushing them gently out into the universe where they can burst apart like sparkling fireworks and return their energy to the universal all. Perhaps in time that energy can learn to look for more positive directions.

For the longest time, I thought only truly stupid people could be truly happy, but I think there’s more–and less–to it than that.

I am unlikely to ever go vegan or worship crystals or wear clothing made of hemp, but have decided to heed the wise words of Meditation Cat:

We are only as miserable as we allow ourselves to be.

Meditation Cat Says…

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She keeps getting hungry for things she can’t have. This time it’s an open faced roast beef sandwich with gravy and mashed potatoes.

Stop pouting, silly girl. You can have that. Maruetsu has tasty roast beef and you can make gravy and mashed potatoes yourself.

But no, she says, it’s not the taste. It’s the experience. She wants the sticky vinyl booth seats, the Formica tabletops, the milkshake served in a tall glass, the waitress named Myrtle dressed in a pink uniform and coiffed in a beehive. Then she and her boyfriend Bobby will climb into his Edsel and head for the sock hop at the school gym. She’ll wear her poodle skirt and sweater set and saddle shoes.

You can see where this is going.

Meditation Cat says…

Dwell neither in the past nor in the future.
The past will always be what it was.
The future will always be ahead.
The present can only happen once.
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