When I was younger, and carrying fewer years loaded with memory, excitement, concerns, problems yet to solve – I could sit with calmness, or at least something closer to it. I don’t mean sitting and dreaming, thinking, or writing. I mean sitting with a clear mind. As my schedule has gotten more hectic, I’ve tried to be more intentional with this practice. I’ve meditated during yoga classes, used an app for guided meditations. It’s getting harder, not easier. So much for the wisdom of the years, right?
I am at times thankful, and others burdened by, an overactive imagination. This frenzied mental pace and constant overstimulation reached a pinnacle pre-vacation, as I sprinted to wrap up and hand-off projects, and truly be able to unplug for our first real vacation in two years. In San Fransisco, I woke early, before Louie and got an hour or two of work in. By day two, I’d finally wrapped up what I promised myself I would, and I shut the lap top for good for the rest of the trip. Our honeymoon in 2008 was the last time I’d been away from work for so long.
By the time we’d made our way up the coast, basked in what seemed prehistoric shade of the giant Redwoods, run our marathon through Eugene’s city parks and bike paths and by the Willamette, then driven north to Portland, I noticed the difference of a mind more at rest. At Powell’s bookstore downtown, as if planted there just for me, I noticed an end cap full of meditation books.
It’s been weeks since vacation now, and I’ve finished reading one of the books from that end cap – Sit Like a Buddha, which has me committed to daily ten minute, unguided meditation. I fidget. I think about work. One day I drifted to sleep half way in, and came to understand a new level of giving grace to myself. The author of Sit Like a Buddha suggest after 11 days, daily meditation will be a habit. I was skeptical, but I’m 20 days in.
The second book I picked up off of that end cap, Mindfulness on the Go, offers 25 practices that can help build mindfulness. I’ve been working through the first, which is to use your non-dominant hand.
Eating wrong-handed is a slow, messy, humbling practice. I’ve made messy sketches with my right hand, and wrote a 10-word sentence that while passably neat took me 3x as long to write as it would have with my left hand. I’ve tried over and over again to draw a straight line right-handed. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to get it quite right, but my hand is getting steadier with each practice.