So, the calming practice from this week’s Letting Go of Fear is using the body’s contact points –to earth, floor, seat, etc.–to ground every time you get aware you’re afraid.
I’m like, HOLLA! Finally an assignment I can do! Who cares how many times or what caused the fear or what thoughts and behaviors happen. I feel afraid, I acknowledge, and I calm.
Today is the official first day of the homework, but I started practicing it last night in the car on the way home. You’re supposed to do it at least 5 times per day. It’s 5:36 pm and I’ve done it about 200 times. (This is a slight exaggeration. I’ve only done it 25-50 times, but who’s counting?)
Anyhow, I’m at the gym after couples therapy–might I digress and mention since my partner and I now both like the Stork, we’re actually working on our relationship? It was much more fun when we hated him and had an alliance. Now it’s not so clear he’s going to get voted off the island, though after 25 years, it might be unlikely that either of us will go either. Anyhow, couples therapy is a good place to practice our calming touch points, especially because the Stork has been a meditator for like 30 years, and when my partner and I get scared and suddenly yell out, “Touch points!” he kind of gets it. Even better, after I confessed that I inventory my partner’s inner life (like I know what it is) when I’m triggered, and I mimed ringing a bell, the Stork knew it was the temple bell heralding my sainthood. That gained him about 200 points, especially since my partner didn’t get it AT ALL.
Back to the subject at hand. Well, back to leading up to the subject at hand. Anyhow, after couples therapy I went to the gym. I love the workout high, but I kept doing touch points every so often, because my own thoughts scare me and it’s a sad day because 1) it’s my sister’s birthday and I haven’t seen her in a really long time and 2) Don was slipping out of the world this time last year and I was holding his hand.
I worked out; I did some yoga. I decided, then, to take a sauna, even though I had no towel or change of clothes with me. So I stripped down and got in the sauna. The calming practice came in handy because being naked in public places makes me a little nervous (and the locker room at the gym is kind of public). So I’m lying in the heat, sensing into the points of contact, and feeling the heat, and listening to my Ipod. I could feel my pores expanding, and the muscles letting go; I could feel the heat lie itself over my skin, the wooden slats under my ribs…and the very slight smell of cedar entering my nostrils.
Writing is always about trying to put words on the unexplainable. Suddenly everything clicked in…the song on my Ipod, was, providentially, “No Day But Today.” I heard the harmonies. What I mean is that I heard each individual voice and the blending at the same time…and I could distinguish which sounds came through which ear, and the beauty of it slayed me. The heat, the sweat beginning to bead on my forehead and abdomen, the points of contact holding me, grounding me. The next song was “Halleluia,” by Sonny Boy Mack. I could hear him breathe between the notes as the music filled all the space I own, as the slats pressed up against my sacrum, my feet, as the heat continued so steady, and tears poured down my face because it seemed I’d never heard music before, or felt my body against bare wood, or known heat…everything new, everything so terribly real, the senses fully awakened, and who knows why I cried, sitting naked in Mike’s Fitness in Jamaica Plain, thankfully alone in the locker room. I wanted the moment to never end…I wanted it to stop immediately.
All this seeking…I joke, I know, but I do wonder what life is about, really. I mean, it’s not ambition. I emailed my bio in and it has awards on it, and when I won them it was a high moment, each time, but then there was a next moment and a next. What was notable in the winning were the relationships, the claiming of a voice, the suddenly becoming visible–a moment, a presence, something that passes.
I know that life is about love…but maybe only the love like last night, doing the touch point exercises and then taking my partner’s hand, and, for a moment, feeling the warmth move from her skin to mine, feeling the small bones, the steady pressure–the touch of our hands everything we have ever loved and found precious in each other over these 25 years.
Today, in the sauna, I understood presence. Again. I’ll probably forget it, but I knew, without question, that the experience of Halleluia–that level of hearing, feeling, completeness, that grace, that giving over–is the thing. The one thing. Life rolls out, one experience after another, and then experience lands, and it’s like oh, I was here to just be with this. All of it, I might add, the grief, the drama, the sweetness, my partner’s small hand, the beauty of the music, the loss of loved ones. I am here to be with it. And then I’ll go, some day, and that will be it…so temporal, so impermanent, so worth it.
If it had taken the last two years of practicing Buddhism to get only that one moment, it would have been worth it. But the truth is that when I meditate using the body as my anchor, these moments land more often. I see colors differently. I smell, hear, taste, feel, everything more. It’s more joyous and more painful and I need every calming practice I can get to be with it, without running too soon, before I learn, before I deepen, before I am utterly changed.
Awakening to a moment of grace and presence. At Mike’s Fitness. The ironies of my life grow exponentially stranger. Really. I mean, REALLY.