Not About the Cleanse…. OR, Meditating My Ass Off


I seem to be at a transition point in my life.  Here are the factors:

  1. I closed the production arm of Another Country Productions.
  2. It looks like the rest of the company may follow, and that these last Meisner classes may be it for a while, if not for good.
  3. I am doing my 2nd devised theatre gig in a row and loving it.
  4. I am teaching yoga this week at Fitness First in Arlington and it may turn into a regular gig.
  5. I am leading a meditation group on Tuesdays.
  6. It seems taking yoga teacher training for no apparent reason had an apparent reason–as in, I am now a yoga teacher.
  7. I have no idea how I’m going to make a living except it seems it may have something to do with yoga and meditation.

My reaction to all of the above was to go to Cambridge Insight Meditation Center and to meditate for 4 hours on Thursday and then 9.5 hours on Saturday (not counting the time off for lunch or the hour that I bailed and slept in the hall).  I will also be taking Michael’s Letting Go of Fear workshop on Tuesday nights through November.

The yogis call this samvega–it’s kind of like hitting bottom, or having a mid-life crisis.  You feel an interest in something else besides what you’ve been doing, you are compelled to get quiet, to look for more meaning, to change.  Of course, I’ve been in samvega for at least a year and half now, interrupted by the theatre production of Saint John the Divine in Iowa, which made the need for samvega all the more obvious.

I’m not in control, of course.  I have no idea what I’m doing.  It’s kind of like jumping out of an airplane and then turning around to see if you remembered to put on your parachute.  Really exciting and absolutely insane.

Many people from my yoga teacher training class are holding on to their jobs as they start to get gigs, and I would certainly do that if it worked for me.  Or if the universe seemed to believe I was capable of letting go smoothly and gracefully, which I am not.  I hold on and can’t let go, so I seem to have this repeated experience of things ending without a ton of action on my part (except the painful gripping as whatever-it-is slips out of my grasp).

Perhaps the more salient question is state of mind.  What is my state of mind?  Hmmmm.  Well, there’s abject terror.  I mean, money.  I mean, change.  Lovely.  See how it will go.

And then there’s relief.  A desire to kick the old out the door.  Excitement about the adventure in the moments when the abject terror takes a mini-vacation.

But mostly there’s this current that runs through everything, and it runs through me, saying, wait, do nothing, see, deepen, sit with, do nothing, sit with.  Watch the feelings and thoughts go by and do nothing to change them.

When I’m not doing that, I’m rewriting my second novel (149 pages in, and entitled You Can’t Get There from Here) and working on a memoir (40 pages in) and occasionally sending out the odd play.  This is mostly because sitting around watching to see if things happen is anxiety-producing and boring.  Writing gives me a sense of purpose, plus, I kind of forget where I am, which can be a relief.

It also brings up more samskara (patterns burnt into the brain that we relive).  Like, I was thinking, “Hey, I can self-publish the novel on Amazon.  I know that the idea of publishing completely freaked me out in the mid-nineties, when I finished the original book, but compared to the stuff I’ve done since, it’s nothing.”

I would like to say that this is complete bullshit.  I work on the old novel and I’m like, wow.  I really knew how to write fiction back then.  The lyricism of the language is really kind of great.  Then I’m like, shit, this books is f*(&ing dark as hell.  Will people think this shit happened to me?  (Most of it didn’t.)  Or will they think I just like to torture my characters?  Then I start to freak pretty much just as I did almost 20 years ago (I had an agent them, and I tried to hide the freaking from him).

And finally, I’m thinking, you know, I haven’t changed that much.  I still write outside the box enough that the usual publishers wouldn’t touch this novel.  For example, it has a lesbian protagonist, but she’s kind of an anti-hero and a total player in the bar scene where she picks up women and dumps them pretty much every other breath.  And her family is really f(*&ed up, but I play with perception enough that sometimes you understand why she’d drive them crazy.  Lesbian publishers…they turned it down originally, much faster than the mainstream houses, actually.  I always thought that a sexually acting out lesbian wasn’t a popular notion for lesbian presses.

Then I think, why am I so outside the box?  I mean, John the Divine in Iowa is also outside the box.  It’s like I want to shake audiences into looking at themselves, sometimes with a trickster’s mischief, sometimes with a deadly seriousness.

Oh, right! I do want to do that!  I don’t admit it, even to myself, but since I’m mostly living outside the confines of the mainstream, and since I’m angry about some of what I see that other people don’t seem to see, this outside-the-box thing could also, truthfully, be a  in-your-face-not-backing-down thing.

It’s a good thing I meditate.  I am cultivating peace with what is, including my inability to leave well enough alone.

Actually, I have left well enough alone twice in recent history, and while I found it particularly challenging, it was also rewarding.  No mess.  No one hating me into eternity.  No me hating them either.

If I publish one of these books, what mess and for whom?

I think I better go meditate some more.  And think about sitting with the fear that is my answer to the above question.

Buddhism:  our feelings and thoughts are not who we are.  In fact, we have no self and we barely exist.

Oddly comforting.

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