Meditation is the act of sitting with your thoughts. Reading is the act of sitting with other people's thoughts. Our minds are never still. When still, our bodies are mostly beholden to our minds. The athlete performs best in a flow state. The musician is happiest in a flow state. The writer, with hands in motion, is at ease in this flow state. The problem: most of life does not happen in this flow state.
I haven’t found it lately. A state of stillness seems less attainable now that the school year has zoomed upon me. Even Confucius found himself confused and distracted; Rilke was riddled with unwanted thoughts. Maybe it’s the mild exhaustion that comes with more pandemic news. A mosquito that won’t quit. Maybe it’s the very real Zoom fatigue.
Irritation wins if you let it. Maybe it’s the gray skies every morning. Perhaps it’s the digging through difficult memories and the personal writing I began in July that has been lingering like bad breath, unresolved and drifting as I put that collection of essays on hold for now. Instead, I prepare to edit a collection of poems from the last 12 months. I wait for the poet editor to send his advice. I wait to rework and rewrite.
When should I meditate, now that I’m summoned to this screen in the garage two mornings each week, two other days of midday meetings, and four evenings?
Maybe after preschool drop-off? Just sit in the car for 20 minutes after arriving back home to begin work or prepare for an online teacher meeting? Is there anything more tragic than a person sitting in their parked car with their eyes closed?
Maybe the meditation is happening when I walk the dogs for 15 minutes. The young dog pulling ahead of me and barking at any other dog, human, crow or squirrel that flashes across her radar. The old dog limping along behind me, as if to ask: Can’t I just eat the biscuits and stay home these days? He looks at me with tired eyes, “Can’t I just retire?” The old dog becomes young again when he detects soft grass under his paws and he’s released from his leash. The younger dog just wants to lie down in the shade of the cool grass. I can’t meditate during these moments because of the barking.
Maybe the best time to meditate is when I sit down at the computer, for the 10 minutes before I open the Zoom room and begin a one-on-one teaching session. Or maybe it’s after lunch, during the time I hope to devote to writing. Maybe the perfect time to meditate is when I’m about to fall asleep. No… if you fall asleep, you’re not meditating.
Maybe the ideal time to meditate is… wait… maybe that’s what writing is for me. Maybe the words I type are the meditation. Maybe the stillness is only possible after I hit “save.” Except meditating is supposed to be the opposite of saving anything. It’s about hitting the space bar.