Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air: a raw, foggy day at the beach.
It is a Monday morning and my first quiet day in a very, very long time.
The weather's accordingly grey and drizzly. I had forgotten, but craved, this sense of stillness, knowing that damn, sometimes it's so nice to just be quiet already. And how really wonderful it is to be off.
(There are 27 gazillion emails to be returned in three different inboxes and there's a floor to be swept and a dishwasher to be unloaded, but they will wait.)
I spent the morning with Aaron Eckhart and Helena Bonham Carter and once again, yet again, it blows my mind that one film, one simple tiny quiet film, might so perfectly express so very much about what it feels like to be alive.
(Also: Aaron Eckhart.)
We talked in yesterday's workshop about a fair number of things, too many to try to squeeze into two hours, for sure. But one that I've been thinking about since, and still yet think about right now, is the idea of learning to be present when you're eating. It's something I've practiced for years now, this general [quite simple, quite obvious] effort to actually be present in the process, rather than stuffing your face while you run down the street to catch a bus or eating dinner in front of the computer while you catch up on work. And one example I gave yesterday afternoon, one tiny way in which this practice has made itself known in my own life (because yes, it is most certainly a practice, just like anything else), was that of eating an apple.
It happened just the other day.
I'd stopped by Whole Foods after teaching that morning, and was starving, and needing to be somewhere, but in spite of the hour, I walked out of the grocery, spotted a sunlit strip of sidewalk across the street, waddled over with my bags, and leaned up against this nondescript office building in that very sun, where I commenced to pull out one of the new Gala apples I'd just bought, polish it once or twice against my scarf to get rid of any really obvious junk, and then just stand there quietly, leaning, for two minutes, in the sun, eating my apple, really tasting it, really actually being in it.
And then I finished it and hoisted up my bags and hauled my heavy, late ass down Van Ness towards home. And on went the day.
But those two minutes, well, they were a meditation; they were two minutes of stillness, of silence, of presence. They were two minutes of ignoring the phone and being in my body and feeling the sun on my face and tasting the [kind of mealy, quite mediocre] autumn apple in my mouth. And noticing, just noticing, the hour and the traffic and the street and the view and the taste. And by god, well, if that isn't yoga — if that isn't paying attention, and really just being present, for even a flash — well, then, I don't know what is.
You steal the moments when you can. What stuck with me on that day, Friday, maybe, it was, was the way those two minutes shifted my entire energy. My racing heart and chattering mind stopped, stood still, calmed, found quiet for even a moment, and as I walked down the hill toward home carrying my bags, my experience of being alive in a body, well, it was altogether different.
You don't know what insubstantial, unromantic moment might shift your day. You can start by sitting down and turning off all your shit (because, as Anne Lamott writes, "you have to grasp that your manic forms of connectivity — cell phone, email, text, Twitter — steal most chances of lasting connection or amazement,"), and really be right where you are.
From there, well, Lamott writes:
I often remember the story from India of a beggar who sat outside a temple, begging for just enough every day to keep body and soul alive, until the temple elders convinced him to move across the street and sit under a tree. Years of begging and bare subsistence followed until he died. The temple elders decided to bury him beneath his cherished tree, where, after shoveling away a couple of feet of earth, they found a stash of gold coins that he had unknowingly sat on, all those hand-to-mouth years.
You already have the gold coins beneath you, of presence, creativity, intimacy, time for wonder, and nature, and life. Oh, yeah, you say? And where would those rascally coins be?
This is what I say: First of all, no one needs to watch the news every night, unless one is married to the anchor. Otherwise, you are mostly going to learn more than you need to know about where the local fires are, and how rainy it has been: so rainy! That is half an hour, a few days a week, I tell my students. You could commit to writing one page a night, which, over a year, is most of a book. ....
I’ve heard it said that every day you need half an hour of quiet time for yourself, or your Self, unless you’re incredibly busy and stressed, in which case you need an hour. I promise you, it is there. Fight tooth and nail to find time, to make it. It is our true wealth, this moment, this hour, this day.
That's yoga. For real. Creating space, cultivating stillness, getting rid of the excess chatter and being with what is. That said, I'm gonna go play the piano. Inbox, I'll see you soon enough.
Time Lost and Found (Sunset)