By Peter Schaller
I can’t remember the last time I slept until 6 a.m.
It’s 4:30 on a Saturday morning and I am up and in motion. I put water on for coffee and light a stick of incense. Pouring the boiling water into the French press, I savor that moment when coffee and water begin their fusion dance, a curl of steam rising with that comforting scent. I will do my meditation while the coffee is becoming fully infused with the water.
Thich Nhat Hanh would remind me that perhaps that water was a cloud yesterday.
I don’t use any applications for meditation but I do measure the time. I look at my cell phone before going in, 4:41. Some days, my meditation is halted and uncomfortable, like a steep, rocky path. Other days it flows like a wide river, peaceful and uninhibited. Some days my thoughts are like a group of impatient toddlers, knocking at my mind’s door in a persistent tantrum. Other days, they are respectful, waiting outside the door quietly until I am ready to let them back in.
Today is more river than rocky path. Today my thoughts are more confined to the quiet waiting room, though there is always a ruffling of magazine pages. I have found myself getting anxious about a new relationship this week and I want to find a way to stop watering that seed of apprehension. Things are going so well, I find myself worrying about how I might screw things up. There are still nagging reminders of that time in my life when everything went wrong.
“Just let go,” my new partner tells me. “Trust…everything will be fine.” She is as wise as a bird’s song at dawn. I have been waiting for her for a thousand years.
It has also been an intense week at work. Working in social services with vulnerable populations can be both rewarding and profoundly disconcerting in the same moment. We are constantly bearing witness to the brightest lights and the darkest shadows of human nature. This week has been a mixture of the two, though sometimes the shadows rob me of balance, leaving me lopsided and unstable as I struggle to understand how empathy and compassion can be so unashamedly absent in some people’s lives.
On this humid Saturday morning, I want to wash away the shadows and let doubt and anxiety dissipate with the invisible particles of water in the thick air.
I open my eyes, 5:06. Twenty five minutes is a good meditation for me. I have been moderately focused and I feel calmer and lighter, less likely to topple over from emotional vertigo. I always end my meditation with a jumbled sort of prayer, thinking of the needs of specific people in my life, as well as a petition for more patience, more kindness, more compassion and more understanding for myself.
The coffee is perfectly brewed and I smile a little Buddha smile as I watch the thick, dark stream flow into my cup. I step outside into the morning sun to water the garden. We are at the very end of the dry season and my plants have been stressed and suffering from the 95 degree heat. It has been five and a half months since they have felt the gentle touch of raindrops. But this morning they seem more content, with the increased humidity and the promise that the rains will arrive in the coming days.
It’s Saturday morning and the world has been quietly renewed.
Photo: Peter Schaller
Editor: Dana Gornall