Archive | meditation

My Hectic Life in Books

Lately I’ve been reading five or six books at a time. Two books on the iphone, alternating whenever I have a break between appointments. One book on the ipad while eating my breakfast. One paperback ready in my secret escape haven, the bathroom, and another next to my bed. And two books, non-fiction, I haven’t been able to finish yet.

Two romance novels: a historical romance in which aristocratic Anthony is trying to seduce school-teacher Madeline, and a time-travel romance in which Sara is thrown back two hundred years in time to a gypsy camp to find her one true love. The paperback next to my bed is a middle grade novel recommended by my son. Young Jack and his butler travel to California to find gold in order to help the boy’s aunt keep her home. On the ipad: an adventure novella about two assassins trying to end slavery while falling in love. My serious reading: a book about meditation and another about will power. Just what I need. And last, a book detailing the historical travels of a collection of miniatures from Japan. I haven’t fallen head over heels with that one.

So many characters and their various escapades swirl in my head. Was it Toma the gypsy who hid the pig in a tent, or Master Jack who stuffed it out a porthole? Is Madeline the one whose father is ill or Sara? And which heroine is the really gorgeous sixteen years old who keeps her face covered at all times?

I guess I have high expectations of my memory, to keep all these people and events, their families, looks, and characters straight in my mind. Perhaps if that was all I tried to remember, I’d be fine. But I expect yet more. I’ve been planning three novels at the same time while attempting to revise another. I keep all my appointments in memory — I write them down too, but I rarely recheck my calendar to make sure that my memory was right. And let’s not mention the piles upon piles of forgotten papers on my desk, the stuffed animals and other toys the kids have left there, and our camera, with photos from our last two trips still inside (yet another characteristic hoarding of details instead of uploading them into a better safekeeping device).

Oh dear. My life is chaotic beyond belief or relief! Why can’t I just read one book at a time? Keep one novel to write at a time in my head. Clear the desk, check the calendar, free my memory of all the phone numbers that have been gone almost thirty years ago (09-448-624 was our family’s phone number when I grew up). Perhaps it is time for me to clear my head and my desk of this unhelpful stuff. But at least in books, I find that sheer number adds to my excitement of life.

What books are you reading now?

Criss Cross Apple Sauce

A few years ago, I worked for six months as a teacher’s aid in first grade. The desks in the classroom were arranged around a central area rug, and the teachers often collected the children there to read or teach. I thought this system was great, creating a much more interactive and active environment, though for me, sitting slumped forward and cross legged for half an hour or more caused some back ache.

While teaching on the rug, the kids were expected to sit still and listen. There was to be no touching each other, no playing with their hair, and no tying and untying of shoelaces. Tough rule, I thought, and nearly impossible to keep. When I was six and in first grade, we sat at our desks and studied during all school hours, but no one ever told me that I was not allowed to draw. I happen to concentrate best when I am doodling, and all through my school years, from elementary school to business school, I filled my notebooks with little flowers and shapes.

Keeping a child utterly still and at attention can be as hard as getting the earth to stop moving. What’s the chance that I could convince the world to criss cross apple sauce for a long period of time? One day, when my writing flows, everyone is home, happy, and healthy, I would just press the pause button and order this great big rock to stop. No more transition periods, no more need to adjust to changes, no reason to say good bye to anyone I love. Scary idea, isn’t it? Because then there would be no growth, no travel, no possibility of reshaping life.

And yet I yearn for stability. Transitions make me unbalanced, and I stop writing. Not writing upsets me, and makes writing even harder, rattling me more. And suddenly there is no end in sight.

Whenever I feel ungrounded like that, the solution that presents itself is practicing meditation. And I’m back to criss cross apple sauce and no moving! For a while, I managed to meditate for fifteen minutes twice a day. I have a hard time sitting still. Thoughts creep up constantly, harassing me. My skin itches and my legs fall asleep. But then, once I’m done, clarity suffuses me. I’m a new woman.

I read once about a man who complained that he has no time to meditate. The Dalai Lama responded by asking: do you have time to breathe? And I realize, as I am writing this, that there are many constants in my life. The beating of my heart. The rise and fall of my breath. The blink of my eyelashes as they keep my eyes moistened. And other, imperceptible happenings, like the never-ending growing of my hair or the flaking off of skin cells.

Amazing, isn’t it? Noticing my own breath, a kind of meditation, can give so much calm. It really does. Now I just need to remember that next time I feel overwhelmed by changes.

Sigal Tzoore (650) 815-5109