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.