We’ll try harder next month!
See you in August, everyone.
We’ll try harder next month!
See you in August, everyone.
On my friend J.’s latest blog entry (just posted today), she writes about “wrestling with a mighty wave of anxiety…a struggle that has lasted several weeks” and one that she has “consistently lost.”
I’ve been wrestling with anxiety as well, although unlike J. I can’t pinpoint the exact cause. The tension manifests as a dull ache in the area below my shoulder blades—a region that often invited intense ministrations from the albularyos I visited in my childhood. Naa kay piang diri, no? the old men would ask, their fingers digging a few inches below my rhomboids.
Piang is a tricky Cebuano word to translate. As a noun, its most literal interpretation is “injury;” as an adjective, it translates as “lame.” As I’ve never sustained an injury to my upper back, the more correct interpretation would be “lame”—as in I have a “lame” back. In allopathic terms, I have a weak respiratory system: a system that, in fact, has routinely suffered from asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia and rales.
Anxiety makes me feel this childhood piang. Although yoga has reduced my respiratory lapses to almost zero in the last few years, the energetic weakness is still there—a vulnerability linked to the heart chakra and the spiritual tasks of surrender and trust.
There’s something I’m not surrendering. There’s something I’m not trusting.
It could be myself. It could be life in general. It could be the universe in its entirety.
Whatever it is, I’ll know I’ve found the answer when the dull ache below my shoulder blades disappears.
Someday, I’d like to be able to say, Nawa’ na lagi ang akong piang.
Another intense week done. Another intense week to do.
When I talk of durations as if they’re things I need to handle, it’s a sign that I’ve slipped into overdrive. Life has, once again, become one extended episode of Survivor—with the myriad voices in my head voting each other out.
As I alluded to in an earlier post, I’m really trying not to get sucked into my mental vortices (these tornadoes dump me in places crazier than Oz). The experience is like pulling on the handbrake when your car is in fifth gear.
As one can imagine, it doesn’t make for a smooth ride (in the same way that this jumping from one metaphor to another doesn’t make for a smooth read).
But putting on the brakes (no matter how jarring, no matter how abrupt) counts for a victory of some kind. And given that I’ve still got an intense week ahead, I’m going to tally as many of these wins as I can.
After 30+ years, I’m still learning.
Someday, I’d like to live without a watch or a clock.
(This is me indulging in wishful thinking—but without the resistance or self-flagellation that normally accompanies an indulgence caught red-handed. In terms of Buddhist practice, it’s like smoking, but with a Vape.)
Of course, living without a watch or a clock will mean moving to somewhere Different because our sense of time is governed by our sense of place. (Times are literally zones—and I don’t mean the ones demarcated by lines of longitude because those regions are governed by the same kind of homogenous time. I mean the zones defined by tribe and by culture—the sense of time implicit when we speak of German time or Filipino time—zones embedded in space yet amorphous and permeable because tribes and cultures move all the time, and even the crust of the earth shifts and nowhere stays in exactly the same place.)
The point is: people believe that time flows universally, but it really doesn’t. In some places, time congeals: its passage gummy and viscous (“Why, it’s as if time stood still!”). In some places, time liquefies: its stream draining and dribbling into enigmatic cracks (“Where did the time go???”). I live in a city—scratch that, I live in a megalopolis—and time doesn’t just melt: it virtually sublimates.
Which is why in spite of all the timekeeping, no time is actually kept.
So someday, I’m going to go somewhere Different. I’m going to a Place where all the Time goes—and so there’s no need to save time, hoard time, track time or keep time.
When the time comes.
My psychic brake pads are wearing thin.
This entire week, I’ve been pulling myself short, more aware now (because of meditation? because of yoga? because of age?) of my tendency to rush.
I don’t need to have an agenda. I don’t need to have a checklist. I don’t even need to have a plan to induce myself to hurry. It’s a default setting with variations in operational intensity (the options: charge, dash, hustle, scram, scuttle, sprint and zoom). I’ve been rushing all my life—mostly without knowing why—and for the longest time the sheer thrill of velocity has been enough to sustain the pace.
Now the thrill has worn thin, but the habit of a lifetime generates a momentum of its own and this whole week I’ve been braking, braking, braking—with almost no perceptible effect.
A mentor of mine used to tell me that feelings of failure are often the first signs of success. The logic goes as follows: “If you feel like you’re failing at changing something, it’s a sign that you’re at least aware of the behavior you want to change and you’re catching yourself more often.” (Gad. I could write a Silver Linings Quote Book.)
All of which goes to show that even when it comes to slowing down, I’d like nothing more than to accelerate the pace.
The two interweaving melodies of my day:
In this polyphony, I can’t tell which line is the cantus firmus and which line is the counter melody.
Each line is loud; every note is shrill. And in the background: the orchestra is humming, sawing, plinking, hammering, blowing and tooting. A conductor is rumored to exist, but nothing—save a baton—has ever been found. What is the purpose of meditation? To tune the orchestra? To locate the conductor? To realize that the absent conductor is what’s truly real and the ever-present orchestra is, in fact, delusion? To perceive harmony in the cacophony? To realize the cacophony as the harmony? Or, to simply stop hitting ourselves with the baton?
Such is the music to which the monkey mind dances.