For some reason, even though (or perhaps because) I am reading about mindfulness over my morning coffee, the practice of mindfulness seems impossibly remote and confusing right now.
At one point yesterday, returning from walking the dog on the beach, I was putting one foot in front of the other, walking up the ramp to the deck, aware of my balance, the broken tread, the dog, the smell in the air, the weeds, the rocks in my shoes, and STILL just didn't get it. I found myself thinking, just what is it I'm supposed to be mindful OF?
It feels a bit like what my husband calls "an off-by-one bug" -- something is definitely not computing properly, and you're tearing your hair out, and it turns out that what's derailing everything is just a tiny deviation, so close to right you can't even see it. It's kind of like the old days, before GPS, when you'd be in a strange place, working off a map, take what appears to be the right turn and end up completely lost in the wrong part of town. If you'd only taken the VERY NEXT TURN you'd have ended up right where you wanted to be.
And that's why I chose this picture today: it feels a bit like I'm trying to breathe with a snorkel under water, when all I'd have to do is lift my head out of the water and there'd be all the air to breathe I could ever need; I wouldn't have to struggle so for each breath. I get that I'm really close, but I am really NOT THERE.
That said, as long as I'm snorkeling along here, I'm seeing some pretty interesting stuff.
1. I had to go to a nearby hospital to meet with someone about an upcoming exhibit in one of their waiting rooms. The hospital is in a town with lots of shopping malls. There wasn't anything I needed, so I could have come straight home, but instead I wasted an hour browsing through TJ Maxx. At some point, standing looking at housewares I could never want or need, I realized I have become my mother, for whom shopping was a recreational activity she could -- and would -- do for hours on end, days on end. Out of boredom, I presume; or could it have been longing? The only difference is that she would bring home piles of kitsch, while I just look without buying.
I did see this lovely green enameled colander. I've always wanted a real colander, but we have a perfectly good sort of strainer thingie that we got at a garage sale before we married, so I walked away from it.
Later, on the phone, my friend Robin tells me that that sort of shopping is feeding the artist in me, that's looking for color and shape and design to inspire me. I'm not so sure...
2. I always thought that working with the camera allows me to be fully present. But I watched a movie 2 nights ago (2 Days in Paris; funny but irritating at the same time) in which the narrator, a photographer, tells us she did not take her camera with her to Venice so she could be fully present to her lover, but instead HE took a camera, and instead of BEING with her in the gondola he was busily taking hundreds of pictures of the gondola ride.
Ouch. That is so me! And it's true; in certain circumstances -- my husband informed me of this on the train -- I use the camera to avoid interacting with people (I'm not avoiding him, so much; he was referring to my avoidance of certain types of social situations where I might have to make small talk -- something he excels at and I don't).
And then, there on the movie narrator's kitchen wall in Paris, is the exact green colander I saw in TJ Maxx. So of course I had to go back and get it.
3. Just before I woke this morning I dreamed I was visiting an old neighborhood, standing at the house next door (off by one!) to where I used to live. The woman who owns the house is standing outside, looking at me, but talking on her cellphone to a friend about the impossibility of finding good schools, and I am trying to interrupt the conversation to tell her I know of one. I can see, next door, the house we used to live in, but they're in the middle of a huge renovation and the house has changed beyond all recognition.
My friend Joanna has been in dream groups for years, and I know she would tell me everyone in the dream is me. So here's my interpretation: I am my true self, my higher or deeper self, in my dream. And the neighbor lady on the phone is the me that's out in the world, interacting with people, still shopping around for solutions to problems that I've already solved (she just won't listen to me!). I can't really go back to where I was, as everything has changed, but who I was still seems to be dominating the conversation, and I -- the true, knowing self -- am only occasionally able to interrupt; the way mindfulness only occasionally works. There's all this knowledge and understanding there, as free and universal as air, and I am still struggling along under water, just sneaking occasional breaths through a snorkel...
It's not that I'm depressed or discouraged about it, exactly. But it sure would be nice to get my head above water for a while!