Sunday, March 10, 2013

Meditation, Schmeditation

I've been disappointed in myself for not learning how to better meditate. I'm talking about sitting practice during which I am supposed to concentrate on my breath. I've read books about it, invited guests in to work with my students and me on it, and taken a great class during which I felt great about meditation and all it can do for me.

And yet...

It's not something I have integrated into my day as of yet. I know that it would be great for me to do it, that I would be more peaceful, happier, more productive, and probably inspired to do greater things. Every time that I have managed to get myself meditating it has felt good and done me good. But I can't seem to get it going in my daily life.

This is the sort of thing that bugs the crap out of me.

That's me on the left
Until I remember that I meditate quite often. I'm a meditative runner when I run by myself. I don't listen to music and I don't work out the problems of my life on the run. I just run. I listen to my breathing and the sounds of my bare feet hitting the pavement. I try to live in each step of the run. It's not easy and takes practice. It's easy to forget and slip into worry, planning, remembering, and such. I have to bring myself back to the breath, the step, the moment. I have a lot to learn about meditating as I run, but I'm getting there.

And just a few minutes ago I engaged in one of my favorite meditative exercises. I went out to the driveway and shot baskets by myself for a bit. I didn't change into shorts, just went out in my jeans, old shoes, and the t-shirt I've been wearing all day. It's not a competitive thing. It's just a chance to be alone and not think too much. I mostly focus on the feel of my body as I shoot, on the way I breathe as I let the ball go, and the arc of the ball on the way up to the hoop. I can't think of many things more relaxing than that.

There's cooking too. My wife and kids are off to the high school for a stage show. I went to the store, got a bag full of vegetables and brought them home. I chopped two sweet potatoes, three potatoes, two heads of broccoli, a green pepper, ten carrots, and two giant Mayan onions (the ones that predict that the world will end). I doused all that in olive oil and stirred, then spread it on two cookie sheets, sprinkled with salt, pepper and paprika, added a bit of fake sausage and threw it in the oven.

Then I chopped a leek, three potatoes, six more carrots, and a yellow onion. I put that together with some soy milk, stock, olive oil, salt, pepper, and miso paste. Simmered and then blended, it will be tomorrow's soup.

The chopping and cleaning of the vegetables is meditative. I have to be thinking about the knife or I'm going to be sorry. I don't think much of anything while I'm peeling or washing things. It's not that I turn into some brain-dead fool. I just stay with the task.

At least, that's what I do on the good days. On the bad days, I think about how many more carrots I have to peel and chop. I fret over every missed basket and worry that I'm too out of shape to ever play again. And I think only about how many miles I've run, at what pace, and whether or not I can make it all the way back home. The bad days are the ones when I think about work, the terrible things that are happening to schools, teachers, and students, and worry that I won't have anything to write about in my 750 words. In other words, the bad days are those when I forget to be in the activity that I'm doing.

Running is fun.

Shooting baskets is fun.

Cooking is fun.

Beyond fun, if done right, they are each useful, restorative, and instructive. I can learn as much running down the road or shooting a ball at a hoop or peeling sweet potatoes as I can from sitting cross-legged with a chime marking when I can start and stop. None of this is to say that there is anything wrong with meditation. It's just that I have to give myself a break and take my meditation where I find it.

I can even feel it when I sit at a computer and, without worry or too much planning, write on.