Friday, April 22, 2011

The River Path

                Today I’m in the park by the river, juggling.  I really shouldn’t walk, my feet are pretty tired from yesterday, and I need to go slow, let them heal.  But I can’t resist, the day is just radiant, drenched in springtime.
                Maybe just a couple miles on the flat path.  I’ll go slow.  As I start down the path, everything in the world is glittering.  Bright yellow Dandelion blossoms hug the ground, sunlight bounces off whitecaps in the river, a cyclist whispers by wearing colorful tights and helmet.
                As I walk, my attention is immersed in the colors and sounds.  My mind settles in the present and the chatter slows down, then stops.  I draw my attention to my breath, feel the rush of cool air in and out.  Then I send it down to my feet.  They hurt a little, but only a little.  The sensation of each foot touching the ground, then lifting brings me to the present moment.
                Stabilized,  I send my attention back out to the colorful, singing world.  Soon I am aware of my feet and the rhythm of walking only with a small part of my attention.  Most of my attention is taking in the sensorial feast of a sunny spring day.   The sights and sounds appear up ahead, come close, then recede behind me.  Sounds are the last to drift away, and then there are new ones to replace them.
                Now a sensation has taken hold in my physical self that is an old friend.  It seems like I’m not really walking anymore.  With most of my attention on other things, the steps are barely felt, and it seems more like I’m floating along, slowly, simply seeing each scene come and go, unattched.  Much of the long winding trail traversing the high ridges has passed by me in this way.  It is a comforting and expanding state of mind, and one of my first experiences with mindfulness.
                When I as sixteen, hiking the high ridges alone for the first time, I didn’t know it was called anything.  I only knew it felt good.  And I discovered I kept on feeling good after I stopped.  Today, it’s the same.  When my walk is over, I can sense my Self changed by the experience.  The best part is, it doesn’t have to be done anywhere special.
                In this state of mind, everywhere is special.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Coffee Shop

            It’s Sunday morning, and I’m sitting in Cosmic Pizza, writing.  I’ve decided not to hike the hill today.  It’s a disappointment, but my feet hurt.  I’ve decided to give them a couple more rest days before I walk again.
            Sitting here by the window, I make the most delightful discovery.  I can have rich, mindful moments sitting right here.  The window to my left is tall, floor to ceiling.  Through it, I see the streets of downtown Eugene.  They are typically quiet this morning.  Not many cars go by, but there’s a steady stream of people, and they are all very Eugene: a man on a recumbent bike, towing his laundry in a burley trailer, a young couple wearing all black, both of them with hair of many, many colors.
            And there is Steve.  Steve stands outside Cosmic most mornings, playing the clarinet.  I don’t know anything about him, only that his name is Steve and he plays the clarinet.
            There are fresh blossoms on the downtown trees, and sunlight is bravely pushing against the cloud cover.  I can feel the keys spring up and down under my fingers, and from the corner of my eye, I see the empty cup that held my Americano sitting on a saucer.
            My attention goes down to the texture of the wood on the windowsill, and the smells of pizza cooking a few feet away.  Then it spirals back, clear back to almost a year ago, when I was sitting at this very same table, looking out this very same window.  I was high summer, and the boys and I were just back from the Fair.  We were exhausted, and entranced at the same time.  We drank root beer, and talked about next year’s costumes, where we would camp, who would come with us.
            Back in the present, my thoughts slow down again, and there is only the window.  And the coffee cup and the people going by.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mindfulness of Walking

                Today after work, the hill is calling to me.  It’s still raining, but the weather is warm, almost fifty degrees.  The Trilliums are in full bloom up on the hill.  By 3:00pm, I find my longing for the wooded trail is distracting me from work.  The thought of being on a winding path in the trees is almost consuming.
                By 6:30, I’m on my way, with plenty of daylight left for a leisurely one-hour walk.  As I start up the hill, past the little creek I notice the light is different today, because of my late start-time.  Thoughts of work are still rampaging through my mind.  As I notice them, I instantly recede from involvement in them, just watching them go by.
                And then, an old teaching comes back to me.  As I walk, I send my attention down to the soles of my feet, simply noticing with bare attention as each foot makes contact with the ground.  I notice, in the same way, each time my foot breaks contact with the ground.   And so a rhythm of mindful attention is developed, a direct sensing of contact, weight and lifting of each foot.
                As I walk, those pesky work thoughts intrude, over and over.  Momentarily I find I’ve lost track of the sensation of my feet making and losing contact with earth.  I find I am once again participating in an imagination-driven re-living of this or that distressing interaction at work.  Then there are the pleasant ones, which are almost more distracting, because they are fun!
                And then there is the recovery: “oh, yeah, I was paying attention to my feet, right here in the here and now.”  And my attention gently returns to my feet: squish go my boots in the mud, crunch on the gravel.  And my weight shifts onto the sole of my boot, then rolls away with every step.  Added to this rhythm now is the rhythm of my mind straying into the thought-stream, then back to the present sensations, with gentle, non-judgmental reminders from my Will.
                The periods of being with sensation lengthen as the walk progresses, and with a left-over part of my attention, I experience the stark green intensity of a wooded hillside in an Oregon rain forest.  The sun sits exactly on the horizon now, and the fading light seems to enhance the subtle shades of green.  I walk in a cathedral of twilight, trees and earth.   As my attention becomes more and more present, less and less distracted, the sensory experience intensifies. This moment, each moment we pass though, is exquisite.
                Why do I ever leave?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Market Day

                Today is opening day at our small Saturday market here in Eugene.  Our market is small and folksy.  There are food booths, right next to a stage where three or four acts play each week.  And there are craft booths, a produce market, and a large drumming circle, all situated in four city blocks.  It’s a dense, colorful affair, a very friendly place where people of all ages and creeds mix and mingle.
                Opening day entails no special ceremonies, and I kind of like that.  One Saturday you go downtown, and the market is there, as if it had not been gone for the four dark winter months.  The same people are here, selling crafts, organic produce, and my personal favorite, hoola hoops.  There is a willowy young woman with flowing red hair and a permanent smile who sells them and also gives lessons to all comers.  She is one of the happiest people I’ve ever seen.
                But this opening day at the Market, I’m in for a special treat, and a milestone.  As I enter the square, my phone registers a text message.  It’s Brittney, my juggling companion and dear friend, messaging me to tell me she’s on the way to market with Corbin, her four-year old boy.
                And she says she has her juggling balls with her.  Within minutes, I’m standing with her and Corbin, as they wait in line to get their faces painted.  The woman who does the painting is a genius, easily putting a colorful spider, complete with web, just above Corbin’s nose.  Brittney opts for a simple flower arrangement on her left cheek.
                As we walk away I find myself thinking “maybe I’ll do that someday.”  And then, we are in the midst of the drumming circle, staking out a small plot of cement on which to juggle.  The drums are a presence, the square crowded with people, some flowing by, others seated in front of crafts for sale, still others dancing or playing hacky sack.  It’s a jumble of color and sound, all drenched in cool April sunshine.
                Into this, we toss our multi-colored balls.
                And heads instantly begin to turn.  Mothers stop by with children, who just want to watch.  Kids are unashamed, I find, in their curiosity about juggling.  They tend to fixate on the pattern, just the beauty of color and motion.  I’m pretty sure grown-ups feel the same way, but they usually hide their fascination.  There are others who want to learn, and we stop to give lessons.
                Like all visual arts, juggling is an unspoken partnership between the doer and the observer.  The juggler does what he does because it’s fun, and it creates something beautiful.  The observer enjoys seeing something beautiful.  Both parties can become transfixed, and this becomes my moment of mindfulness for the day.  Not only am I completely in the present, I have brought a few others with me.
                I can tell Brittney feels it too, she is such a delight.  Her smile is expansive as she throws the balls in ever-changing patters and speeds.  She’s a talented juggler, and she’s progressed very quickly, partly because she dedicates a lot of time to the art, consistently.
                We are both having plain, pure fun, and Corbin is in his element, just enjoying the color and exuberance of the market.  In juggling, if your pattern is small, the balls go fast, and if the pattern is large, they go slower.  So it’s possible, by adjusting the pattern size, to synchronize your juggling to a beat.  Brittney and I are both doing this, and we both break out giggling when the pattern matches the beat of the drums, it is such a Sweet Spot in Time.
                One little boy stays and stays, trying over and over to get his first successful throws.  And when he does, finally, he is so elated.  He is walking on air when he leaves, asking his father for a set of balls.  As we pack up, I feel so expanded and relaxed at the same time.  Sometimes mindfulness comes to us un-bidden, and that’s the sweetest kind.  It’s happened today, leaving me with a reminder that just letting go and having fun is one of the purest and most healing kinds of mindfulness.
                As we’re heading for the parking lot, Corbin stops in front of me and reaches both of his arms up toward me, in a gesture from child to adult that must be absolutely universal: please pick me up.  He is in my arms, situated on my right hip before I have time to even think about what I’ve done.
                And instantly I’ve traveled back in time eleven years.  So sweet, his tiny hand on my shoulder, the bill of his cap gently bumping my head.
                And then I’m walking alone to my car, feeling so, so happy.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Please Pass the Blog...


I've left Face Book, and so will no longer be posting a link there when I write an entry on this blog.  If you're a follower, you'll get an e-mail when I post.

Please, if you like what you see here, e-mail the link to any friends you think might be interested, so they can enjoy it too.  Tell them to pass it on...