New Year, Same You

“Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

Science is learning what some cultures have known to be true for thousands of years: that meditation can drastically improve our physical and mental health as well as improving our relationships with ourselves and others. In my American, urban, upper-middle class, privileged world, taking the time to be present is something that I am not good at although I work on it a bit each day. Inevitably I fail. I worry about the past and the future more than I should. Sometimes I’ll take a long hot bath and practice thinking about nothing but how the tiny bubbles feel as they pop on my kneecaps hovering just above the waterline. Sometimes I’ll do a three minute breathing exercise sitting at my desk between meetings. But I wouldn’t say I have a meditation practice and I would say that I need one.

Being meditiatively productive feels GOOD (one might argue it’s an oxymoronic concept but I think there might be meditation found in production of some things). The rhythmic nothingness of painting a giant wall in our guest room Fritata yellow: jingle of metal bars in the roller handle, gentle suction of wet paint meeting wall and pulling away from the roller, the gentle optimistic hiss of blue tape peeling away from molding. Or quilting for an eternity to form a blanket for my son, hopefully before he goes to college: whir of the machine as it glides through fabric, endless cycle of snip, press, steam, stitch, snip, press, steam, stitch. At the end, step back and bask in the thing you’ve made. The thing you lost yourself in focusing so carefully on the details that the rest of the world fell away.

In 2017, I want to learn to paint. I want to study an apple, a pile of papers, the face of a stranger, a weeping willow, my husbands shoulder supporting our child’s sleepy head. I don’t expect to be any good at it. But I figure it can’t hurt to try. And while I’m at it, maybe I should write about my journey through 2017. What will I learn when I look closely at myself looking closely at a blank canvas?