On Fitting it All (Including Writing) In, A Love Letter
Meditation. Love it or swear you’re going to scream if you hear someone say the word one more time, right?
I had a great meditation practice established for a long time. Fifteen or twenty minutes every day, sometimes even twice a day. I loved meditating. It made me calmer, helped me focus better, and expanded my creativity. It felt like putting my brain through the laundry. Never mind that half the time I fell asleep during the rinse cycle. I always came out feeling mentally bright, shiny, and new.
And then I stopped. For a variety of reasons, most of which were subconscious.
For one thing, I went to France for a month. There, I was busy each day teaching, writing, eating lots of fish, and drinking the good, cheap, local wine. There wasn’t a lot of time for meditation. Because: good, cheap, wine. And lots of good people to drink it with. And, to be honest, I forgot about it.
But there was also walking, and lots of it. Walking into town several times a day, walking to gaze at the nearby Mediterranean, walking to partake of some of that divine wine and food. And walking was a big deal for me. Because for the last few years, walking, one of the things I’ve loved to do best in the world, has been painful. Sometimes very painful, thanks to mild arthritis in my left knee.
This year, though, I was determined to be able to walk as much as I wanted in France. And so I got a cortisone shot. Went to physical therapy several times a week. Rode a stationary bike to build up my leg muscles. And yes, I walked a ton in Collioure and Paris. When I came home, I wanted to keep walking. And so the time designated for exercise every day has become devoted to physical exercise, not mental.
And there went the meditation practice.
Lately, though, I’ve been missing it a lot. I’m working on finding time to fit it back into my life. Along with walking or riding bike. And eating, and showering, and reading, and answering emails and all the other things that make up my day. And oh yeah, that other thing—writing.
Doing all the things that are good for us to do take time. I put off having my hair cut or getting a pedicure because those things take time. Which I’m forever trying to find more of, my main goal in life finding more time to write. Yes, writing takes time. Lots of it. And it takes devoted time, time when I’m able mentally and emotionally to focus on putting words on the page. Because that is the crux of it, isn’t it? When I’m trying to make time in my life, it’s because I want time to write. When I’m doing things that are good for me, it’s because I hope they will enhance the writing.
I so seem to have time to read my favorite blogs. Scan the news sites. Look at Ravelry for knitting patterns, or Etsy for tools. I’ve realized, though, that something all these activities have in common is that they are about consuming. The things that really make me happy are about creating. Creating a strong mind, physical health, books to be read, warm shawls to wrap around me on a gloomy, gray afternoon.
And creating takes more energy, whether it is physical or mental, than consuming. But in our culture, consuming has become the predominant activity, fed by the 24-hour news cycle and a voracious online marketing machine. (Which I’ve got nothing against, I do just about all of my shopping online these days.)
I’m pretty sure there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to do. But I do know that taking a closer look at the things I’m actually doing—consuming versus creating—makes me much more aware. And hopeful that I can tip the balance most often toward creating.
So, yeah, that’s about all I’ve got for you. No magic answer. I don’t know quite how to fit everything I need to do into my life. But I do know this. Whether it is meditation, or walking, or writing, when I practice it, even a little, I feel better. I’m a big believer in the Kaizen theory of life—that taking tiny, small steps leads to big improvement over time.
And to start taking those small steps, we need to be deliberate in our choices. When I think about it, that’s the key. Becoming deliberate and mindful in choosing what I want to do at any given moment, as opposed to going into easy, default mode. Choosing creating over consuming. And maybe, just maybe, creating enough time in the day to meditate and walk—after I’m done writing, of course.