I strongly considered not posting today, yet here I am. Blogging every day is definitely challenging; I anticipated it would be, and as the month wears on I come to the realization that I don’t think I could write every day. At least not in this manner. Perhaps if there was a goal, a specific project I had instead of a more free-floating target, things would be different. Nevertheless, I appreciate what this exercise is teaching me about writing, inspiration, and myself.
I almost didn’t post today because I take commitments very seriously. While overall I am proud of this trait, there are some times where I take it to an odd extreme. Take the promise to blog every day as an example: Who did I make this promise to? Me. And if I don’t feel like writing one day, who am I letting down? No one, because I am listening to myself — the self of today — that is requesting a break. Past self will understand and my desire for perfection will have to get over it. In fact, I think it’s a good idea for me to practice striving for not-perfection, to get used to the idea that if something doesn’t actually happen, more often than not it’s OK. I know the difference between important things and unimportant things. I know myself enough to know that I will follow through on the important things. The less crucial stuff can slide now and then. I say that, but I’m not really sure how much I mean it.
Meanwhile, I laugh at myself because essentially I am writing about not writing, and how it might be good for me to not write. But I feel good writing these words, so it’s all good in the end.
Maybe I’ll play hooky tomorrow. It’s nice to know I can — and will — give myself that option.
These people know how to take a break: Samgeori Park, Cheonan, South Korea.
This sit didn’t really work. I never went deep, skimming the surface of relaxation and the now. No monkey mind, more just thinking about things I need to do. No anxiety, but plans and deliberations. Still, I sat. My hips stiff, my jeans a little too tight. Still, I sat. My fingers and nose cold, because the heat doesn’t quite reach up to my bedroom. Still, I sat.
And I will again tomorrow.
Today I look over this post in its brevity and wonder if it says anything or everything. And yet, I write.
And I will again tomorrow.
Flowers from a springtime walk.
Afterthought: I am finding more comfort in the word “practice” rather than “habit.” I want to hone my practices of writing and meditating. For some reason, if they become habits, I believe they will lose their meaning — become part of a less meaningful routine. One can always grow by writing; the same things goes for meditation. I’m not a fan of “practice makes perfect,” because perfection is not my goal. I don’t really have a goal. I just want to practice these crafts and learn from them.
I’ve been writing, but nothing I want to put out in public for various reasons. Yet, I feel the need to maintain some sort of consistency here. I want to somehow prove to the world and myself that I am still writing. So, for lack of anything else to publish, I am sharing what goes on in my head during and after meditation. I free-write after most of my sittings, which have been too infrequent as of late. After you read this, you will witness why the phrase “practicing meditation” is apropos, and also realize how out of shape I am.
One of the best meditation spots ever, on the South Island of New Zealand. Just hidden off the main road somewhere, but I don’t remember exactly where.
I sat for a full 20 minutes, but peeked at the timer just before 19; then one of the dogs barked at nothing in particular, sending my hear racing for the final minute or so. A sore body and monkey mind dominated. Should I really wait until 65 to live my life the way I want to? How do I want to live my life? I should look at my friend’s website. My middle back is sore – it would be the ultimate black humor if I had lung cancer, too. Will it be too warm to wear tights tonight? My left leg is tensing (again). I hear my back crackle. I have plenty of time to by another car. Waiting is a good idea. I like the print on these curtains.
None of these thoughts last longer than two lines of dialog in my head; none are really worthy of further consideration at that moment, but they ping back and forth, recur throughout my sitting time. Still, it feels good to listen to the chimes of the YouTube video, and allow the random thoughts to flow in and out of my brain. It’s been a few days since I have taken this time; I have had the time, but only after being out with friends and having alcohol. I can’t meditate after drinking, and this makes me wonder about my priorities. Ultimately, I will keep on doing both, but to make either a daily habit eliminates the other. Balance. While clearly one is deemed better than the other, I plan to keep both in my life. I am not, and will never be, perfect. I gain too much joy from too many things. What a lucky person I am.
To be able to be unhurried when hurried;
To be able not to slack off when relaxed;
To be able not to be frightened
And at a loss for what to do,
When frightened and at a loss;
This is the learning that returns us
To our natural state and transforms our lives.
[Liu Wemin, 16th Century]
Found while reading dhamma footsteps
I see these words as a great guide as I move forward in my new job, in my resettlement into Portland. I am wary that I will, indeed, slip back into the hurried state that I was accustomed to, that I witness every day in others. Taking time to stretch, walk, write, connect – these are important to me. The balance of relaxation with obligation is an ideal I will continue to strive towards. I felt this most when I lived in Toronto and Cheonan; working hard, yet still able to appreciate my surroundings and where life was taking me.
Taking a walk break in Toronto
In these two places I found a welcoming balance of routine and novelty; of unhurried and mandates; of relaxation and production. These were places where I went outside every day and experienced the community mindfully. Sometimes I threw myself into the bustle of humanity, while other times I would find a more secluded place and just sit. Refreshed, I would return to my computer and produce, create, or do whatever was needed. Rarely did I feel like I had to do something; I looked forward to the tasks that lay in front of me.
A park in Cheonan, South Korea. An escape from the large buildings in the background.
During these times, in these places, I was able to live in the experience of now. Appreciate that every moment is now without that meaning pressure, an impending deadline. Now simply is, and always will, be.
I’ve been back in the US for two and a half weeks and am starting to settle in. The moments of reverse culture shock and general feelings of being overwhelmed lessen each day, but remain. I am learning how to live in this country again. Although I am settling into a level of familiarity being back in Portland and taking a job in research again, I am not quite the same person. I feel a little different in ways that are hard to describe.
It was an amazing year and a half/two years and I learned so much about myself and others — some stuff I want to cherish, while other things make me grateful for the culture I grew up in. There are things I want to hold onto, and things I want to leave far behind. Here are some of the things I hope to incorporate in my life back in the US.
- More minimal living – I want less space and fewer possessions, especially when it comes to my wardrobe. Yes, I will invest in a new pair of jeans, but otherwise I hope to wear only the items that are easily accessible to me without going into storage to retrieve more.
- Appreciation of food for its variety and simplicity.
- Friendship and the need to be present with those I love.
- The awareness that there is little I can control. Letting go is something I will continue to struggle with and I look forward to the challenge.
- Taking day trips/weekend getaways. Even one night somewhere else does so much to recharge my mind and soul.
- Meditation practice. Haven’t revisited this yet, but planning on it! Really. Someone hold me accountable! Or perhaps it will naturally happen when I am ready.
- Tea breaks. Wherever I went, people actually stopped for tea. “To go” was rare. I want to take the time to sit and enjoy.
- Writing. Though no longer an expat, I hope to continue to write about things I did while overseas, and things I experience here as a result. If there’s anything you are interested in learning about, I welcome questions and inspiration.
I need to spend some more time with this guy.