Saturday morning, the Matron startled awake at 4:18 am, half an hour before her alarm.
Because in a fit of insanity, she signed up for a half day sesshin at her local Zen Center -- silent meditation from 6 am to noon.
At 4:25 she decided not to even attempt those extra 20 minutes of sleep. She was AWAKE. At 4:50 am, slurping down coffee and a muffin, she realized that she must immediately return to her warm, cozy bed and abandon this ridiculous idea of SIX hours of meditation. That whole 'awake' thing last just about long enough for food and coffee.
Friday, this conversation had ensued.
He Who Cannot Be Named (16 year old son HWCBN for new readers): "Mom? You're going to meditate for six hours?"
HWCBN: "How long have you meditated at one shot before?"
Matron: "Forty minutes."
Matron: "Forty minutes."
HWCBN: "Good luck with that."
This conversation replayed itself that bleak, black morning. Indeed, only pride propelled her forward. She had signed up, rallied the children, promised herself -- committed. The day was arranged around her absence. Merrick had hugged her good-night, all pluck and encouragement for her interior journey.
Merrick: "Mom? If you fall asleep and dwop over, twy not to get huwt."
And so from 6 am to noon, the Matron sat on a pillow. There was a small ceremony, a silent meditative breakfast, a highly anticipated bathroom break or two (bathroom! Like a party!). In sum, she sat just over four hours total.
That time--four hours, which would be 240 minutes?
Shockingly, for much of that time her mind held only a mantra -- a brief phrase and breath truly took hold. But for another slice of that time, her past -- images, scenes, conversations, bright lights of life frozen -- scrolled unbidden and uncontrolled across her defenseless psyche.
What a show!
It was . . . humbling.
Past humiliations arose. Moments of guilt. Vignettes of wrong-doing, mistakes made. A luminous moment or two, but mostly pain and sorrow finding a path they'd missed and making the most of it. The stories presenting themselves weren't the familiar crew, but a brand new bunch.
A little girl in plaid and braids, the adorable-as-all-get-out kind you see in picture books and movies -- already afraid.
Oddly, inexplicably, she didn't feel sad during this onslaught of imagery -- just a spectator. Inquisitive and open, as a forgotten past -- one largely constructed of minutiae, little things that don't seem to carry much weight -- moved toward her.
Oh -- and she's pretty sure she did doze off here and there. No worries, Merrick honey. She didn't drop over.
Today, she can't even remember exactly what happened or what secrets shook themselves out. Really. Four hours of this and she can barely remember what happened.
But she feels . . . better. Different. Something shifted during those quiet hours. She is not of the belief that life experience can be exorcised from the body or that catharsis is a cure. There is no remedy for what we take in because it is who we are. Consider just how much one person incorporates in a single day! From the moment we wake until sleep -- and maybe even then -- the brain never stops synthesizing detail after detail after drama and sight, sound and smell.
She imagines the brain packaging and storing the onslaught of input -- categorizing each second like a file to be plucked out again when needed. Imagine the expanse of this input! Wake, pull back covers, feel cool air, dog snout on leg, clock humming, cool wooden floor, crisp window -- this is just the first five seconds! Who among us can notice the crack and spit of every second?! Most of this we never even retrieve or when we do, it's like breath -- we don't even notice it.
But Saturday, she noticed her breath--and the shock of senses that came with it.
The funny thing is? All she feels is: better. And she didn't even know she felt bad.