Cliche of the week: less is more.
Busy, busy, busy, busy—no. Stop. I hate feeling busy—I hate using the word ‘hate’—should I just say ‘don’t like’? It doesn’t matter—semantics—STOP!
My friend Lisa says reframe it. ‘When I tell people I’m busy, I feel frazzled, When i acknowledge life is full at the moment, but these are all the things I want or need to be doing right now—that’s different.’
I like that.
‘I like to keep busy,’ he says. I make big eyes.
I’m not really busy right now. Really. All things considered—24 hours in every day, seven days in the week, and I sit on the balcony every day with my notebook or my books, occasionally smoke a cigar.
But I’m too busy to weed my garden. Btw, that means I don’t want to do it.
Busy-not-busy, I do have a lot of balls in the air right now—a couple of them are flaming swords—and keeping them in motion requires effort and concentration.
Much of my time this past year, whether actively engaged in a task or not, has been spent in a state of potential availability. Waiting to be called, needed, interrupted.
“Mom. I need help—I don’t understand this math question at all.”
“Mom! I’m hungry!”
“Mom, I need a hug, I’m sad.”
I’m not complaining. Let me be clear here—I’m not complaining. I’m stating a fact, and I’m sharing an observation and an important one: it is only recently that I’ve started to realize and acknowledge that this state of… waiting… of being available… of simply being here if they need me… is… I was going to say exhausting, but scratch that. I’m not complaining, I’m not being negative. I’m acknowledging: this state, it takes effort. It takes effort. It is not restful.
Resting in the middle of motion; negative capability.
John Keats coined the phrase “Negative Capability,” saying that it is the essential characteristic of a poet, writer, artist and defined as “that when man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”
I’ve been familiar with the phrase for a long time; it comes to the fore again this week. I share it with a few friends. And I try to see if there’s a way to applying it to my busy-not-busy-not-rested…. because I think I need to find a way to rest while I am, in effect, coiled in a spiral, waiting to be called into action.
“Coming, I’m coming.”
I have not been meditating or gong to yoga lately. Busy-not-busy, honestly, I just didn’t want to. The times I could have spent in silence and not thinking, I’ve been putting earbuds in and listening to Nero Wolfe stories I know off by heart. Numbing or reflection? I don’t know. One or the other, perhaps, both.
What am I afraid of, busy-not-busy?
Good news, bad news in the same day, same hour. Both feel disruptive—I’m going to meditate, I am. Lie down in the half-dark of my bedroom and do a long yoga nidra practice that doubles as a nap.
I tell Flora, Cinder, Ender.
“Do you need anything from me before I go downstairs? This meditation is an hour.”
Nobody needs me, wants me.
“Don’t come down, don’t knock on my door—don’t come down to put in laundry. I’ll come up when I’m done.”
I go down at 2:30 and I fade in and out of yogic sleep during the practice. IT is good.
3:10. The bedroom door creaks open.
“Are you done, Mom? Did you fall asleep? You said you’d come upstairs when you were done? I thought you forgot.”
That was not the 8 year old, by the way. That was the 16 year old. Math is done, but he needed help with high school English.
Getting angry that your meditation practice is interrupted seems a little… ironic? So I don’t. On the surface at least.
Busy-not-busy, I think I am happy. It doesn’t look like happiness always. I think it is the happiness I want—laced with pain as well as pleasure, chokful of purpose.
But I am tired and I don’t want to be tired. I want to be rested.
And I want to rest in-between those moments of effort, because I can’t take a week in which to lay dead to the world on a beach.
Speaking of resting in-between:
I don’t romanticize my labours and births. They were long and hard and they hurt and I was so happy when they were over.
But. What I remembered with acute pleasure from the process: learning, eventually, to rest fully and completely between each contraction. I have never been so limp, so liquid, so totally non-effort as in that tiny space—four minutes, three, two… one—after the peak and before the beginning of the next wave, when there was no pain, no crescendo, just—nothing, stillness, rest.
It’s morning. Balcony. Sun. Coffee. Notebook. Pen. Sylvia Plath’s Letters beside (Sylvia Day on my mind).
Footsteps on the stairs, and here comes Ender and Maggie.
“Mom! Where are you?”
This is perhaps the most important, most demanding part of my meditation practice.
—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA
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