In a lot of ways this has just started, but in others it’s been going on a hell of a long time.
There are aspects of my personality that put me at odds with a lot of things. I grew up being kind of a little shit, a mouthy know-it-all (I still know it all…) that looked at convention as something for the stupid. In highschool I knew I was going to study literature in university, and even when our school counselor suggested that I didn’t have what it took to get into university, I still knew I was going. In grade 12 I studied a bit, raised my marks, and enrolled. I was smarter than him.
The next question was about the choice to study English Lit.
“What are you going to do after school with a literature degree?”
“I’m going to drive long-haul trucks.”
“You’ll have to go to teacher’s college.”
“I think I’ll write poetry.”
“People don’t make a living out of writing.”
“I just want to write poetry.”
“But what will you do for work?”
“I’m going to write poetry.”
My responses were as much to get a reaction out of adults as they were the truth. Milton Acorn was one of Canada’s great poets, and lived largely homeless and poor. I knew I wouldn’t end up like that, nor did I want to. But I admired his tenacity. Screw the mainstream, I’m going to define this gig on my own. If you’re not on board, piss off.
And it was hard. Really, bloody hard. If I had to pick a time when my depression blew up in my face, it would have been in university. I had regular panic attacks about my future. I knew I wasn’t going to make a living writing poetry, and what does a person do with an English Lit degree other than become a teacher? My world was closed back then with a fledgling internet populated with “Hello World” text-based websites. I didn’t know what my options were. I didn’t know I had any. So I got angrier, and more “punk”, and I wallowed in the stink of it.
Fast forward a few decades, and I’m still that person. If it weren’t for money and a fear of employment prospects, I’d have the majority of my body tattooed. I do things with an all or nothing, quasi-self-destructive lean. I’m vocal when I’m pissed off, and don’t take much of anything topical very seriously. I still give the finger to the mainstream. I’m high strung, and I swear. Actually, I swear a lot.
So at first blush, the notion of me meditating is kind of laughable. Picturing myself walking slowly through a forest, purposefully communing with trees and plants, focusing on my senses, for me all of that seems pretty far-fetched. Picturing myself sitting in a room of females who, respectfully, are somewhat older than myself, listening to the chief female guide us through a lovingkindness meditation…well shit, that stuff just doesn’t happen. I don’t sit still listening to the soft, recorded voice of some hippy leading me toward inner peace. Hell, I just don’t sit still, full stop.
So I don’t know if I’ve been warped into some strange parallel universe or not, but strangely I find that I am doing these things. Maybe I’ve hit some kind of desperate low (not too far off actually), or maybe with my age comes the acceptance of things that I’ve known or felt for a long time. I’ve always been aware that living consciously, purposefully, carries a hell of a lot of weight. I’ve always accepted that meditation practice, in any of it’s forms, is something the everyone can benefit from, even something that everyone needs. I’ve never respected people who live on the surface, and certainly have believed that meditation is a powerful way of diving deep, deep under. But I’ve never pictured myself actually participating, until now.
I wouldn’t say that I’ve got a regular meditation practice, but it’s coming. I do my best to take at least 20 minutes out of every day, preferably near the middle of my work schedule, to get away and pay attention. During my work day I’ve got a thousand things going on at once and I’m never, ever out of touch with my phone and a computer. I panic if I leave my phone at my desk when I’m walking to go pee. That, frankly, is f’d up.
When I leave my technology behind and step out of the door I take a refreshing breath. I get to suck in all of this beautiful mountain air and drain whatever vitamin-D I can from the winter’s fleeting sun. And I get to narrow my focus to whatever is right in front of me, because it’s all that matters. I get to lose that regular tight feeling I’ve got in my chest, to forget (avoid?) whatever stresses I’m dealing with at work or at home and focus, really focus on what is really the only significance; the timelessness of nature and the power of simply being still.
I’ve still got my edge, it’s part of who I am and it’s not getting soft. If anything, it’s getting as sharp as …