I’ve been in Eastern Standard Time most of the last 10 months, except for one brief interlude back to Belgium (Central European Time) last August. Today I’m in Boston, and we had to set the clocks 1 hour ahead, and as usual, I got confused, until Joanie told me that we always Fall Back before we can Spring Forward. Nice, but who knows why we do that anyway?
Time has been weighing on me regardless, and I have been wondering how to get back into the elusive zone of Peaceful Presence. It’s not a specific place on earth, and it can be found everywhere and anywhere. Sometimes it seems to just come, and takes me by surprise, but more often it seems to go, leaving me with thoughts of the burdensome past or a worrisome future. Either way, my time, though I know it’s precious, often feels oppressive, and I feel like I’m wasting it, and running from place to place doesn’t necessarily help.
So, what do I do? Asking what’s wrong with me might not really be the right question. It’s normal that I’d be feeling less than happy about my life, when marriage hasn’t been working out very well and church hasn’t either. At 63, shouldn’t we have built something more?
While washing the linens on my daughter’s bed I spied a basket full of books on the floor. Books always find me when I need them. The Canon~ A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science, by Natalie Angier. Sounds interesting. Maybe later. Life in a Shell ~ A Physiologist’s View of a Turtle, by Donald Jackson. Must be interesting for Emilie. Oh, what’s this blue book here… buddha standard time~ awakening to the infinite possibilities of now, by my old friend Lama Surya Das. He’s not old, he’s just been helping me for so long. That was the one! I picked it up and carried it out into the kitchen where Felix was meowing at the door. He’s an outdoor cat, or used to be, and he always wants to go out. I feel sorry for him. Somehow I know the feeling. Being stuck inside can feel like being in a tomb. At least it does for me. It may be warm, but there’s no life around. Everything is man-made. Everything seems dead. And I always eat too much.
I followed him down the stairs, and outside. The sun was momentarily blinding. Wow!! Felix hesitated on the doorsill, and stepped gingerly down onto the sidewalk outside the door. It was wet in places. The sun has been melting the snow all day today. Peering closely at the edge of the drift and how it’s a few centimeters from the ground, I wondered if glaciers melt in the same way. I’m sure they do. Drops of water were falling here and there from the roof above. In front of us, a few blades of last fall’s grass were showing along the edge of the brick path. Felix saw them, and bent down to nibble. I thought he would. Cats like grass, especially if they have something wrong with their digestion. He threw up yesterday morning, and I had it on my list to go find him a cat grass plant to eat. I wonder if this is the right kind of grass. Is it the chlorophyll that attracts them? Would any green grass work? In any case, he likes it.
Outside, it’s a different world. Everything is alive. The sun shining, the snow melting, birds chirping, and people moving around in their cars on the street. And that’s just the big stuff. Even the air is alive. Everything is in motion. My heart feels like it just got home, and my body and mind just got freed.
I opened the lawn chair leaning up against the house, chuckling about how I can enjoy the sun no matter where I am, and opened up the book. Felix jumped into my lap, and I felt a rush of love. Any cat that voluntarily sits on my lap gets millions of points with me. I told him so while I hugged him close. Felix doesn’t seem to purr, or show much emotion, but I had the feeling that I had won a million points with him too, just by taking him out.
I noticed that as soon as we stepped out of the house, my spirit lifted. Like a wilted flower that gets a drink. I think Felix’s did as well. He looked like a different cat to me, moving slowly and cautiously along the edge of a 2 foot high drift, ears catching every tiny sound, body completely focused and alert. Now that looks more like a cat. Yes, and I feel more like a human too. Ahhh. The sun is warm, the air is cool, and there’s something about being surrounded by all this living stuff that’s really exhilarating. It’s waking us both up.
I opened the book.
“Awaken to Natural Time,” it said. Exactly!
“Rediscover the multiple cycles of growth, change and decay in the natural world around you. Learn a mini-meditation or breath break to refresh yourself.”
I closed my eyes, and thought, yes, that’s exactly right. I’m outside, where the natural cycles of life are going on all around, right here outside my door. It’s all doing what it’s supposed to do. I took a breath, and felt time slow down. I’m right here, right now. The world is here with me. I don’t have to rush anywhere to catch up. Past problems are gone, future worries don’t matter. Time seems to have disappeared.
I felt the breath on my nostrils. I’m alive, thank you! This is buddha standard time.