The very idea of concentration, this week as it applies to meditation and happiness, is both incredibly hard – as always – and oddly simple, in unexpected bursts.
Upon the suggestion from Real Happiness I wrote my meditation schedule, for as loose and fluid as it may need to be at times, into my calendar. I wrote it physically, in pen, so that I cannot erase it, delete it, move it, ignore it as time could lighten the image of a pencil. I usually prefer a very sharp pencil as my writing instrument. This time I used a blue pen. I concentrated on that point.
I set up a new nook for meditation. I tidied my bedroom. I took the beautiful – but small, white, and therefore largely impractical in my world of kids and pets and mess – carpet brought from Turkey, and unrolled it in front of the large window in my bedroom. Upon it I placed the meditation bench that my son crafted for me, from the plans I had once shown him.
I would face the window, though it would be dark at my scheduled time.
Then the cat came, sniffed around, clearly considering peeing on the new carpet to mark it as his. Then I was tired at night and dropped my sweaters in front of the window, vowing I would pick them up tomorrow. Then my clock battery died, and my gentle timer was gone. Already my attempts at making this cozy spot ready, available and welcoming felt derailed.
Concentrate, I urged myself. It’s not the accouterments, at the end of the day, it’s the moving into the space and trying. I think.
The morning came. Mornings always come. Thank goodness. But at 5:20, really, I wonder, is this all necessary? It’s still so dark. And it’s so cold. And I am disoriented and can’t see, not just because of the dark but because I cannot find my glasses. The justifications, rationalizations, evasions, subterfuges, essentially the song and dance that readily presents itself at 5:20 in the morning is astoundingly convincing. Concentrate. Just move from this bed to that bench. And try. This was hard.
Once on the bench, wrapped now in a shawl I realized I needed to keep draped by my nook for daily use, I found the attempt at concentration easier. This is not to suggest that my mind did much concentrating, while in fact, it did much meandering. But it was there, as I was seated, coming back each time I invited it to try again. “You can begin again.” Thus far this has been one of the two most meaningful and comforting quotes in the book, and I hang onto it, repeating it to myself again and again, in a variety of circumstances. Each invitation to come back to my breath is predicated upon this simple, yet powerful, abstraction.
And so it has gone this week; each morning at 5:20 the alarm has sounded. Admittedly, each day I have reset the tone of the alarm to wake me, however unforgivingly, with a softer call to the coming day. And admittedly, each day I have resented the tone at that hour. But I have concentrated on the hard part of moving from the bed, just getting out, however unsprightly, and moving to the carpet. It is easier then; once I am on the bench on the rug under my shawl facing a window with the curtains still pulled in the dark of the wee-small hours of the morning, I try to begin again. And again. And again. I have meditated each morning, and I have concentrated on both the movement into it and the breath within it.
I emerge and try to engage with the other of my two favorite quotes that Sharon Salzberg gives us about concentration, “it brings wholeness when we feel scattered.” I find it hard to live whole, I find it easy to be scattered. I find it hard to get out of bed, I find it eas(ier) to sit once I’ve made that initial move. The light finally comes in shortly after 6 a.m. I am finding it really is a good way to start my day, beginning again, opening to wholeness.
Blessings on your day, and peace upon the earth.