Recently I noticed that when Ruthie gets keyed up over something (and that happens frequently with a two-year-old cat), she tends to stop and wash herself for at least a few seconds. I can’t remember where I read this, but apparently that’s an inherent feline behavioral trait. They do it to collect their thoughts. Relatedly, meditation has been on my mind these days. Valarie bought a Buddhist magazine a week or two ago, and there was an article in which marathon runner Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche cites the importance of meditation to physical well being:
“We might be sleeping well and eating well, but if we’re not working with our mind, its weakness and wildness can sabotage our happiness. We’re caught up in fear, anger and worry.”
I’ve long meant to make a serious attempt at regular meditation, concentrating on my breathing patterns and focusing, as instructors suggest, on a pleasant, far away place—in my case an obvious example: the beach. (I’ve always loved the ambient white noise of the ocean, not to mention the cool temperatures it brings.) And as it happens, I’m also re-reading Jack Kerouac’s novel The Dharma Bums after fist picking it up a decade ago. Even more than in On The Road, Kerouac displays a contagious passion for life, and his attempts to live by Buddhist strictures and philosophies play a big role. His autobiographical protagonist, Ray—in keeping with the larger Beat movent context—has found ways to detach from ordinary American life and all its petty obsessions.
These various references to either outright meditation or even just escaping into ritual in order to drive away stress—be they human or animal in origin—have helped me get through a temporary gig working in a suburban office. The people are very nice there, and I've learned a lot. But I’m often frustrated by the half-hour drive there and back in heavy freeway traffic, as well as the inevitably sterile, stifling office environment and its bad coffee. Being in an office park in the burbs it means you can't just take a walk around the block (unless you have an hour and a compass). So with nowhere to get away from it all for a break, sometimes the only thing to do is just go to the bathroom. Even though I don’t always really need to go that bad, I’ve found that the ritual of washing my hands is, at least for a few seconds, rather meditative.
In other words, thanks Ruthie!