Friday, April 16, 2010

Bus riding zen

First, a confession: I don't really know what zen is. What I imagine of zen leads me to believe that I am about as un-zen as a methamphetamine pill or a mountain of unnecessary paperwork or even, just an unmade bed.

There is a part of me that longs for what I imagine zen to be: calm, clarity, focus. I crave this thing, not because I have had a taste and want more, but because the descriptions of its flavor make my mouth water. My mind bounces around, unfocused and frantic. This helps me to learn quickly, take in whole personalities in a few exchanged words, grok "big pictures" from just a few glimpses at parts, but it never lets me rest. I know content only in the few moments between sleep and waking--and I try to make that moment last hours by waking up in the most begrudging of ways. At least that is the only contentedness that I will discuss here (she smirked, knowingly).

However, not knowing doesn't preclude trying. Intellectually I understand some of the principles of centering and focusing the mind. One of the few ways that I have ever been able to successfully meditate is in Bikram yoga class: the 90 minute, open-eyed meditation. My fluttering chatter brain has to concentrate during every minute (except the blissful, wandery 2 minutes of savasana, between the standing and back bending series). Between the balancing and the exertion and the breath, I don't have time to think about how I really should have a better handle on my finances, or why do I eat junk food so predictably when I am stressed out, and what is it that scares me about really, deeply connecting to other people. These things and more start swirling around whenever I try to sit and clear my mind.

Knitting is nowhere near the meditation that Bikram is, but thanks to my ever bountiful stash (do not be ashamed of your stashes! you are saving for a rainy day or year or era) it is much more free than Bikram.

I just finished two really wonderful books, which I plan on reviewing over on goodreads soon. The People of Paper followed very closely behind I Don't Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I've Dated. The stack of books I want to read is very tall, and my tendency is to try to devour it like one of those epic Cheesecake Factory slices of creamy goodness. But that isn't enjoyment. Books should be nibbled at and savored like a fancy cheese plate shared with friends. So I am taking a break for a couple of days. I will still read, but will hold off on diving headfirst into another book.

Knitting is my break, and today on the bus, I started orange sock number two.

Beginning of the bus ride
I cast on at the bus stop, and had this by the time I sat down.

End of bus ride!
Almost finished the toe by the time I got to work.

Knitting focuses me, I dive into the stitches like they are prose. I feel a sense of accomplishment and of competency when knitting, that to be honest, is eluding me nearly everywhere else in my life these days. That may be miles from zen, but at least I can see the tip of zen's tower from here.

1 comment:

JQ said...

I have sat Zazen with monks. You know as much about Zen as many of them.

And you eclipse them in sock production.