Living Up Close

I have such a hard time being. Just being. Just experiencing whatever is going on in the moment. I have, admittedly, strayed far, far away from my meditation practice. I think when I was regularly meditating and practicing yoga, I was able to “be” a lot better.

See, I am a person who is very much wrapped up in my thoughts. Always thinking. Always mulling. Ruminating. My father says that it’s one of our family’s greatest skills. But I’m not always dwelling or stuck on any one thought. Quite the contrary. I might be on a dance floor shaking my groove thing, as a girl is wont to do, but I’m thinking about whether or not the new puppy took a crap in his cage.

My mind is always in overdrive and I need to work to quiet it. It’s not really something like ADD, because it doesn’t steal my focus away from the things I need to, or want to, but mostly need to do.

Monkey mind. Getting the best of me. Leading me away from the now to the yesterday or tomorrow. I have a searing desire to appreciate the moment. After everything I’ve been through in the past five years, I know how critical those moments can be and how disturbing it can be when you realize you let some of them slip away from you in favor of yesterday or tomorrow.

Some of what I’ve realized is that many of my moments were experienced at somewhat of a distance because I was disconnected by thoughts of other times. I have lots of memories where I feel like I sat and watched everyone. I wonder sometimes if people notice these times when I get quiet. I think they do. I’ve been asked if I’m okay, if I’m having fun. And those questions snap me back into the moment, but it’s not long before I’m lost in the tangle of my gray matter again.

I think this is why this reshaping and refreshing that I’m undergoing, my grand remodel, has kicked itself off with physical activity. Exerting myself is a way to push all of the what ifs and if onlies right out my head. It doesn’t always work. There are moments when I’m running and feeling a little short on breath that my brain travels back to the pulmonary infarction and starts demanding that the body breathe deeply to know that there is no pain, and hence, nothing wrong. Anxious thoughts and worry, distracting me from the task at hand.

Anxiety is so much rooted in the worry of the past and the future. Through some of my personal battles with health, both physical and mental, that has been a very difficult concept to grasp. When you’re busy living today’s moments it’s much harder to worry about tomorrow. And, of course, there’s a fine balance between planning and chaos. I tend to be a planner, a manager, a controller, even. But in the grieving process, I learned a lot about relinquishing control. I learned about what things I’m really responsible for, and that when you’ve done everything you can, it really is enough.

So I came to the keyboard tonight because I was distracted. Thinking of things other than the thing I was actually doing. And you know what? It occurred to me when I sit down to this keyboard, or that notebook, or that scrap of paper, or the back of that checkbook, and I start to write the words bubbling up from my brain or my heart, I’m not focused on anything but that. And the revelation: it is like meditation. These thoughts come up, they travel to my brain where my fingers are magically instructed as to what to type or write (without me even realizing it), and then they are gone. I don’t dwell on the sentence just written. Not now. I move on to the next one because the ones that are already down can be edited later. There is nothing cemented. Perhaps, with the embrace of my writerly self, with my acceptance of the world of words as part of my sphere of influence, I could take this same sense of pouring out and letting go as I sit and breathe in a meditation. Thoughts arise and pass. Thoughts arise and pass. And since there is no paper, no screen, no kilobytes to hold these thoughts, they merely slip away. No assessment, no force-ranking, no saving for later.

This week I’m going to embark on internalizing some of the changes I’m making. Letting the old flabby stuff fall away in favor of the leaner, stronger, more flexible me. Morning pages done as prescribed by Julia Cameron. Meditation done in the vipassana tradition. Centering prayer done as prescribed by J. David Muyskens.

Taking my inner self back to the beginning.

Wiping the slate clean and learning to be in the fullest of ways.

Living up close instead of observing from a safe, detached distance.



  1. Rachel, I can very much identify with the struggle to be present. I’ve just recently been discovering yoga and learning how to breathe…how breath is so centering. And I can also identify with the clarity that comes from writing. Wishing you focus and clarity and grace for yourself in it all.

  2. Susan Youmans

    is there ever a safe distance, when we detach? blessed by your permission giving this morning. be well…

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