Wk5, Day7: Mindfulness of Utility Bills

by Denise Bike 0 Comments

After five full weeks of practicing meditation two hours daily, subtle changes are making their way into my life. For instance, an unusual series of events began Monday related to my utility services. The most recent being a sudden $1300 charge on my bill and an inaccurate letter from the company attempting to justify it. My responses have surprised me.

There is one set of responses very interested in tracking the information, putting together the puzzle pieces, and resolving this issue. With it comes an emotional tone of curiosity (“I wonder how something like this could have happened?”) and interest (“What will be a good way to address this?”).

There is another set of responses very angry at this error, fearful about the large amount suddenly appearing on the bill, and determined to make the utility company ‘pay’ for this affront. With this latter set of responses, the mind makes itself busy churning away the series of events, ratcheting up a sense of righteousness and other unpleasant emotional reactions.

I initially watched these two sets of responses happen over the course of the week. It was nice to have the alternative of curiosity and interest arise organically, rather than intentionally inviting them as has been the case in the past. I credit that to regular mindfulness practice. It was also nice to recognize how much more space there was to choose my actions, based on which set of responses I wanted to continue engaging. That comes from this meditation practice as well.

Today, I turned the meditation into a more formal off-the-cushion practice. Each time the mind began to churn about injustice, I let it know I was not going to feed that part of the story. I reassured myself that I’ve already been conscientious with my paper trail and am taking appropriate steps. Further rumination serves no purpose.

Mindfulness in this daily form has so much to offer. And I believe this is made possible from the extension of daily practice I’m undertaking this twelve weeks. I’m very grateful.

Wk5, Day6: Surprise Eggs

by Denise Bike 0 Comments

I sit each day, in meditation for an hour when I wake up and another hour before I go to sleep. I have been meditating for around eight years now, though this 12-week project is the most dedication I’ve given to daily practice.

Over the years, I’ve become more familiar with the internal patterns that arise in response to daily life, in response to my responses to daily life. I’ve also developed a little bag of tricks, a friend calls it. The skillful means (upaya) that work for me. The various approaches that invite me back into the present.

I sit each day, open my mind, open my bag, and respond to what arises.

As known as this process is, and (as a dedicated soul-searcher for the past 47 years) as familiar as I’ve become with myself, each sit is a new experience.

Surprise eggs come time mind. I’m a little late to this trend, as is usually the case. Toddlers apparently are entranced by these online videos of a woman with brightly colored fingernails opening plastic eggs with little toys, stickers, etc. in them as she describes the process. A close friend with a young daughter, and several authors of articles I’ve read about surprise eggs, noted that children can watch the same ones over and over again equally enthralled. Each new unwrapping enthralls as much as the last. Just like meditation.

What awaits inside your surprise egg?

Wk5, Day5: Open Space

by Denise Bike 0 Comments
Wk5, Day5: Open Space

In the summer between 6th grade and 7th, my family drove across country the month of August. My father re-tooled his work van with collapsible bunk beds on either side, a blow up mattress for my parents on the van floor, and a foam-covered plank placed across the driver and passenger seats for my older brother. My mother refashioned the letters of the HoneywellTM logo to read, “Hello,” inviting beeps and waves as we journeyed from Connecticut south and west to California then back home along a north and east route.

Five people in a van—two parents, 12- and 7-year old boys, and a highly introverted 11-year old girl—is a lot, and by the time we reached Arizona, we were all ready for a break. The Grand Canyon offered one to me, quite unexpectedly, at an overlook. These days it’s been built out. In 1979, it was just rock. There was not even a fully protective fence, just a single linked chain, draped through poles around five feet apart, giving the hint at where to safely stand but without obstructing the view. These were less litigious times.

I sidled up to the chain and leaning on it hung my feet over the edge, my then 4’8” frame easily clearing the space below the links. As people behind me chattered away, I got lost in the canyon. Time stopped, everything became silent. I disappeared. And at the same time, I had never more fully occupied my cells in my life.

Unaware of how much time had passed, I was eventually roused by my parents and brothers shouting my name. “Denise, for the millionth time already, come on. We’re leaving.” Up until that time, I did not know that life could feel so full and complete. I wandered behind them back to the van, took my seat on an upside-down bucket in the back, and spent the rest of the day’s drive gazing blankly as the scenery disappeared behind us.

Sometimes, when I’m in a sitting meditation, everything falls away. Just like that day at the Grand Canyon more three decades ago, I’m just sitting there, and suddenly time tops. Everything becomes silent. I disappear in one way and simultaneously become more present than I can remember is possible. That happened this morning.

Wk5, Day4: Today’s Walk

by Denise Bike 0 Comments

Just the water winding downstream, through the rocks and the pebbles.

Just the wind blowing the willow’s branches, and its leaves lightly rustle.

Just the chatter of a young girl as she takes her mother’s hand and they make their way home from school.

Just the solid sense of each step as the foot falls, of each breath in alignment.

Each moment, arising then falling away.

Just perfect.

Wk5, Day3: Washing Away the Day

by Denise Bike 0 Comments

Some days it feels possible to be so present in the shower that I experience the residue of the day’s events washed from my system as the soap circles its way down the drain. It’s a fall day that’s unseasonably lovely. Low- to mid-70s. I choose a cool-to-warm temperature, more cool than warm, which surprises me at first until I realize I like it.

The cool water hits my head and back, and I tense slightly at the shock, noticing the urge to make myself relax and instead stay with the startle for a moment longer. My muscles gradually decide to release on their own. I grab my favorite shampoo, the same brand a high school friend and I used to “waste” (in our mother’s minds) our babysitting money on. As then, tonight the scent lifts me with its mimicking of fresh air and lilac. How do they do that?

Showering has an order for me, and I allow myself the routine as a container for tonight’s meditation. As on retreat: we walk, we return to the sitting room, we listen, we sit, we walk, we return to the sitting room, we sit. In the shower, we shampoo and wash the face, ears, and neck, we rinse the hair face, ears, and neck, we brush in the conditioner and wash the body, we rinse the body, then the conditioner. We dry. The routine provides a container for the monkey mind, which is soothed by the process of knowing what to expect. Procedural tasks like this access implicit memory, no conscious thought is called for. I give myself permission to not be conscious in the movements so I can be conscious of their effects.

Each new washing is a point of contact with myself. How gently can I attend to this being in this moment? An image comes to mind of an infant on a viral video being cradled in the caregiver’s palm and forearm and she is immersed in warm water for a bath. What is it like to move in the direction of that level of tenderness? To that level of new mind, welcoming this experience that has never happened on this day, at this time, under these circumstances, ever before and that will never happen as such again? Some days this feels possible.