Stuck in a Moment?

"Rock, Hard Place" Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.I’m feeling that prickly sensation of mild sunburn on my forehead and the backs of my legs. After two weeks out of the water and away from Baja, it’s good to be home. I wasn’t so sure that I’d be feeling this way though. I wasn’t sure I was going to want to come home.

I’ve not only been MIA from this blog for a while, but I’ve been feeling MIA from life a fair bit too. I’ve been struggling, depressed and lonely. I’ve been fighting with the realities of my lifestyle.

I’m pretty sure I can hear you thinking where do I get off feeling this way? Believe me, I’ve been told many times and am usually very aware that I have every reason to be content, that I live a life most people would give a few fingers for. My ex, in his eloquence, is fond of saying I’ve “got it dicked.” And I usually can convince myself that’s true and find a reason to be content, if not outright happy. But there’s something missing and so much of what is obvious from the outside looking in just masks the difficult realities of my lifestyle. To compound the problem, I feel a tremendous amount of guilt any time I feel dissatisfied. Feeling guilty about how I’m feeling does nothing to help the situation.

When I find myself in this place, I do my best not to wallow or let it drag me down into a pit of self-pity. What I do instead is gratefully acknowledge everything I have, eat right, drink less and try to figure out what fundamentally is making me feel like crap so I can fix it. The fix is always one of two things – an attitude adjustment or something external I can change. Typically the former approach is enough to turn things around, but when the depression is the result of too much partying and surfing, and not enough sleep, changing my external circumstances can work wonders. This time though the only cause I could come up with was that I had been living in isolation for eight months and needed to get out. Getting out, however, requires funds, which are in short supply (for now, she optimistically writes), so I turned to my ex who’d been asking me to come help him with a landscaping project on Maui. He’d fly me to Hawaii in exchange for help with his project, some baking and home cooked meals.

The remarkable thing is that as soon as I booked my tickets, I felt better. Instantly. Days before my scheduled departure. I woke up early, enthusiastic for what the day would bring and looking forward to what lay ahead. I thought, “!s that all it takes? Something different to look forward to?”

As the plane took off and banked North in the direction of San Francisco, I felt a elephantine weight lift and my mood shifted skyward with the plane. Less than 24 hours in San Francisco and I started to think, “Maybe I should move to California and get a real job, get involved in some kind of community work…rejoin civilization.” Yeah, I can barely believe it either.

And then, rather than laugh at myself, leave it at that unbelievable thought, and return to my unreal life, I said out loud to three well-connected people, “So if you know anyone who’s looking for someone to house sit, a writer or editor, or anything really, let me know.”

On Maui, I began the process of formulating a plan that would make my new dream come true. I even came up with a way I could have my cake and eat it too. “I’ll get a writing job that only requires that I be in the office periodically.” And there were thoughts of landing a regular house- and animal-sitting gig.

The time on the island went fast. Too fast. I kept thinking up reasons why I should stay longer. “We didn’t accomplish enough on the project.” “I should go to this writing workshop that’s scheduled on the Sunday after I’m supposed leave.” “I didn’t get to have good pizza.” “I really should go see friend X.” But I had responsibilities back home that couldn’t wait and some disturbed weather off the coast of southern Mexico suggested a tropical storm might form sooner rather than later. I kept to the original plan and promised myself I’d return to the City by the Bay this fall or winter.

The flight from Maui to San Francisco, via Portland is not short. I had plenty of time to get caught up on my reading. I’d packed my Kindle in my checked baggage by mistake, so I read the only thing I had handy – Volume 24.3 of The Surfers Journal. And as I read from front to back cover, three quotes in three separate articles resonated with me, revealing a theme that shed light on the source of my dissatisfaction.

It’s easy to feel isolated when you’re no longer part of mainstream life.”

Day after day, no matter how perfect the waves get, there is a feeling of remoteness here, a sense that the rest of the world is moving along, more engaged, more connected, and more interesting.”

I felt a pang of recognition delivered with the pointier end of a stick as I read the last one:

If every day is a holiday, there are no more holidays.”

There they were, hard, sharp, and undeniable on the page – the three main reasons I was feeling down, along with their remedies:

Isolation, remoteness, and monotony versus engaged, connected, and interesting.

I feel, often, like I am on another planet or could be, for all the interaction I have with people. The little bit I have is limited in scope and time. What I’m struggling with, bumping up against, is the need to feel connected, deeply connected, to other members of the human race and to feel engaged in some cause that benefits others. But I’m scared by what that means. Really scared. That ache-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach scared. It’s the changes I’d have to make implied by this realization that scare the living shit out of me. And then I think, “What if this feeling is something that will pass and I end up regretting it for the rest of my life?” After all, we’re talking about walking away from what, for the most part, is a pretty amazing lifestyle. Then I worry that I’m looking in the wrong place for a solution to my dissatisfaction – external conditions. Maybe I just need to “do the work” and everything will turn rosy again. Maybe, just maybe, I’m “stuck in a moment and can’t get out of it.” But the memory of the epiphany I had on that plane tells me that’s just wishful thinking. The prospect of leaving this surfers’ paradise is daunting. But if at the other end I find meaning and fulfillment, the choice seems pretty obvious. Nevertheless, I don’t know. I just don’t know. Do you?

A Little Bit of Bliss

Image © Issare Rungjang courtesy of Dreamstime.com

Sometimes when I do yoga I am filled with this sense of calm contentment…happiness is what some might call it. Today was one of those days.

It’s flat and the surf has been non-existent or marginal since I returned from Canada on the 13th of May. I’ve been frustrated and irritable, in part, because of the poor conditions, in part because life hasn’t been cooperating, hasn’t been giving me what I want in other ways either. But today, today I meditated for the second time in a week after months of neglecting that practice and then I did my yoga.  By “my yoga,” I mean I did a series of asanas (postures) that were prescribed for me by my teacher and some that I do because I like to do them. They speak to my body in a way that is pleasing and brings a pleasant, healthful feeling to my being. Today the result is that, despite the way I’ve been feeling of late, I’m smiling as I type this (a gentle, non-tooth-revealing smile…one might even say a Mona Lisa-esque smile).

It wasn’t just the meditation or postures that led me to bliss today, it was a whole combination of things. The music that played as I moved into the next series of postures (Rejuvenation by Ron Allen), the uncharacteristically cool breeze wafting through the windows and across my body, the slight scent of pineapple in the air from the fruit left, like an offering, by my dear friend upon departure. It’s the book I’m reading too, that has given me a sense of inner peace and acceptance of things I have little control over. Things like who I fall in love with and how they react to my love. This little book is so full of wisdom and Truth that it blows my mind every time I pick it up. I’m underlining, in pencil, the passages that strike me and that I know to be the kind of wisdom that will set me free. Free from anxiety, free from loneliness, free from the depression that comes from anxiety, loneliness and a sense of having no control over one’s destiny that plagues me from time to time (particularly when the surf is off).

The book to which I am referring is “Love, Freedom, Aloneness: The Koan of Relationships.” It’s a compilation of teachings given by Osho, an eastern mystic to whom westerners flocked in the 1970s. I was introduced to the teachings of Osho by my Dutch artist friend. He too flew to India to hear him speak after a colleague of his underwent a dramatic, positive transformation by the experience. Like so many mystics, Osho is not without his detractors, nor flaws, but more than twenty years after his death he maintains a loyal following and his teachings continue to be published as theme-based collections by a major New York publishing house, St. Martin’s Press.

Of love, Osho said:

Love yourself…This can become the foundation of a radical transformation. Don’t be afraid of loving yourself. Love totally, and you will be surprised: The day you can get rid of all self-condemnation, self-disrespect – the day you can get rid of the idea of original sin, the day you can think of yourself as worthy and loved by existence – will be a day of great blessing. From that day onward you will start seeing people in their true light, and you will have compassion.

Create loving energy around yourself. Love your body, love your mind. Love your whole mechanism, your whole organism. By “love” is meant, accept it as it is.

Love is possible only when mediation has happened. If you don’t know how to be centered in your being, if you don’t know how to rest and relax in your being, if you don’t know how to be utterly alone and blissful, you will never know what love is…[because] Love is a sharing of overflowing joy. [During] meditation one is bathed in one’s own glory, bathed in one’s own light. One is simply joyous because one is alive, because one is… The greatest miracle in the world is that you are, that I am. To be is the greatest miracle – and meditation opens the doors of this great miracle.

When my meditation practice of many years waned a while back, as it often does, my yoga teacher said matter-of-factly, “You must make time to meditate. It is the most important thing. Everything else comes after.” I looked at her in disbelief and she responded, “Yes, more important even than asana practice.” Then, sensing my resistance, she looked at me sideways and said in her don’t-mess-with-me voice, “Just do it! Just sit. How hard is that?”

I’d love to hear from readers about your experiences with meditation. Or perhaps you’ve wanted to begin a practice of your own, but don’t know where to start. Here’s a link to a great little book that helped me get started.