I found myself stumbling over my words, in my eagerness to tell a coworker about meditation. And now I am spinning in the backwash of my own enthusiasm: so much invested, so much hoped, so much that fell short. And yet. I have only twice, that I clearly recall, moved distinctly, decisively, to a new and better state of being. One of those times was when I moved away from home: the second time was the result of a regular meditation practice. That's it, in 54 years; two doorways. And the other things I have invested in – many many things, over the years – have returned far less.
But have you said anything, when you say that? As opposed to, say, fingers threaded through the hair at the nape of the neck, or the shadow of a cloud leaving the trees? So little comes into focus at one time: and memory, the neurologists tell us, is rewritten every time it's accessed, so that what we remember often is precisely what we remember worst. The more often I've told a story, the less I should believe it. That, at least, I've known since before the first door opened.
I sat shamatha this morning, taking the cushion from the back of the love seat for a zabuton, and my pillow from the bed for a zafu. After a few breaths I realized I had forgotten the prayer at the beginning, the prayer in which one sets the intention. I thrashed a moment or two between the impulse to start over properly, and the discipline of not following the thought – any thought – even the thought of the dedication prayer. You start making exceptions and the whole thing unravels: everything's an exception. So I shook free, let it go, followed my breathing: the cold air nuzzling at my nostrils on the inbreath, the faint rasp of the outbreath, the uneasy multifidi and rotatores trying to second guess this strange stillness. Sometimes you can feel the ribs hanging from your spine, like a twelve sets of folded bronze wings.
The light grew in the room as I sat. I said the dedication prayer in full morning, as full as it gets here at the withered end of the year. People forget that Icarus also flew: the line comes unbidden into my mind, and my ribs move restlessly, reminding me of the flirt of a crow's tail while it balances on a power wire in a stiff wind. Or of the twitch of a cat's ears when they're brushed by a thread. I do long to fly: or at least to jump from floor to windowsill, and peer at the open sky.