What Would That Be Like?: Everyday Magic, Day 363

I woke up this morning thinking about my friend Judy, who is in the Rockies on a 90-day meditation retreat. She’s living in a very small cabin and spending her time meditating, eating, walking, doing little household chores, sleeping and then doing more meditation. She’s done this before for 30 days and so she had a pretty good sense of the routine, which just kind of fascinates me. What would it be like to go 90 days without interacting with other humans (well, outside of talking with them and even arguing with them in your own mind)? What would it be like to have life stripped down to the essentials? What would it be like to sit and walk with your thoughts and thinking with so little interruption?

Judy, a long-time Zen Buddhist and teacher at our local Zen Center, has been at this for almost a month now, and I think of her often……while I’m driving the kids here and yonder while the news blares more sadness and stuckness…..while I’m laughing so hard at a funny movie that I’m crying at the same time…..while I’m washing the dishes or putting a pile of just-washed shorts on the shelf. “What is it like for her at this moment?” I wonder. At the same time, I know that Judy is just about the least romantic person in the world on what it

Judy leading one of our Passover seders

means to go into the mountains and meditate for 90 days. She doesn’t expect any transformation, revelation or enlightenment, which is exactly why I wonder if she’s occasionally landing into moments of ecstasy and wonder in those high altitudes.

I increasingly love being alone — mainly because I realize how much I’m never alone, just void of other humans so I can hear the wind through the hackberry tree and the waves of cicadas. Yet I don’t imagine ever going off on my own to meditation for 90 days, even 9 days actually although maybe 90 minutes is in my future. Instead I sit on my porch at this moment and think of Judy, wishing her well and excited to hear, in about 60 more days, what she experienced.

On Not Driving Myself Crazy: Everyday Magic, Day 121-122

Just back from 27 hours of mostly solitude in the woods at Shantivanam, the world is clean, wet and cold, but all is well. I walked, rested, collaged, tried to tune the cello, replaced the C-string on the cello, tuned the cello close enough to pick out notes, read, listened to a lot of Pema Chodron tapes, watched part of a cheesy spiritual video narrated by a Shakespearean actor, fast-forwarded the video, read more, ate crackers and coup, played the cello, did a little yoga and mostly slept and stared at the window.

The cold weather that moved in came easy and slow, and I watched and felt some of it last night when I stood in a parking lot, one of the few places where there’s phone reception, and talked to Ken while watching the moon and its pink rainbowy-dreamy ring travel over mackerel clouds. The rain fell. The wind came and went. I sat in some silent prayer and had a few seconds of not thinking about anything. I watched dishes with care. I didn’t check email.

When I pulled away this afternoon, it felt right — a little time to step out of the vibrancy of regular life to the vibrancy of solitude. A little time to consider and just be without trying to know or do. And a lot of time to not drive myself crazy

Solitude is the New Sexy: Everyday Magic, Days 119-120

I love my husband, kids, friends, community, and especially kitty cat, but sometimes a gal just needs to go be far, far away in a place beyond the reach of cell phone, email, animated conversations and peaceful sojourns washing dishes in between driving here and yonder.

So tomorrow I’m slipping off to Shantivanam, a retreat center owned by the Catholic Church, open to all people, and immersed in a beautiful forest on a hill near a small town. It’s also about an hour from home. For many years, I would go there for a few days, then Ken would join me for a weekend of us alone together, and then I would go home and he would stay on for a few days alone. It was our touchstone for peace and replenishment. This year, we went to New York instead, which was great, but every so often I would turn to Ken and say, “I love all this, but the city is so stimulating that I have no time to integrate it all.”

In any case, tomorrow, tomorrow night and a large portion of Wednesday, I’ll be there, in a small cabin in the woods. I’ll walk in the day and especially at night around the woods and into places made sacred by careful attention to making their beauty visible. There will be journals, books, art supplies, and the cello….and hopefully, without access to the outside world and just me myself, the noise in my head will decrease at least 10%, maybe 14%. Here’s wishing us all little spaces to lower the inner volume and let in more quiet.