One of my goals for this writing retreat is to start doing daily meditation. Intuitive people don’t need to spend a lot of time with me before they, almost to a person, ask me if I meditate. When I say, “No, but I’m sure I should,” they never jump down my throat, but there’s always a clear implication that what they are saying by saying nothing is, “Yes. Yes you should. And right now.”
So this morning I did it. I woke up in the navy blue black of early morning. I realized I had survived my first night in the coal black (don’t get me started on the storms that came through!). I looked out the window, and there was that full moon, shining down on me, popping in and out of the fast moving clouds that are why the trees sang to me all night long.
I got up eagerly and moved through the upstairs of my two-week home away from home without turning on a single light. I wanted to see the sunrise as it was making its presence known to the day. I made tea and wrapped up in my writing shawl and walked out to the end of the driveway to get a better view across the fields.
And then I came in and did my first visualization meditation.
I turned my phone to Do Not Disturb. I set my timer. I closed my eyes. I focused on my breathing.
And suddenly, I was back near Kerhonksen, NY, at a worn out, 1940s Jewish boys summer camp where I was studying Shakespeare with 49 others with the National Shakespeare Conservatory in 1994. Every morning for 11 weeks, we started the day lying on the ground and breathing. Just breathing. In…and out…and in…and out…
And invariably someone would start to cry. And that would trigger most of the rest of us (actors never let a good dramatic moment go unenthusiastically embraced!), and before you knew it, we were a soppy mess of tears and mucus. Then we’d get up and go on with our studies and our day.
I didn’t go all the way back to wailing, but I did get tears in my eyes as I focused on the in…and out…and in…and out…because there truly is something so visceral about paying attention to breath. It really does become a kind of spiritual experience, and I had forgotten about how much I enjoy immersing myself in that waveless pool of warmth and life.
For 12 minutes and 10 seconds, I breathed and let my mind wander to what I most desire. And you know what I saw? I saw myself talking to a sold out crowd of 2,500 people, mostly women but not all. I saw myself wearing a blazer where the sleeves actually were the right length (v. long arms!!!!!) and the cut was just perfect. I saw that my hair looked amazing and my glasses had no smudges on them. And I saw an amazing pair of high heels—I think they were one of my favorite pairs of J. Crew putty colored suede shoes that tie and buckle and have a 3 1/2 inch heel and cutouts along the side and are just the kind of shoes that make you go, “I love those shoes!”
I saw myself entertaining and enlightening and moving and changing the way people thought about their own lives and choices, their own failures and successes, their own paths.
I heard laughter and sniffles and resounding applause. I saw heads nodding and women turning to the people on either side of them and saying, “Right?” and “So true.” and “Yes, a thousand times yes!”
And I walked off that stage transformed.
Because that moment feeds everything I am and everything I want to be. I want to connect with people, and while I like one on one, I would always prefer an audience—the energy, the back and forth, the performative elements, the lights, the mic—all of it. I know my story has resonance for others. I weave humor and intellectualism and self deprecation and failure and joy and fear and success into a powerful tapestry that wraps listeners up and gives them something to hold onto, to take away and to use as a catalyst for change in their own lives.
And when that happens, the most powerful thing of all occurs: I’m changed, too. I’m made better, too. I forgive myself for my failures, too. I stop and am thankful for all that is present in my life today, too. I look ahead to the next summit on my journey with anticipation and gratitude and enthusiasm, too.
And as I walked off that stage in my mind’s eye, I opened my eyes to my present and realized that today is day two of my writing retreat, and I have the opportunity and time to start building that talk, the very talk I gave to those 2,500 people.
I already know how it’ll start: How many of you enjoy being uncomfortable? Who here likes to fail? How many of you can’t go to bed until you’ve checked everything off your to do list for the day?
Sit back, get comfortable and tune in, because I’m about to disrupt all that…
Read Day III: Hitting the first slump