Thursday, December 2, 2010

Angry Post-It Notes

So I am doing this meditation class with a Buddhist nun. I didn’t know South Carolina even had any Buddhist nuns, much less I’d end up with one for a teacher. But Big City Art Museum is holding a meditation series, and almost every Thursday morning since it started I’ve been sitting right there in the gallery, trying to breath out my delusions as black smoke and breathe in the clear white light of a peaceful mind.

It’s not working so well just yet.

I not only have monkey mind, I have an attention deficient hyperactive monkey on speed mind. One minute I’m there, dutifully breathing, trying to sit still, then I’m making a to-do list and then I’m in the middle of an imaginary conversation at work about an imaginary situation that will never happen. But it could, Ms. Monkey insists, and what will you do then? and I obediently follow her around and around and around entertaining that remote possibilitity.

Last week our teacher started talking about anger—first notice the mind of anger or irritation or annoyance, then gently redirect the mind from this inappropriate attention to a virtuous object. It feels like there are about as many virtuous objects knocking around in my mind as there are Buddhist nuns in South Carolina. Our teacher says all her students claim that anger isn’t a problem for them—they wouldn’t be in a meditation class if they had anger issues!—so the first step is recognizing our anger. Take a Post-It, she suggests, and make a tally mark for each time you notice your mind shifting into that angry mind.

I haven’t actually made it yet through a whole day remembering to keep my tally. My Post-It keeps getting covered up on my desk. And I was afraid I would come home with pages and pages of angry Post-It notes. This is what I imagined:

I will say, though, I have much less angry mind now than I have probably in years. Things that once drove me crazy have begun to seem just not quite so earth shattering, and even when I do get angry, it seems less and shorter. Yesterday’s actually looked like this, and that was getting through lunch, so that was pretty good, actually.

The meditation class has only been going on a couple of months, so I don’t think I can chalk all that up to my teacher, though she’s very good. It’s been a long process, one patient and loving intervention after another with my codependent inner self. The balance between a little self-affirmation and my overly critical inner voice is pretty delicate, I have to say, and I think I only got that little bit of balance by noticing that I was very very hard on myself, far more than I would ever have dreamed of for someone else, and in fact, sometimes just plain mean. I still feel like a fruitcake, a stereotype of white girl in art gallery pretending to meditate (see what I mean about meanness?), and any second now I could break out and start shedding my childhood traumas by running with wild wolves and loving too much, or whatever the new trend might be.

But one morning in class, I lost myself a moment or two or ten in this absolute quiet, a deep purple mandala blooming over and over again in front of my closed eyes, my body gone, I think—I couldn’t feel my hands in my lap, my feet on the floor, the backs of my knees pressing against the titled seat. Only this silence, this still moment of peace that brings me back the next Thursday and the next.

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