Learning to be.

I suffer from verbal diarrhoea. Being a writer is an extension of what I do best, I guess. Talk.

To myself, to the help, on the phone, and in the bath. However this is especially true when I walk in the park and try to squeeze in thirty minutes of exercise into a sixteen-hour day, all the while yakking away about I-me-and myself to whoever will oblige me at this early hour.

Until I returned from a vacation where I discovered the Sweet sound of Silence.

The holiday had been a chilled out affair – no sightseeing, no itineraries, no place to go but to relax and read and play with the kids and eat three hearty meals. Interspersed with long, quiet walks in the sprawling, green resort.

I came back determined to try to prolong these moments of peace and incorporate them into my busy life. My walks in the park lent themselves beautifully to this little experiment, and so it began.

I reach the park. I spend the first five minutes inhaling the clean, fresh air, feeling the warmth of the sun’s rays on my face, phone firmly ensconced in my jacket pocket.

The next few minutes are spent observing the other walkers – middle-aged men making up their own exercises, as they bent and stretch and twist into shapes I am sure can’t be good for them; young mums like myself, who were racing around the park in a desperate bid to fight the inches that are adding up slowly and relentlessly; senior citizens all wrapped up in scarves, caps and thick sweaters, the ammunition of the elderly.

I check the time on my phone. Just five minutes have passed since I entered the park. How is that possible, I wonder? My fingers itch to punch the familiar buttons. I control myself and try and focus on the trees.

Another round passes with difficulty. Maybe I should calculate how many minutes it takes to do a full round of the park. I soon find out it takes about two minutes. Which means I have about 11 rounds ahead of me. Not bad. I begin to keep track, but lose focus after a (very short) while.

Damn, it’s tough to do nothing. Is it healthy I wonder?

Then I remember the beautiful old fable of the monk who pours tea into his disciple’s cup until it begins to overflow, and still he does not stop.

‘Master, why do you continue to pour tea into the cup when it can hold no more?’ the puzzled disciple asks, knowing the master is trying to teach him a lesson.

‘To show you that until the mind is emptied it cannot appreciate any thing new,’ the wise master replies.

This then, is my truth. I consciously try to ignore the different streams of thought that enter my head, one after the other. ‘Not now’, I say kindly. ‘Maybe later.’

And slowly I begin to relax. I can hear the birds twitter and call to each other in the canopies of green above. I know nothing of flowers or plants, yet even my untrained eye is able to pick out the beauty of their structure:  an elegant pale yellow flower is the perfect receptacle for the delicate morning light; a leaf stands to attention and threatens to scare off intruders with it’s serrated edges. The water gushing out of the tap makes a pleasant sound as a gardener washes his brown feet in it, even as I pad past in my worn-out Nike’s.

Now everything is a discovery, everything is beautiful, and mine for the taking.

I practise everyday and somehow hold out to the temptation to lose myself in words and more words. Some days are good, while others see me distracted and frustrated with the effort of trying not to think and ponder and plan – like I do every second of my life.

Then slowly, the results begin to shine through. Besides my walks, I have begun to be more aware of the small joys and blessings that surround me. A purple carpet of flowers welcomes my daughter as she toddles into pre-school. She knows they are the Jacaranda, something I learnt a few days ago and promptly shared with her. I begin to feel the hot water run down my legs and massage my tired muscles. I play more with my kids, I sleep better, and I have more energy and enthusiasm for another day.

We all carry our own miracles inside us. We just have to slow down and allow ourselves to find them.

p.s. Sadly, I have reverted to my old, hyper ways. But the spin-off of all that ‘taking-in-the-world-around-me’ has been that I now discovered a new interest in plants – especially flowers (I love flowers – my earliest childhood memories are of our beautiful garden in Ooty, where we used to spend the summer). From knowing next to nothing about flowers, I now know a little bit more. And what is more, my kids know it too. I’ve also decided to try practising some quiet time all over again. Have to run off now though – the phone’s ringing.

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4 thoughts on “Learning to be.

  1. the way you write about your experience is sooo utterly beautiful!!
    thank you for sharing. and by the way, this is all too familiar an experience for me. I started my meditation practice 3 years ago and still experience the struggle. But those moments of mindful awareness are more frequent…all i can do is try and try again…

  2. such a lovely read, z. reminds me of “eat, pray, love” when she’s trying to learn to meditate. i miss our walks in the park. 🙂

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