Friday, September 17, 2010

Mountain High Enough

The more I meditate, the more I suck at it.

I’m fine with that. I think meditating is like doing pirouettes, where you have to get worse at 'em before you get better. Try to do one more than you usually do and the first few times you’re knocked on your ass or out of orbit, flailing and flapping all chickenly. It’d be hard for a chicken to do a pirouette, though, since they’re all about head bobbing. Can you even imagine? That would just get confusing for both chicken and viewer, should the chicken be on, say, Dancing with the Stars

Argghhh! Digress? Yes! But actually that’s exactly what happens in meditation. Thoughts fly in out of nowhere, and you’re supposed to let them float by like clouds. I had one thought recently during meditation that was so enticing, calling to me like a Siren—oh, let’s up the ante and make it a dark chocolate-wielding Siren with a basket of French bulldog puppies—that I had to just freakin’ flow with it.

I don’t know if it had to do with the fact that I was sitting directly in front of the air conditioning unit, but I started thinking about major league-level peace as a gi-normous snow-covered mountain.

Oh wait, it’s not just a mountain…it’s a cat as big as one! We’re talking Himalayan-sized, fur bright & snow-white. The cat’s shoulder blades form a big valley, the line of the spine a ridge, the tail a trail to the mountain’s base… And since we’re in the Himalayas, that means hundreds of gi-normous kitties all hanging out together!

It’s sort of surprising that I would envision peace as a mountain, since I function optimally at sea level. OK, I get majorly creeped out at the thought of being landlocked. I didn’t realize this until my infamous Denver vacation in the late 1990s. Here I am at the Buffalo Bill museum in Golden on our first full day, smiling like an idiot who had no idea in 20 minutes she’d be passing out just outside the door of her hotel room:

Even though we’d also just toured the Hakushika Sake Factory, I wasn’t drunk—I didn’t even take a sip! I realize in hindsight I must have been finishing up acclimating to the higher elevation, because I was right as rain after that, line dancing and riding the mechanical bull at the Grizzly Rose and hiking like a pro…until I read the travel guide in the car en route to Colorado Springs. Elevation sickness…what the heck is that?

So, of course, over the next few hours I gradually began to cook up interesting symptoms for myself, like dizziness and shortness of breath. I did such good work that my friend and cotraveler Petra had to drive me to the emergency room in the middle of the night, where they determined the level of oxygen in my blood was higher than most Colorado natives, but gave me a bunch of it anyway. The ER doctor was so, so sweet, and told me in the kindest way to put a bag over my head and get therapy. (Dude, I’d been all over that already for years!)

Does it come down to this—that ignorance is bliss? Because I have in fact displayed my best self on a mountain top. Here, just check this out:

This photo was taken in Greece, roughly a decade before the Colorado incident. We’re on an archaeology field trip during my semester abroad in college, and I’m pretty sure we’re somewhere in the Peloponnesus. That thing in the middle is a big honkin’ loaf of bread that I did not carefully arrange as the scene suggests but FLUNG there randomly from many feet away. See how it landed so perfectly? At the time it seemed a powerful sign to me—art is random and magic and everyone has the power to create, and you can find it anywhere if you just take a chance.

I don’t know why I was throwing bread, but I am sorry, Greece, for littering. And I hope the birds ate it.

Music for when the elevation gets you down


  1. I didn't know you spent a semester abroad in Greece! How wonderful--do you remember any of the language?

  2. Not too much, E--everyone wanted to speak English instead! But now you can see why it's a really big deal that I think the French feta is betta...

  3. Have you read or heard of Full Catastrophe Living? It's based on meditation, but even if you don't do the meditation part, the whole book makes so much sense. I enjoy things that make sense. I love the bread photo.

  4. Brenna, I'm going to hunt it down right now. After I figure out how to make sure I am pinged when I get a comment!