Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Work of Noticing (A Meditation)

"It's easy to be miserable, hard to live in joy." -- Luis Urrea

I like to suffer. That's part of why I ride my bike up the local mountain, Mount Lemmon, whenever I can find an open slot of opportunity. The road climbs along contours as it passes through bio-regions ranging from low desert to alpine, saguaros to Douglas fir.

Suffice it to say, the trip is physically demanding and visually stunning. The mix of breathing and beauty make for a fine meditation, an exercise in paying attention to the here and now, the sensory abundance of light, sound, touch, smell, and peace. I see, depending on the season, that the brittlebush is blooming, that fairy dusters are past their prime, that trees are beginning to bud, that tarantulas are on the move, that datura (angel's trumpets) have spread up a slope or along the road shoulder.

I see that what I think is the "real world" -- deadened senses, drudgery, plodding responsibility, flattened emotions -- is not the only world. There is another world, and it requires getting out and taking note. It helps to move around too, but not at the cost of losing touch.

What I notice is not just the surrounding stimuli, but the change on my state of mind that noticing creates. I go from a harried worker bee to a content, happy, open human being.

(This is all pretty hard stuff to put into words, so hang in there.)

I notice how hard it is to sustain attention on the here and now, for one thing. I tend to operate on a default setting of mental distraction and chatter. I live in a world of stories about things, of judgments, of reactions, or resistance, of complaint. I don't know where all this came from, but likely it is how I learned to live in this crazy world.

So, here I am on the mountain, breathing hard, going up a canyon with winter run-off shining in the sunlight, when I am pulled back into chatter about work, about money, about cars that need fixing. I turn the focus of my attention, my noticing, back to breathing, back to the water, the breeze, the road running beneath my wheels. I turn my attitude away from things I feel bad about not being able to control toward the joy of just pedaling up a mountain.

As soon as I get there, the noise resumes and tries to pull me back into worry, to backing off, to leaving the here and now for the there and then. I repeat my effort to stay here.

Noticing requires intention and effort. It's a war. It's work. It's the will to learn new things, new ways of being, to listen the moment of here and now, and how that naturally leads to gratitude, peace, presence, response to what is. My "soul," that life energy aware of itself, and my chatter-box ego, the construction called me, that's wants only to be hungry and miserable in a blizzard of distraction, do battle. For lack of better words, I am learning that noticing, paying attention, is a way for my soul to rein in, and to reign over, the habits of the ego.

That's real work.

And it goes on and on, until the chatter gives in, quiets down, surrenders to my focused intention.

It is the way and memory of residual wildness that howls in joy at the night moon.

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