“Where is love?
Does it fall from skies, above?
Is it underneath the willow tree
That I’ve been dreaming of?
Where is he?
Who I close my eyes, to see?
Will I ever know
The sweet “hello”
That’s meant for only me?”
About three weeks ago, I submitted my mind and body to the art of meditation. This was a form foreign to both my personal history with the practice, and distinct from one which had been introduced to me by someone else last summer.
As a child, I was brought into a scenario of contemplative silence every Sunday morning. The room was small, the gathering equally so. Unadorned by icon or precise ritual, this practice was simple: sit, quietly, and think about Jesus on the Cross, dying for the sins of the world.
Naturally, as a very young person, I could only submit to that which I understood. I looked around at everything and everybody, developing keen powers of observation; I listened to every sound, however fleeting or faint; I munched on pretzel sticks, Cheerios and Lucky Charms; and I squirmed, peeling the bare skin of my thighs away from the sticky, plywood seat beneath.
Many years hence, one attempt at a yoga class re-visited the art. But, my body, twisted by scoliosis, resisted cooperating with the shapes it was required to take during the sessions, and I walked away.
A year ago, almost to the day, an old boyfriend briefly re-entered my world. He’d been immersed in the daily ritual, a fervent follower of its most earnest gurus from across the globe. He descended with a pronounced pounce, declaring my shortcomings and every solution to be found in: breathing correctly; sitting correctly; posing correctly; and, most importantly, following correctly his every instruction. I soon tired of his dogma of serenity, jumped back on my feet, and resumed the frenetic, mind-driven personality to which I had become accustomed for a lifetime.
But, last month was different.
First of all, I was highly motivated. This seminar promised to transform our lives. We were assured that any chronic anxieties would dissipate. Any roadblocks to performance success would finally be dismantled. I anticipated this liberation with very great hopefulness.
Sitting still was the clincher. Twenty minutes being my learned limit, not only did we sit so still, we did so for almost two hours at a time. Ever the agitating agitator, I became acutely aware of just how frequently my body adjusted itself in the seat. Every nerve ending was primed to attention. I was teeming with energy, having no apparent place to put it.
We were prompted with a single, verbalized thought: “I am anxious.” No kidding. No shit, Sherlock. But, next, the prompt: “There is a place of anxiety in me.” That was odd. Apparently, the anxiety did not have to own us; rather, we could own a position detached from it. But, first, we had to identify its location, and then its features, and then just recognize it. In silence. Sitting still.
Over the next several days, my mind began the slow process of adjustment. I sat up straight, letting my spine sink into the chair and my feet into the floor. My emotion of the moment was named. I found its place. I felt its energy. And, I sat with it.
The outcome of the seminar met its every claim, fulfilling every promise. I was truly transformed. The demons were expunged. I was healed.
That was last month.
Today, I sit with this emotion. I feel bereft. The one who said he loved me, and I him, is not with me. I have identified the place of forlorn emptiness. I feel its shape, its every aspect. This one is large. It fills most of me, my entire torso, leaving only my appendages to dangle uselessly. Like grief, it fights mightily for every ounce of energy. I struggle to detach from its power. How can love, and the need for it, overtake a person so completely? Where did all this come from, anyway? Didn’t I just write about the whole thing last week?
I speculate. It’s my nature. Perhaps mindfulness practices are only beneficial when the other parts of the human need matrix are already well put together. Perhaps basic needs should be addressed separately. Somebody said awhile ago that music and art are important, but they don’t feed the hungry. Perhaps that is a point well taken.
Oliver sang those lyrics quoted above, in the musical of the same name. He stood, an orphan, looking out at the stars, asking the universe for the most fundamental force in all of life to come into his heart and feed him. Today, I feel like an orphan in the war of love. Even meditation doesn’t succour me. Somebody else is getting the one I need, and accepting that I must endure the reality yet again after two thirds of an average lifetime is just about more than any quiet contemplation can resolve.
So, again today, I will love myself. You’ll pardon my absence. The task is rather enormous. There is a lot of self to love in this room today. Many have said there is too much. Perhaps this is a molting phase so profound that the outcome eludes me. I think I hope so. Right now, the light is faint.
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo
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