Serious Meditation: What a turd can teach you.

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As I lay in my bed, there was a certain part of me that just didn’t want to execute my meditation practice, the beginning of my nightly ritual. It was one of those times where, even though you love doing a certain something, and know you will feel much better afterwards, you simply can’t bring yourself to do it. I had plenty on my mind – always do – and a nice meditation session was just what I needed to settle down and get some work done. Still, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. But, then, on the brink of abandoning the idea, the two palm trees outside my window waved at me, as if calling to me. Hmm, I thought to myself, I think you’re just bored of the idea. Get outside! That’s a big reason why you moved here, kid. Now get out there!

 

So, I threw on a sweatshirt, and some sweat-pants over the shorts I was wearing and headed toward the door. I sat on the edge of the couch and unlaced my black, low-top Converse shoes, singing the opening lyrics of a familiar song called The Weight, written by a group that used to play with Bob Dylan, they called themselves The Band.

 

I pulled into Nazareth, was a feelin’ bout half past dead.

I just need some place, where I can lay my head.

Mister, can you tell me, where a man might find a bed?

He just grinned and shook his head, ‘No,’ was all he said.

Take a load of Fanny,

Take a load for free,

Take a load of Fanny,

Annnndddd….

Ya put the load right on me.”

 

It wasn’t a particularly charming evening in San Diego – it was chilly, dimly lit, and you could barely hear the hum of the city over the windy air. As the sun set, I looked to the palm trees that had waved me out, and questioned their summoning quietly to myself: Really, tonight? It’s not even nice out. Unfortunately, the palms didn’t respond with much wit or wisdom – they just stood there, dancing with the wind and the few rays the sun had left. Although, if trees could smile, I’m sure these two would have smiled at the lesson I was about to learn…

 

“Take a load of Fanny,

Take a load for free,”

 

The closer I got to the bay, the more I people I saw getting on with their nightly ritual: runners, dog-walkers, parents playing with their children, and the like. There’s a hill that sits at the Crown Point Park, past the playground, just past the first few sets of picnic tables and the bathrooms, almost directly east of the basketball courts. It looked like a comfortable place to sit. So, I took my shoes off and walked in the cool grass – it was colder than I had expected – with the wind and the sun trailing off. I parked myself on a nice green patch of grass on the edge of the hill and set the alarm on my phone for twenty minutes. Then, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. As I exhaled I opened my eyes, and, there it was! A nice, brown turd sat about ten yards in front of me. And even though it was one little turd in this big, beautiful city, a tiny mark in this wonderfully expansive world, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I mean, c’mon, it was in my direct line of site! Out of all the things I could have been staring at, a turd!

 

I had to shake my head at the fac:. A turd! Discipline, Tyler, Discipline. Now, you can get through this, I coached myself.

 

Refocusing my vision, I stared at the turd, and let come what may.

 

It’s a funny thing, meditation; when practicing, you quickly find out the types of things that are consuming most of your energies. Meditation seems to act like a debugging, or an off-loading of thoughts and information. Shunryu Suzuki-roshi puts it, “When you practice zazen you should have a clearing of your mind. Like a good spring clean, you must take everything out first, and then you can keep what you want after.” Too many of our thoughts are useless baggage that come from other people or mediums and serve no purpose or positive influence. And as I sat there, turd gazing, my mind was flooded with negative things that were happening with other people, political power games being played at work that I was getting dragged into. And then there was the fact that this friggin’ turd was in my face, all turd-like and “Blah, blah, blah, look at me, I’m a turd!” Thanks palm trees, beautiful night to freeze my bosoms off so I can stare at a turd. What wisdom you have!

 

And, just then, in the heat of my steamy argument with the turd and the palm trees, during the fury of drama at work and the astonishing asshole-dom that some people choose to live in, in a time of total frustration, the wind whipped me “directly on the buttocks” and my eyeline was raised; my posture improved as I let in a breath of fresh air; my eyes focused themselves with a new clarity. I wasn’t looking at the turd anymore, nor was the turd, along with it’s stinky brethren, occupying my thoughts. There was a stillness that came over the moment, a stillness that likes to show it’s face every once and awhile, during meditation, an apparent beauty between turds and assholes.

 

A runner was cruising around the bay in the sand. A man, probably in his fifties, was breathing heavy and yelling. “Let’s go! F*** yeah!” He cheered himself on a few times. He went from one side of my gaze to the other, and as he passed by me the water rippled with the wind. Most of the daylight was gone now, and silence came upon the moment once more.

 

The night had colored the sky and the water a soft, but deep purple, and the city lights lit the edges of the water with a peach-cream orange. Quick gusts of soft wind rippled the water in various spot of the bay. The chill had made itself at home in my body, and my toes were getting cold; yet, there was a kind of comfort to the chill setting in. Birds buzzed around, the wind whispered and moved the water, a light blinked to my left and vehicles hauled their drivers, racing to their destinations. I could see so much so clearly with a single gaze. My shoulders relaxed, my breath became full; I was open, upright, listening to the siren of the ambulance off in the distance, the buzz of the city, the whispers of the wind, all at once; I could see everything, even the turd.

 

But the turd had lost it’s affect on me; it was still there, still needed to be cleaned up so some chipper person didn’t come strolling by and unknowingly plaster poo all over his or her bare little tootise. Ahhhh, I hate dogs! Why can’t people pick up after their pets! That’s the Dish Rule, my friend, a thought for another time.

 

Apologies, my mind has taken off once again. Back to the beauty of the night: I closed my eyes once more, took in a nice deep breath, exhaled and opened my eyes. Yep, you guessed it, turd’s still there. I smiled though, and let my breath upright my gaze and posture; the totality, the beauty I could now see!

 

And then the alarm rang. So, I stretched my feet and let the feeling come back to them before I stood up. Shoes on, head high and a smile on my face, I took another look down at the turd, gave it a wink and turned to head home. But not before I took it all in again. If I would have had a plastic bag, I probably would have picked it up – I didn’t, and so, maybe the turd still had some teaching to do. Thanks, turd, and thanks for waving me outside palm trees.

 

Lesson learned: Try not to stare at shit life sets in front of you for too long.

 

“Take a load of Fanny,

Take a load for free,

Take a load of Fanny,

Annnndddd….

Ya put the load right on me.”