Tony was always an early riser. In the last year or so of his life, he frequently would get up at 4:00 to write, and quite often that meant that he would be falling asleep by 8:30 or so, well before I was ready to go to bed. Things were pretty stressful for me on a lot of different fronts, and so I decided to try meditation. I used the mantra that Elizabeth Gilbert talks about in Eat Pray Love. It’s a simple one: Hamsa. In Sanskrit, it means, “I am that.” Its simplicity appealed to me, and I found that the more I worked at meditation, at quieting my noisy brain, the deeper I was able to get into a state of profound relaxation and tranquility.
I have not been able to do that since Tony died. I’ve tried, but it is just so hard to let go of all thought and I have been so frustrated by my failure (my word) to do what I used to do, if not easily, at least somewhat well.
Last week, my therapist suggested that I stop trying. Not stop trying meditation, you understand. Stop trying so HARD, though, to achieve the goal of perfect calmness that I was striving for. She suggested that maybe I could think about just sitting quietly without a fixed goal.
So on Monday after I finished work for the day I took a chair out to the sunny lawn. I talked to my friend Jodi for a bit. I had a book with me, but after my phone call I lay back in the chair and closed my eyes and just… was. I simply existed, in that moment, in the warm sun surrounded by bird calls and breezes and the smell of grass and the occasional nudge of Diego’s nose against my hand. When my brain got too busy I let it run, and before long I found myself in a state that, while maybe not technically a trance, was the closest thing to true calmness that I have experienced in a very long time. I wasn’t trying, and I got there. An exercise in non-meditation turned into a lesson in metaphysics.
That’s my struggle, encapsulated in one short space of time. I put an enormous amount of pressure on myself. I think on some level I believe that my grieving process should be different. That I’m failing, as ridiculous as that sounds, at grief. I am putting retrospective pressure on myself about how I dealt with Tony’s mental illness. I am burying myself in shoulds. What that moment taught me is that I can get where I need to go. I can do it without pressure or blame or fault-finding or what my therapist calls “the tyranny of the shoulds.” I’m so accustomed to pushing myself that I know this will be hard, maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Trying not to try so hard … well, I’m going to have to try hard to do that. It would be funny if it weren’t so true.
Breathe in. Breathe out. I am that.