Textured Meditation

January 11, 2012

I wiped out while I was running today. It happens probably more often than it should, and every time I think I won’t tell anyone, not even Scott, because it’s embarrassing. What grown person takes a spill on a sidewalk and skins their knee like a child? Well I did, and here I am telling all of you about it. There wasn’t even really anything there, my toe caught a little lip of sidewalk, and there I was, palms pressed to the stones that comprise the sidewalk of Bleecker Street just outside of Bonpoint.

The important thing is not that I fell, my leggings and left knee are a little worse for the wear, but I’m fine. It kind of put a sour note on my run though. I already just wanted to get it over with (sometimes I love it, crave it, want it to go on forever, and sometimes I want to, you know, get on with the rest of my day) and the fall just made it worse. I could have turned around and gone home, but I kept going. I was sans iPod, no music, no podcast (I usually listen to NPR) and I was bored. I tried different things to distract myself. The one that worked was meditating, kind of. I have been trying to actively meditate at least a little bit for about a year now (wedding planning will make a girl look for some peace and balance) and it’s hard. It hasn’t gotten any easier and most of the time I think that I’m really terrible at it.

This time, while also mindfully putting one foot in front of the other, I tried to notice colors, focusing on the blue of the sky with a spare tire of smog hovering just above the New Jersey skyline. I looked at the Hudson’s murkiness, the gray of the stones of the path, the green, slick glass buildings at Perry Street. The thing that I noticed most this time, in winter’s drabness, was the amount of texture that there is in everything. The grass, a mottle of green, yellow and tawny brown looked more like a collection of Van Gogh brush strokes than anything else. Those stones were striated in different shades of slate and silver and the water of the river held ridges of opalescent (oil?) pale blue where it reflected the sky. Then there was the structure of the trees and the gears of a passing bicycle and I was absorbed. Is this mediation? I’m not sure, but it made the run go faster and my head wasn’t spinning with what classes I’m going to take and when I’m going to finish the Greenmarket project that I’m working on, and the other zillion things that spiral through.

While we were in Big Sur, Scott and I had a conversation about hiking. I was eager to go to bed early so we could get up in the morning and climb through those mountains. But what if, he asked, you can see the view from the ground? from the road? (we could, and had, and would see more jaw-dropping vistas from the PCH), what’s the point? if you want exercise, why not just go for a run? It was the first time I was really forced to articulate why I love hiking, why I did it every summer through high school and why it factored so heavily in college. I realized that it’s meditative for me. It’s like meditation with training wheels. You’re mostly focused on putting one foot in front of the other, not tripping (you can imagine how hard that is for me when there are rocks and roots involved, given my history with sidewalks), absorbing what’s around you. The view is nice motivation, but it’s more than that, it’s a place to clear your mind and reset, and to that end, it doesn’t matter that much if I’m in Big Sur or in Vermont or Harriman State Park, where you’re close enough to the city to see the lights of the Empire State Building at night. It’s about the repetition of the steps and what that does to your thoughts.

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