Rooting Down: A 40 Days of Devotion Update

Thanks, Mister, for taking this picture.  

Thanks, Mister, for taking this picture.  

I can hardly believe that I've been at this 40 Days of Devotion practice for halfway.  There's all kinds of writing out there about change management and cultivating hew habits, but to look back over the last two and a half weeks and know I've been holding steady at this practice is really encouraging. Doing anything quietly isn't really in my nature, and as much as I love cultivating stillness, it's been really difficult for me to do.

Theatre geek that I am, I keep thinking of that line from Macbeth, right after he's been scared to death by the ghost of Banquo, when he's thinking about all the ugly, deplorable stuff he's done to become king, and says, I am so far into this river of bloody deeds that to wade out were as difficult as to continue forward. (Yeah, it's totally morbid to compare my fledgling meditation practice to an overambitious soldier's murdering ways, and My Mister would say it's also mad pretentious to paraphrase Shakespeare in a blog post, but hey, I did 'em both!)  I look back and think I can't believe I came this far; and every time I'm tempted to let the day, the hour, the moment when I'd sit just slide by me, I think, how hard it would be to start from scratch and build up all this momentum, all this positive energy propelling me forward.

Lots of people make promises of what a mantra practice will DO for YOU! As if the Hindu pantheon were a cohort of cosmic gift givers, you pick your problem, pick your deity and pick your blessing. On further reflection, reminds me some of the contemporary prosperity doctrine that's taken hold of the Christian church, but that's a thought for another day. Anyway, I remember when I started, wanting very much not to approach my chanting practice with that in mind: this is not about chanting loudly or softly or sweetly or earnestly enough that I will earn favor demonstrated to me in the form of more money or travel, a new home, a thinner body, stronger arms, more flexible hammies, or any of the other objects or experiences I covet from day to day. This doesn't mean there wasn't anything I hoped to get: I definitely had my hand out. But I was seeking different qualities, as opposed to stuff.

I hoped to become less angry. I've been a person who is easily angered my whole life, and by so many things: I curse at drivers in traffic, I get belligerent when store clerks ignore me when I approach them for help, and I shoulder-check perfect strangers on the street who assume I will move out of their way. Usually these are white people, but not always, and I don't discriminate; I take up space, I demand that space, and I seldom apologize for it. There's plenty true about doing life as a woman of color that makes it reasonable to be angry. But often, I can see life around or above or apart from our fucked-up social constructs. At my best, I can see more humanity, and I sometimes I wish I weren't this way. I wish I were more accommodating of people for whom I am an obstacle and not a human, people who are consumed by their own lives and who have no problem expecting that I'll accommodate them. More than anything, I have trouble letting go of anger, of the pain I feel as a response to the behavior of loved ones, past and present, who either don't know or don't care that they've hurt me, and can't or won't make amends.

There's so much more to say about that. Blog post on taking or sharing space forthcoming. 

Suffice to say, I'm angry a lot, and I hoped that this process would drain the anger out of me, pulling the plug on a cold, stinky dirty tub full of my anger.

Well, not yet. A few days ago, I flipped some guy off who cut me off in traffic, and last night I definitely bumped into a Northwestern student who was kicking it with his bros, for whom I was invisible. ( I should say, I wasn't actively seeking to run into him, I just didn't move out of his way.) So, my dirty tub of anger: still full.


I have noticed that there is some part of me that feels more real, and more concrete, that isn't angry. When I spit language or side-eye at someone, deep deep deep, there is some voice in me that says, "Huh. Okay, Jess. You're angry. Like, 99.99% of you is angry. But I'm that .01% of you that's not angry, that's just watching you fume. When you're ready, how about we turn the dial down on that anger?" And the rest of me listens. I become less angry, and a little faster than I used to. I'm also a little more compassionate with the person who made me angry, and a little more compassionate with myself for getting angry. 

A friend of mine described the mala of mantra every day as a kind of anchor, that drops down down down, into the center of us, a kind of touchstone that is present in the midst of all the junk roiling about in the surface of our lives, that maintains equilibrium. Even though we might feel tossed about, there's this practice that holds us firmly, safely, certainly, and can witness all of that movement without being ruled by it. 

Now that, I did not expect, but it's not bad, as consequences of meditation go. Let's see what the next 20 days hold.