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New Year’s Week 2016
For Christmas this year I got bad news. FYI, if you can, never set a doctor’s appointment for Christmas Eve. I wish I could have, but it was the first opportunity for me to see any doctor since moving to California. I had a few symptoms that were bothering me, so I took what I could get. At that appointment the doctor confirmed that I should be concerned about these symptoms and we set up an MRI and bloodwork.
I had planned to staff a meditation retreat at the San Francisco Shambhala Center the following week, but this potentially life changing news called for a change of plans. I was scheduled to loft sit for an artist friend in Emeryville at one of the oldest artist co-ops in the area.
In the 14 years since I lived in CA, this industrial town at the eastern base of the Bay Bridge shifted from light industry and funky artist’s lofts to tech start-ups and Pixar Studios.
To be there between the holidays was an eerie scene as there was virtually no one on the streets. Just a couple blocks over, across 40th St., the shopping mall was teeming with humanity.
The streets around me were an odd mix of Mad Max ruin and sanitized new tech construction.
Except for the artist’s loft complex, nature was boxed and regimented in neat squares with empty park benches (that I would later see filled by returning employees the following week).
The loft complex was a mini-Garden of Eden ala Dr. Seuss, with succulents, vines, loads of fruit bearing bushes and trees from kiwis to kumquats.
It reminded me that there was a wealth of creative energy hidden behind the sterile rectilinear exteriors.
I committed myself to a week of solo meditation practice to draw on the inner reserves to face the challenges ahead. During my mid-day walks I recorded moments of awareness I found compelling about this foreign environment.
No need to hold on, it’s futile any way, the consciousness that responded to these sights is already gone.
At one point in my walk on a particularly mentally dark day, I came upon a STOP sign, as if I had never seen one before, as if it were speaking only to me. STOP it said.
The dark ramblings in my head ceased, and I returned to an afternoon of sitting practice with renewed appreciation for the world around me and gratitude. It doesn’t last, but it can arise spontaneously, as I remain open, seeing fresh again and again.
As I go forward, I am not sure how my health will shape me, my world and my creative expression, except that I know it will. What I do value is that my spiritual practice, and in particular, meditation will serve to sustain me through it all. Oh, art and cats help too.