love. week nineteen.
city. new york city, woodstock
Today is the first nice day of the year.
On days like these, there’s really only one place to be.
And so, I woke up at 5:30, went kickboxing with my younger sister, got some work out of the way, planned an imaginary move to Moscow (reminder to self: text Nastya about finding some kind of internship or job over there), and headed to Washington Square Park, where I’m now sitting lazily on a bench, surrounded with frolicking humanity. Nah, not humanity: life. Even the birds have joined in.
(Actually, as soon as I sat down, a bird took a giant juicy shit right onto my pants.)
While beautiful and colorful people swirl around me, the true treasure of wash sqr is its sounds.
Melodic jazz, spoken word, clattering skateboards, chirping birds, laughing girls, barking dogs, shrieking sirens, muffled rap, preacher’s cry, director’s cut.
The jumble, tumble, mumble of the big city.
Last weekend, I escaped the city with a couple friends for the nature and calm of Woodstock. It was to be a self-imposed mindfulness retreat. A strict drug-free zone was established (and soon broken), a vow of silence was taken (similarly transgressed), and a schedule was enacted. It went something like this.
Stroll and coffee
Writing (thoughts, feelings, intentions for the day)
Breakfast / Shower
Some kind of ritual/service to get the day started and set the mood
Misc. activity (maybe the host’s shamanist session?)
Sensory Meditations (15 minutes per sensation)
Discretionary time (read, walk, write, listen to music, yoga etc)
Discretionary time + prepare to sleep
I was pretty successful until lunch time. Here are some things that stood out.
Ritual: I hadn’t prepared any sort of specific ritual so I improvised by sticking some incense sticks into the snow and dancing around them. The dance quickly turned into a walk, which then turned into a walking meditation. I basically tried to walk as slowly as physically possible, without actually stopping. I noticed the motion across subsequent moments of stability. The stationary presence within every change. It was actually (surprisingly) kind of a profound experience. The Being of every Becoming; the Becoming of every Being. I felt an energetic sense of aliveness, even as I experienced the extreme stillness of a frigid snow-encrusted morning.
I continued with that until the incense burned down and then went back inside.
Intention: I quickly jotted down the following intentions for the day.
I want to notice what it’s like to be passive.
I want to notice what it’s like to notice.
I want to notice how my experience is always a social experience.
I want to connect with life. But how can I ever be disconnected from life? No, I want to FEEL connected with life. How can I ever feel disconnected from life? No, I want to pay attention to my feeling of connectedness to life. I want to live consciously.
I want to allow everything to live. I want to stop fighting life.
I want to release.
I want to be surprised by my life. I want to be surprised by life.
Silence: I kept my vow of silence from when I woke up until about 5 in the evening, but my friends talked the entire time. This actually added an additional layer to my silence, for then I was not simply alone, I was alone together with others. My silence was made explicit by means of contrast.
I was talked to, but not with. I learned to recognize sudden powerful urges to speak, interrupt, respond, and then to let those impulses pass without satisfaction.
In terms of the love project, I think there’s a lesson here somewhere. On one hand, it seems that a conversation is far more interactive than I realized. In a real sense, we aren’t talking at each other, but rather with each other. My words generate reactions in you, while you do the same to me. These ‘reactions’ are not intellectual; they have a certain physical element to them. They almost felt biological in their embodiment.
On the flip side, it’s all too easy to play host to these impulses, and in this way act out a conversation, without truly paying attention to the other person. Sometimes (usually?) it’s important for me to get out of my own head, shut the fuck up, and just observe.
“Let us sculpt in hopeless silence all our dreams of speaking.”
― Fernando Pessoa