More

The logic of time travel is so problematic. Go backwards and you mess up the present. Go forwards, and you’ve negated free will. It’s a message from the universe, a flashing neon sign saying “Forget it. This doesn’t work!”

Yet we do it everyday.

I live nearly half my life in the future, imaging the fascinating ways I prove myself to be smarter, kinder and stronger than anyone thinks I am, including me. The world revolves around me in these imagined scenes, which is probably why none of them has ever come true.

I also live nearly half my life in the past. I don’t mean to, but music hurls me there with a force I can’t resist. A few bars of a song from a certain 1962 Italian documentary no one has ever heard of throws me onto a piano bench where I am 13 years old, at my 8th grade graduation, scared to death.

For some bizarre reason I’ve been coerced into performing a duet for the ceremony, along with my best friend who actually plays the piano well. I’ve been given the easy part, but I am still praying to all the gods I’ve ever heard of for the strength to not screw this up. Absolutely everyone in my young life looks on as I strike that first note. I focus. I breath. I begin to play.

Dates remembered have much the same effect as music. I’m at a qigong retreat right now, and smack in the middle of it is the 10 year anniversary of my mother’s death. This was not an easy, gentle exit, and if I ever do go see a therapist it will be the first thing I’ll tackle. But there are no therapists here, only other practitioners lost in their own worlds, on their own paths. They murmur sympathy when I mention the day’s significance to me, but none ask for details.

It’s not my way to burst into tears or otherwise demand attention, so I muddle through the day, lost in the past, reliving the ten year old question of whether I could have or should have done anything different. I know I need to let go of the memories, and be here now, but then More, the song More, sneaks back into my head as a single note melody. Oops.

It’s my wedding day and I’m stumbling around to this tune in a long white dress while everyone I know watches. My husband of a few hours hands me off to my father; dad and I stumble together. I inherited his lack of rhythm, so we laugh at the silliness of our efforts and I’m glad I don’t know that he’ll be dead of cancer fourteen years later.

Stop it, I tell myself. Stop it. You and your father danced fine. There was nothing better you could have done for your mother. You can’t change anything that has come tumbling down on you since that day you sat at a piano and played More. Which, by the way, you did do and it went fine.

So focus. Breath. Do it in the now.

I force the past from my mind, and at least for a moment, time stands still.

 

Animal Play in Costa Rica

Travel messes with you. My vacation in Costa Rica has moved on from a week long retreat centered around the ancient Chinese study of energy flow, known as qigong, to the family-fun-at-the-beach portion of this wonderful time. Yet here I am complaining because I’m now finding it hard to find a time and place to be alone. I’m staying at a rental house on a cliff overlooking the pounding surf, surrounded by the rain forest, with five other family members who constitute the people on this earth about whom I care the most deeply. Yet, I need to get away for a few minutes every day, to practice qigong and to feel the solitude. That’s just who I am.

Psychedelic 8I’ve started taking my quiet time at dusk out by the swimming pool. I sneak out like a teenager going for a smoke, and start my routine. Soon I have moved into the portion of my meditation that involves free movement and letting go of inhibitions. In it’s milder form it is known as swaying willow, but at its more expressive it is referred to as five animal play. I’m feeling pretty expressive today.

I hear an odd noise close by in the bushes. We’ve been told that there are howler monkeys nearby, and we have seen and heard them in the distance. I recognize their sound. This lone monkey cannot be more than a few dozen feet away from me but even though I open my eyes and stare into the forest, I cannot see him. They are small and harmless, so I go on. As I ease back into my meditation, the wilder my movements become the more noises he makes. Are we communicating? Does he like what I am doing? Can he feel the sheer joy of it? I roll his sounds into my own exuberance and finish the session with a grin on my face. I think to myself that this creature and I have shared something special on a primitive level.

The next morning I find myself in the pool with a cup of coffee. My son joins me, and we are both startled by what appears to be a small snake near the far edge of the pool. He goes to investigate, and laughs. “Definitely animal shit,” he says. “Monkey shit, if I had to guess.”

The neat little pile of excrement is roughly where I stood doing my qigong last night. Great. Did I maybe misunderstand his noises and he hated what I was doing? Then again, he could have been indifferent to me, making sounds for reasons of his own. Maybe this is a random dropping from another creature all together. Or maybe, just maybe, leaving this little bit of himself here where I stood was his way of saying hello. Who knows. There are some puzzles in life that you simply cannot solve.

For more on my own personal story of my Costa Rica qigong experiences please see
1. Embracing the Yin in Costa Rica,
2. Finding Forgiveness in Costa Rica
3. Many Paths in Costa Rica  and
4. Breathing Deeply in Costa Rica

If you would like to know more about qigong, please visit Flowing Zen

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