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.

 

The sound of change in Costa Rica

Costa Rica 1I haven’t given a lot of thought to this trek through the Costa Rican rain forest over slippery rocks and up steep inclines to see a waterfall. It’s not until I’m almost there that I realize that I have avoided the sound of rushing water for five years now.

Single file we follow our guide, to the rocks at the water’s edge. Some in our party have come in swimsuits, prepared to jump into the cold water below the falls. Others of us merely want to look. I opt for something of a compromise, wading into the cold water to climb a rope ladder to the top of a six foot boulder in the middle of the stream to enjoy a full frontal view of the falls.

Costa Rica 4I now know, in a very visceral sense, how much power that water has. It had a enough to trap to me once, to hold me under until I thought I well might die, and all my will and strength were nothing compared to its casual, everyday force. In a similar battle I would lose again. I would lose every time.

I wrote a post awhile back about the common Nietzsche quote “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Not always so, I concluded. I was thinking about the country of Hungary at the time, but also about the many ways trauma makes us skittish and overly cautious. Like avoiding water falls after you’ve been trapped under a canoe in white water. Not stronger.

But this past week I have been going through something of a rejuvenating experience, learning about the ancient Chinese art of working with energy flow. I’ve had the pleasure of doing this while enjoying time with two old friends and the beauty of a resort in the mountains. I feel strong. I stand in front of the waterfall. And I feel that it is stronger. It will always be stronger.

It roars at me. I face it straight on and I roar right along with it. I embrace its strength as we roar together.

Costa Rica 3I decide that sometimes what doesn’t kill you will just leave you open to more interesting experiences down the road.

Read more about my novice attempts at meditation here. Read about other changes this week has wrought here.

To learn more about Qi Gong and what I have spent this past week studying, please visit Sifu Anthony’s website called “Flowing Zen” here.