July 13, 2013

The Eye of the Storm.

“And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” ~ J. K. Rowling

Many years ago, I used to live in New York.

It was a glorious time in my life—I was independent, I had a good job and a great apartment. If you know anything about New York, you know that these are no small things.

When I wasn’t working I rollerbladed the island from east to west, north to south and back again, stopping at flea markets and art galleries. I watched weird movies, ate Japanese food and good bread, egg creams and bagels, and of course giant triangles of pizza so thin I had to fold them in half just to get them near my mouth.

Then I met a guy, and I thought he was a great guy.

He’d gone to Yale, he was handsome and he really liked me—a fact he proclaimed aloud to anyone and everyone who cared to listen. We had a beautiful romance and I almost didn’t notice when the ginseng shots and espresso beans he liked to share with me turned into lines of cocaine.

Okay, I totally noticed, but I didn’t want to.

We were having too much fun. Then a bunch of time elapsed and we weren’t having so much fun anymore. In addition to the coke, it turned out this great guy also loved gambling and strippers. It seemed to me that if I didn’t like all that too, he would just find someone else who did—so I pretended.

Sometimes it was still fun, but mostly I just felt bad, broke and hung over all the time.

We had a way, my guy and I, of totally ignoring reality. Drugs and gambling and strippers require a lot of money and one day, we ran out. Unlike most people who, at that point, would have dialed things down a little, we just got crazier.

We burned through credit and friendships and favors like a California wildfire. It wasn’t long before we had nothing.

We sat on the floor of his apartment on 30th St. and 3rd Ave. (since we had sold all the furniture to buy coke) staring at each other with drug addled eyes, and all I wanted was to die. We hadn’t paid our rent in months, we’d both lost our jobs and no one wanted to talk to us anymore. Things would actually get much worse, but at the time I thought we were at rock bottom.

In the midst of this, after many sleepless days of doing lines on the bare floor that we’d purchased with our very last pennies, our electricity was turned off. For me, this was a shocking moment. It wasn’t because I shouldn’t have expected it (even though I didn’t), but because of how quiet everything suddenly became.

The grand vast city continued on outside our walls; sirens blaring, people shouting, singing, whispering, dogs barking, subways rumbling, airplanes roaring all at once in the terrible vibration that is a city, layered in sound and energy and need and emotions of every kind. But inside, it was quiet.

It was exactly like being in the eye of a storm.

There was turbulence all around us, and the knowledge that we were probably going to get sucked back into it very soon, but in this one moment, we were safe and still.

That would be the last peaceful memory I had for years. What came after was homelessness, humiliation, and things so degrading I can hardly stand to recollect them much less write them down. It’s been a long journey from that empty apartment to this rich life I am blessed to lead now.

During my seated practice this morning, I recognized a striking similarity between how I felt that day when the lights went out and how I feel when I meditate.

Meditation can be, and often is, the eye of the storm.

No matter what is going on around you, when you sit in mindfulness, you remove yourself from it. You discover a safe haven for your spirit where you are still, even as the world rages on around you.

Try closing your eyes and letting yourself fall off the grid. Notice how it feels not to be caught up in the frenetic energy of the world, to step aside and breathe. You will be amazed at how stormy the storm really is, how loud and roaring and relentless. You will become very fond of finding that still place and will want to return to it time and time again.

I know I do—but now I can afford to do it with the lights on.



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Assistant Ed: Dana Gornall/Ed: Bryonie Wise

{Photo: via Pinterest}

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