I am a yoga teacher. Hearing this, you may think, “Oh, she must be so calm, so centered, so…..Zen. 

Sadly, this is not the case.  Some people may go so far as to call me “uptight” or “clenched.”

Despite the doubts of these haters well-meaning critics, I strive to achieve inner peace…someday. 

Although on the path to enlightenment, I don’t think you are supposed to be striving….or achieving…or trying to get anywhere fast. I think you are supposed to be allowing?  And I am pretty sure thinking about “someday” is bad too because you are supposed to be living in the present moment, not the past or future.

When I meditate, I should be wearing a helmet and elbow pads.  I am Frank Costanza from Seinfeld in the episode“Serenity Now.”  For those of you who haven’t seen it: Frank’s doctor prescribes some relaxation tapes for Frank to listen to when his blood pressure becomes elevated.  The tapes instruct Frank to repeat the mantra “Serenity Now” whenever he feels like he killing someone  faces internal resistance to life as it unfolds.  However, every time Frank tries to use the mantra, he throws his arms up in frustration, looks up to the sky and screams, “SERENITY NOW! SERENITY NOW!” at the top of his lungs.

As I blogged about a few weeks ago, Phil and I decided to take a spontaneous, much needed, kid-less vacation to Jamaica. I fantasized about waking up sans alarm, doing yoga or taking a leisurely walk, and then planting my butt on the beach with a good book.  Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

We booked the flight, an awesome hotel, arranged for the kids to stay with my parents.  We were all set.  Until 36 hours before departure, when the following conversation took place:

Phil: “Where’s your real passport?”

Me: “That is my real passport.”

Phil: “This passport expired in 2004.”

Serenity Now.

This was an unfortunate discovery, but we refused to murder each other with kitchen knives be deterred from our quest for relaxation.  Five hours and many phone calls later, we were booked for a romantic trip to Viegas, a rustic island off the coast of Puerto Rico.  I was impressed with our resiliency.  As I closed my suitcase, I waxed philosophical about how it all works out when you just go with the flow.  Then, the phone rang.  It was Phil, driving home after depositing the kids with my parents.

“They cancelled our flight.  Something about Tropical Storm…Eileen….or Irene?”

Serenity Now.

As I stood in my empty, eerily quiet house, all packed with no place to go, I decided it was time to bring out the big guns.  It was time to seek guidance from a higher power.  It was time to make a Gin & Tonic meditate. 

I am not the best meditator. I am not even sure my “practice” qualifies as mediation…it’s more like Psychic Charades: a mental guessing game between me and…myself.  But I headed outside, plopped down on the deck, closed my eyes…and let the game in my head begin:

Topic: Where to go on vacation

How many words? (next door, a car horn beeps twice)

Ok, two words.  First word, first syllable (a bird chirps)

Ok, bird…”B”…..It starts with a B! Bermuda!  Barbados!

(A dog barks twice)

Oh right, two words….Baton Rouge!  Boca Raton!  Bora Bora!  BLOCK ISLAND! 

Ding ding ding!  Block Island, that’s it!  We’re going to Block Island!

So we packed up the car and headed to Rhode Island.  We were going to make the best of things if it killed us.   One earthquake and hurricane later, I am surprised it didn’t.  

Serenity Now.

 Now I love Block Island, but it doesn’t carry the same….forced relaxation that comes with, say, an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica, where the biggest decision you are faced with each day is “Beach or Pool?”  When left to my own devices, I tend to fill any space with something – making plans, scheduling activities, finding inner peace.  So my tropical itinerary of soaking up some sun was quickly replaced by my somewhat chilly New England itinerary of hiking to old lighthouses and biking to a secret labyrinth. 

By the time we reached the labyrinth, a meditative walking path, my peaceful veneer was beginning to crack.

A sign posted at the base of the labyrinth suggested setting an intention or choosing a sacred word before commencing. While walking the sacred path, my mind was more chaotic than contemplative: “What should my intention be – to be peaceful?  Centered? Empty?  Should I be thinking or not thinking?  If I am not thinking, then aren’t I just thinking about not thinking? What is this supposed to symbolize- a journey to the center? Center of what?  Yourself?  WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN??  OH SHIT! I’M ALMOST DONE AND I FORGOT TO PICK A SACRED WORD! PEACE! LOVE! FAITH!  F***!”

One of the last lines from the Seinfeld episode is “Serenity Now, Insanity Later.”

Perhaps my intention should have been to just watch my mind do it’s thing rather than try to ride it like a mechanical bull. 

Maybe my sacred word should be “allow.”  Remember when you drank from a warm keg of Natural Light were a kid with a stomach bug, in total denial that you needed to puke? Then you finally puke…and while it may have been unpleasant, it’s done, and it feels so much better than trying to pretend like you don’t have to puke.  Well, I think pushing down negative feelings is like refusing to admit you need to puke…Soul Puke, if you will.

Maybe the most Zen practice is not trying so hard to be Zen.

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