A Matter of Practice

Since I began practicing present moment awareness, I have known dark moments, even despair at times. It’s not as if the mere practice of present moment awareness means all is light for not all is nor ever was.

KMHuber; Dark Moments; Waverly Pond; Tallahassee

Present moment awareness allows me to attend the dark and light in me, to place every moment under scrutiny without fear of shattering illusions or poking at beliefs still circumspect. Light only illuminates the truth, even in the dark. There is no need to cling to any moment for any longer than it lasts.

Practicing present moment awareness turns the uncertainty of the unknown into the possibility of opportunity. It is “being here now” as Ram Dass has told us.

In one way or another, I write about present moment awareness in every blog post, perhaps even write around it at times. Yet, within the last couple weeks my present moment awareness practice has changed. Less and less, do I discover myself in past meanders or future scenarios. Dark or light, I am more now than not.

Musing CatPerhaps it is because I am finally writing the old woman novel, not plotting, considering structure, or writing reams of back story. No, I am telling a story, which requires specificity, focus, “being here now.”

Certainly, some sentences and scenes are more ragged than others in this initial draft, but the present moment awareness of the novel’s world is seeping into my real life practice. That has my attention as well.

When I enter the world of the old woman, I meet her fears–fear moves a story along quite nicely–while her story is not my story, fear is an emotion magnet. When a character reveals fear to me, I am attracted into her moment by my own reservoir of fear.

Some days, the connection with the old woman takes my breath away, and I am blown back in time to one uncomfortable moment after another until I turn my attention to the old woman’s story, the vehicle into and out of my past. Only through the telling of her story am I able to close the doors she opens so easily.

At one time I believed my characters spoke to me but since I began my meditation practice, that belief no longer serves. To be clear, I do not hear voices when I write or when I meditate. It is much quieter than that. Frankly, stillness suits either practice as awareness or mindfulness has a practical application, at least for me.

In my daily meditation practice, there is stillness, a “gap between thoughts” as Deepak Chopra calls it, different than when I write but similar, too. My meditation precedes my writing practice; my mind is quiet as it enters the world of the old woman.

Physically, I am refreshed, deliberate in each hand movement, a uni-tasker, as I do not type. I use voice recognition software to write the story–the only voice I hear is my own–relaying observations and marking moments in an old woman’s life as I come to know her story.

Every day, the hours I spend in my meditation/writing practice increase. It is changing how I am in “the real world,” although I cannot characterize just what the effect is, not yet.

KMHuberImage; Meditation Cat;

The only change is that my cat, EmmaRose, now meditates with me more often than not. At five and half pounds, she is more like a neck scarf than a cat around my neck or on my chest. Our meditation posture is a leaning back position rather than the more traditional cross-legged sit–for now. With constant practice comes constant change.

The Power of Story

Lupus is a creation of mine, its own story really, not one of which I am proud, as its writer, but I have been its source of life for the last 35 to 40 years, maybe even longer.

It is not possible to note the day my lupus gene switched to on nor is it possible to know why I have the gene or what activated it, if anything. It simply is. That part of the story has never mattered to me, even before I knew about the Tao or Zen.

It took me most of my life to understand I am not my lupus and that autoimmune disease is its own story, one steeped in imitation and deceit, usually disguised as flexibility and malleability. Separating what is the lupus story from all I am has been delicate and sometimes, seemingly impossible.

Through the Tao and Zen, I have come to believe my body is my soul having a physical experience, which gives me, a writer, the luxury of viewing lupus as story, a structure I do understand. In all the ways I have viewed lupus, it never occurred to me to view it as a story until very recently.

Lupus really does have plot points, conflict, a protagonist and an antagonist, all tools of my trade on my turf. I just may have the advantage here for the very first time.

In some ways, I have had a long life with lupus, if knowing lupus by other names counts. Lupus’ ability to mimic so many other illnesses along with my gullibility in believing one misdiagnosis after another are extraneous chapters but there is this: my heart never believed any of those labels.

In the lupus story, my heart is the protagonist and my brain or ego is the antagonist, the one that drives the conflict in every story, and all stories have an antagonist and a protagonist locked in a conflict box.

Image Credit

As the lupus story opens, my immune system produces antinuclear antibodies to fight infection and viruses, just as it should, until we reach the first plot point: a normal immune system turns on itself and begins to attack the very body it defended for years, for no apparent reason.

This relentless war for the body continues for years under various guises–multiple sclerosis, migraines, mixed connective tissue disorder–until Sjogren’s wipes out the salivary glands to pave the way for lupus.

As we reach the midpoint of the lupus story, the brain discovers that it, too, is under attack and turns to the last bastion of hope, the open heart, the remaining connection to the spirit that animates the soul’s body.

I do know that in any story there is one more major plot point before the conclusion, and the lupus story is no different. I don’t know the last plot point nor do I know the conclusion but I have this: the structure of story has given me some of my first moments truly away from the physical battle, and I know I am so much more than the lupus story.

ROW80 Sunday Scheduling 

I finished reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and may write a review for an upcoming blog post; however a very fine writer, Stephanie Carmichael, wrote an excellent review that you may read here.  I cannot imagine what I could add to this review. The Night Circus is one of the best novels I have ever read and am considering purchasing it (I borrowed it from the library) as it is a book to read and re-read.

I continue to write at least 500 words a day, mostly nonfiction, and I reached my goal of scheduling blog posts so I am not writing to deadline on Sundays and Wednesdays. This next week will be the dismantling of my novel’s first draft, which I plan to have finished by April 22, 2012 as well as a rough outline of its scenes so I may begin “plotting” the novel’s major points. Unlike the lupus story, I actually do know how this story ends.

For the rest of this round, my goal is a weekly total of 2500 words, as I do not know how long it will take to plot the novel so I do not know when I will start the actual writing of the second draft. You may read more about my second Round of Words in 80 Days here.