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10. Intermission

Being a novice meditator,
I've been keeping my eyes closed.

I stopped meditating. It happened gradually. I went out of town for a while, missed several mornings, got too busy, found I could not concentrate, started getting up later, had no time, tried to make time during the day, got too many interruptions, concluded that I'm not the right sort of person for meditation; realized that it just takes someone so much more focused (and less busy) than I am, and what good had it done me anyway?

Breakfast, too, had changed. Now I just take time for tea and toast.

This morning I awaken especially early, after a restless night. I go downstairs to the study; it's still dark outside. I make myself a cup of tea and turn on the television. I sit, mindlessly watching. I notice from between the crack in the blinds that the sun is just beginning to rise. Over the television chatter I hear a bird, then another, and another. I turn down the television volume slightly, and listen as the dawn chorus begins. I look over at my dog, Jenny, curled up on my meditation cushion. She had exercised squatter's rights the moment she noticed that such prime real estate had been abandoned. Something on the television catches my attention, I turn up the volume. Wouldn't want to miss anything. For the next 60-90 seconds I sit and watch a commercial for a product I never have, and never will, use. "What on earth are you doing?" I ask myself.

I switch off the television, nudge Jenny to move over, and join her on the cushion to listen to the birds. Not particularly happy to be sharing, Jenny saunters off and curls up in the chair I had just vacated, happy for the warm indentation I had left in the cushion.

I sit silently for a while, then slowly, I begin to chant.

Om mani padme hum.

The bird chorus accompanies me:

chirp, chirp, chirp;

ooahoo, coo, coo, coo;

chic-a-dee dee dee.

I close my eyes. I knock. The door opens. I enter that place within me that had not been accessible for some time. I don't stay long today. Just a brief visit; long enough to realize how much I miss my early morning meditation time. As I walk to the kitchen I resolve to protect it in the future. But I'm not quite sure how?

I decide to have an orange for breakfast as I used to. Perhaps I'll find some answers there. I find one in the refrigerator, take it in my hand and examine it. How thick and tough the peel seems. How well it must function to protect the delicate fruit inside. I wonder why I had not been able to protect my developing awareness the way this peel protects its fruit. I realize that when I began the practice of daily meditation I actually gave no thought to the need to protect this special time and space, nor did I consider what tools I would need to clear away obstacles that would appear in my path. I had left myself completely vulnerable, and so, before long, each time I closed my eyes to meditate, a list of the day's tasks would appear on my eyelids, or conversations, past and planned, would play in my head, or anxiety-inducing images of problems real and imagined would enter uninvited into the now contracting peaceful place. The length of time spent "meditating" was also shortened -- from 60 minutes to 30 to 15 to ... Soon I was berating myself for my inability to focus. No wonder I stopped.

In the fruit bowl on the kitchen counter is a peach -- delicate soft skin, its fruit so vulnerable to bruising if not handled with extreme care. So unlike the orange that can tolerate some mistreatment without its fruit being damaged. It seems that I have been handling my developing spiritual awareness as if it had the protection of an orange, when at this stage in my development it has only the delicate skin of a peach. Each day I've sat on my meditation cushion thinking that all I need to do to keep out intrusions is to simply shut my eyes. Now I understand that until I can adequately protect it, my emerging spiritual self needs to be handled with great care and that I need to be vigilant for any threat to its expression.

I eat breakfast, go into the study, and on my computer I begin a journal. My first entry --what thoughts, feelings, and actions could potentially threaten my spiritual self today, and what can I do to protect it.