April 13, 2020
Today, I watched a documentary about the first Western translation of the I-Ching, The Book of Changes. The film followed a middle-aged English woman retracing the life of her grandfather, Richard Wilhelm, the missionary who translated the I-Ching into German and thus introduced it to a vast portion of the world. I kept wondering if my grandchild would ever make a movie reenacting my life story, a thought which made me feel doubtful and blurpy about my spiritual growth.
This morning, after breakfast, I walked my dog through some lovely gardens in my neighborhood. It was warm and blue, and the pink and white cherry blossoms were blooming, and the grass was gleaming under the low overhang of burgundy Japanese maple trees. Lately, on my walks with Maude, I have been meditating in the style of Thich Nhat Hanh, wrapping my awareness around and infusing it into the motion and sensation of walking, steering my attention towards my feet as they press into and off of the sidewalk, propelling me forward. I do this, or I try to loosen my gaze and focus only on the slack and the tension in the dog leash.
Walks can be a wonderfully cleansing, and a much-needed relief in times of quarantine, but they can also be an anxiety elevator for a distressed mind. When I take a stress walk, I often become consumed in and by my thoughts, my morbid, cyclical, and self-preserving perseverations; the pace of my heart and my steps can quicken uncomfortably, my breathing can get shallow, my thoughts race or my hands sweat.
The meditation is a palliative for me, and a good one: by focusing on my body, or a sensation, or the softness of the horizon, I can not only get out of my house during a stroll, but also get out of my mind and prevent myself from turtle-tucking back in. I can allow myself to be present in the outdoors and less so taking my worries out for exercise, and I can be present with the trees and the flowers, and I can present with my dog as she defecates carrots(!?) onto a dead robin. The power of now — it's now!