Monday, June 1, 2009

You'd THINK...

... that after fifteen years or so of meditation practice, I'd be a little more skilled when it comes to quieting down the mind when I felt the need.  But no.  I've been going on a bit about the difficulty I've had these past few days in getting to sleep, largely because my brain is brimming over with THOUGHTS!  I have so many things I want to WRITE: a book of essays from the past few years that I have been planning to put together, to see how it looks and reads; another book that would be an exchange of letters with my old school friend, who contacted me via the Internet after nearly sixty years; a magazine article about sitting on a jury, from the point of view of a meditation practitioner...  

Once awake, as it was at three o'clock this morning, my mind engages, I begin to make mental notes, to write whole sentences in the air...  And then I can't get back to sleep.  It's at such moments that I try, without notable success, to put into practice the wise advice I once got from Thanissaro Bhikkhu about those moments when the mind wants to write instead of meditating: say "Not Now," and trust that the thought will be retained, somewhere down in the subconscious mind, ready to be accessed at a later time.  

Didn't work.  Not last night.  I lay there, thinking that I'd never get to sleep.  Was it too late for half an Ambien?  A quarter?

And then I must in fact have fallen asleep.  I found myself in a big hotel, at a conference of what I presumed to be the ManKind Project--the men's organization in which I have been active for some years.  We had not, apparently, had the foresight to book rooms, because everyone was looking around for a place to sleep in the vast lobbies.  Every place I found proved either impracticable or previously taken.  I realized that I had left behind the CPAP machine that helps me breathe at night--and silences my otherwise dreadful snore!   Which left me reluctant to choose a place too close to other men, whom I would certainly disturb.  I found and abandoned several places--couches, a spot on the carpet here or there--and in desperation tried to make myself a bed out of rather rickety end tables with pads placed on top.  It collapsed with my weight.

Then, finally, I happened upon a lovely, quiet corner where there was... a bed!  A bit chintzy, maybe, but ideal for my purpose.  What a find!  I started laying out my few belongings, and was just ready to lie down and get some sleep when the door opened and in walked a Japanese woman with two friends.  They were taken aback, to say the least, to find me there.  "Is this your room?" I asked.  "Yes, yes, my room," the woman said.  We began to exchange profuse apologies, she out of excess politeness, I because I had invaded her room.  She was very nice, very understanding--and very attractive--and I confess it even crossed my mind to ask if I could share her bed--but the presence of her friends made the suggestion inappropriate.   (Thogh I'm curious to note, post facto, that it was only "the presence of her friends"!)

I left, exhausted.  I was by now at the end of my tether, so tired that I could barely think.  At last, miraculously, I stumbled on a plush couch, empty and unoccupied.  Thankfully, I fell down on it, and was about to go to sleep... when I woke up.

I woke up in our little bedroom in the Laguna Beach cottage, exhausted from my night's "sleep," and not a little surprised that I had slept at all.  Today, I plan to do some WRITING!   Have a good week.



 

5 comments:

robin andrea said...

I lie awake quite often in the middle of the night. I write poems in my head and solve all the world's problems. It's amazing what I can accomplish while trying to fall back to sleep. Nothing, really.

PeterAtLarge said...

Robin... ha! Me too!

Anonymous said...

Does the alligator have a name yet?

Jean said...

Tee hee. Hope you sleep better tonight. The plethora of ideas sounds exciting though, and I much enjoyed your dream.

Peter, I wanted to tell you that I went to see the Alice Neel film at the ICA in London on Saturday. I'd never have known about the film, or indeed (shamefully) about her if it wasn't for you. I loved the film, loved the paintings, was filled with pleasure and sadness. What a lovely film it is. The film-makers' strong, but invisible (except for the archive footage of him as a young boy posing for his grandmother and showing off) presence, the terrific, thoughtful and unexpected material he got from his interviewees, especially his uncle and his father, impressed me very much. The filmed faces of Alice Neel's surviving contemporaries were somewhat reminiscent of her paintings, I thought, in their strong, beautiful grotesquerie. Wonderful, gentle but unflinching and provoking film. And I found out today that an Alice Neel retrospective will be coming to London next year. The extent to which she in unknown here is very shocking. So thank you, HUGELY, for alerting me to that!

Jean said...

PS Looking back at your original post in March about the film, I should say that, well, yes, I did occasionally share your reaction to the film's sometimes gratuitous self-consciousness, but this was outweighed by my admiration for Andrew Neel's persistence and sensitivity in some of the interviews.