I started running regularly the day after my last birthday, the fifty sixth. The track where I run is a few miles from home, next to the Hudson, across from the magnificent New York City skyline. It’s a place I’ve come to love since I discovered it a few months ago.
Most times when I run, I listen to music. I now carry my entire collection on my phone, a miracle of modern-day electronics. There are songs in it, that, even though I’ve owned my whole adult life and I’ve listened to hundreds of times, I’ve rediscovered and come to more deeply appreciate as I run and sweat and breathe around this cushioned quarter mile. Music mixes well with just about everything.
Recently, however, I’ve begun listening to podcasts by Tara Brach while I run. Ms. Brach is teacher of Buddhist meditation, “with an emphasis on vipassana (mindfulness or insight) meditation.” Her soothing voice and insightful talks have been a pleasant companion on the last couple of weeks. I get the sense that the mind and the heart open up when the body is pushed to it’s limits. Healing, insightful words seem most welcomed. Continue reading
A dear friend called. She was feeling a bit depressed, aggravated, like life was not being fair on this particular day. “On this particular decade,” I think she would interject. I listened. I empathized.
When I ran out of supportive words, I offered to read her a Wislawa Szymborska poem. She agreed, which is one of the reasons I love her–she knows what she needs. I said I was just going to open the book and read whatever I open it to.
“It might depress you even more…”
“Go ahead. Read.”
This is where we landed:
It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened sooner. Later.
It happened not to you.
You survived because you were the first.
You survived because you were the last.
Because you were alone. Because of people.
Because you turned left. Because you turned right.
Because rain fell. Because a shadow fell.
Because sunny weather prevailed.
Luckily there was a wood.
Luckily there were no trees.
Luckily there was a rail, a hook, a beam, a brake,
a frame, a bend, a millimeter, a second.
Luckily a straw was floating on the surface.
Thanks to, because, and yet, in spite of.
What would have happened had not a hand, a foot,
by step, a hairsbreadth
by sheer coincidence.
So you're here? Straight from a moment still ajar?
The net had one eyehole, and you got through it?
There's no end to my wonder, my silence.
how fast your heart beats in me.
“Beautiful,” she said and then added. “They should read that poem to returning soldiers.”
She thanked me. I thanked the poet.
(Above poem: There But for the Grace by Wislawa Szymborska – (c) 1972)
I had never heard of Tara Brach until today. She’s a “leading western teacher of Buddhist meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening. She has practiced and taught meditation for over 35 years, with an emphasis on vipassana (mindfulness or insight) meditation.”
I have a feeling this is the beginning of a long term relationship. You can never have too many teachers.
I listened to this podcast — instead of my usual musical soundtrack — while running today, and felt it was a healing balm washing over me. It’s titled Alchemy of Wise Effort. Namaste.