I've scribbled the alphabet for meaning since I can remember.
I had a tremendous conversation on Flight 346 from San Diego to San Francisco, November 14th, 2015 (which is not the above photo, that's from Kagoshima airport and current, self-indulgent flight photo). It was so tremendous I needed to validate it with itinerant details. It was a red-eye.
The tremendousness came from a high school sophomore named, Noah. He is on to something. About six minutes into the flight the banter turned quickly to depth.
“I am from Orange County,” he says, “and my high school is trapped in by the mountains –“
“Aren’t mountains grand? I kinda love mountains.”
“They are grand when in comparison, not when they are encircling you without a horizon.”
“Got it,” my eyes widen.
Noah went on to explain to me that he was leaving the “plasticity” of his area for the “merit” found in the people of “gritty Philadelphia” for the Thanksgiving holiday; he is staying with his Uncle. It was a compliment I completely identified with.
“I think people need to focus on Self Restoration.”
I honestly blink to hear him better, then ask, “What does that mean to you?”
“They are so focused on accommodating what they want to receive in others,” Noah turns to me and slowly explains,” like satisfaction or being liked, which is someone validating who you are. That they don’t even know what they want because they don’t have enough of themselves."
“I completely agree. How do you think people will do this?”
“You might think I am crazy, but meditation. Have you tried it?”
“Yes,” I keep my answers simple. I want to hear this brilliant Being talk.
“Well –“ he hiccups. “Wait. You have meditated?”
He scans my face to see if I am being honest, a very teenage move. “Oh. Cool. Okay, then maybe you know it can be very powerful. It actually works. It actually clears your mind.”
I nod, “It does.”
“Yes, so I am in the process of resetting my mind and becoming a better person.”
I scream (inside) in gratitude for this kid. I was hopping a plane from Narita airport where I was blessed enough to travel with like-minded people and share work that we love, and now careening in mid-air to the noticeably altered air of the fast-paced American mindset as a lonely solider rather than amidst a brigade. This kid was reminding that hope is everywhere. So are kindred Spirits.
“Kate, what do you think is the most important question to ask yourself?”
“Who am I?” I respond immediately, thinking of Ramana Maharshi’s teachings, or more exactly when I was in Dawn Smelser's yoga class and she walked us through this meditation; all of the nasty things peeling through my internal wheels before the sturdy silence of, Who am I? finally arose.
“Yes, but –“ be reorients. “Yes, I can see how that is a very good question," he emotionally placates me. "And important, but endless and unable to be defined, so it’s hard as a barometer for actual living.”
Who is this kid, I thought.
“I saw this youtube,” he continues, “where this guy talks about this and I thought his question was the best question you could ask yourself.”
“Well, what is it?”
“Am I enjoying myself?”
I heard a loud silence, the words hitting the tin of the plane, Noah was still explaining and things like: “You will always have obligation and struggle, but how do we know it is purposeful? I mean I still don't understand the whole desire-less concept of Buddhism because that seems like a life of inaction, but I do understand that there is endless suffering. We always know what feels good, not like getting drunk – like really feeling good and that seems to be a reliable mechanism for knowing if we are in the right place and with the right people...” as he continues I wonder if pleasure was ever something I really considered.
I was raised Catholic on the East Coast. Pleasure is not at the top of our virtues: Doing good, being good, working hard, serving others, not complaining – yes, all of these were taught, and they are good. Damn good. We need them and ...Was this kid the evolutionary fruition of our do-good-ness? We effort all of those aforementioned traits and out pops a generation that considers all of these earnest virtues and an expectation that we get to reap pleasure from our lives?
Is that what people look like on I-95, on the Bullet train, or even in Hawaii when they are working 3 jobs because of rent distortion? Do people look like they are enjoying themselves?
Are you enjoying yourself?
I don’t think life is binary. I don’t think you pick up one crayon of virtue and paint your whole life with it – but damn it’s nice to have a box of 108 and use all of them. Yes, even the black and burnt sienna, but I was the kid that used the copper crayon for only the most special of occasions and that turned out to be next to never.
I hear coloring is the new meditation. I’m doing it. Why? Because my friend and artist handed me the back of a yogi tea box about 2 years ago and told me to color my mind calm and it worked, and my Mom (because they always know) bought be a coloring book for my 39th birthday and I love it. I actually love it so much I have to remind myself – still – it’s a coloring book and you can mess it up and just turn a new page.
You can too. Try here (thank you Kathleen Brigidina Haerr). We can hold all the things we hold dear, and more. We are allowed because we are.
Noah and I chat all the way from San Diego to San Francisco – which is not far. We are actually on the same flight from San Francisco to Philadelphia, PA too, but it’s a red-eye and it’s late, and honestly the moment passed.
He is real though. I saw him on the wrong side of the airport looking for a cab to take to his Uncle’s house.
“Some details,” he begins to hide his embarrassment.
I cut him off, “Noah, you just pop on over to the otherside – and a cab will grab you. I am so glad I get to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving – and good luck with the book.”
He smiles, and walks off, waving.
"Man seldom questions the fact that ugliness and evil are to be found in the world. But he's never as ready to accept that life also offers unlimited beauty and potential for joy as well as endless opportunities for pleasure."
- Leo Buscaglia
Kate is on the East Coast for the holidays + more seeing private clients on and off the table, inspiring balance and creativity in every day life. It's a whole new world these days; it's time we all join in. email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info, Sit in Your Center workshops, and travel. Space open for extended clients, this January. Inquire within. xo, Kate
12/24/2015 04:37:16 am
Love this piece! Thank you for sharing your conversation with Noah. Oh, and BTW, I bought coloring books and colored pencils for the tables in the library. The kids love them!
12/24/2015 09:50:14 am
Thank you so much Randi. You are the coolest librarian I know...the kids are lucky. Coloring books just make sense. Xo
1/2/2016 07:32:37 am
This brought a smile to my face and my heart. I used to ask, "Am I having fun?" I'd forgotten that. Thanks to you and Noah for the reminder. Here's to a playful 2016! I just got two new coloring books as holiday gifts. May we all have many opportunities to enjoy our lives and it's challenges. I just labeled my yoga teacher training binder with a cut out from a magazine that says "Rejoice and Struggle." Loving you, Kate. Shine on!
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