Saturday, May 28, 2011

Laundry Lessons

After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.  I have always loved this title of Jack Kornfeld's book. As I elevate my swollen, bruised, and badly sprained ankle I have plenty of time to reflect on it.  There is no choice but a slower paced re-entry from our Jewish Mindfulness Retreat in red rock country, New Mexico.

Twelve souls led by Rabbi Yael Levy wove deep bonds through shared silence, meditation, prayer, song, and hiking together through an elemental and awe inspiring landscape.  Simply getting there was a commitment.  Being unplugged from all electronics for five full days stilled the chatter and was a wonderful relief.  The trails were challenging, especially for someone like me, more accustomed to sea-level beach walking than high altitude wilderness hiking.  Mindfulness was very specific and practical in terms of noticing where to place each foot or decide which rocks to step on to get across a stream.  We  practiced both offering and receiving help over the rough spots in silence.

The morning after returning home, I unpacked directly into a laundry basket.  As I carried the overflowing basket down our narrow and steep basement stairs I slipped, missed the last step, and twisted my right ankle.  I sat on the floor in a heap with all the spilled laundry, crying in pain and crying at how quickly it seemed the benefits of the retreat and mindfulness about each step had dissipated.  After a while the irony and humor hit me, and then gratitude it hadn't been worse and hadn't happened on the retreat.

Scooping up the laundry, I hobbled over to the wash machine.  My denim shirt was especially caked with red mud.  I had been using it to lay down on while watching sunlight through tree branches, movement of clouds, and changes in qualities of light - a world that suddenly seemed very far away.  I rinsed the mud off in the laundry tub before putting it in the machine, watching a swirl of red - the tangible remnant of the retreat - disappear down the drain.  

Laundry is now intertwined with mindfulness for me at a muscle-memory level.  My ankle is forcing me to slow down and simply notice.  I'm watching the  alarming misshapenness slowly subside.  Observing the colors of the bruise change from purples to reds and yellows and browns is not as much fun as observing the color changes of dawn and dusk of the New Mexico sky.  But it is what is, now.  I am observing the miracle of healing. 

I just ordered After the Ecstasy, the Laundry:  How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path.  It's time to read it.

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