Other beach walkers remarked yesterday how this new round of weather hardly feels like late November. Days of exceptional warmth feel like such a gift to me, as though some benevolent deity has decided that we have suffered enough here below and should, from here on out, be rewarded for our perseverance. I walked two miles even though I had a sore ankle and knew that I had put on too much heavy clothing for the walk—sweat pants and sweatshirt–when something much thinner and shorter in arm and leg would have given me greater comfort. About the time I think I have winter figured out and am embracing it with good proper care and attention, the sting of it has temporarily subsided.
After the walk I sat out on the sand in my folding beach chair with my Kindle and soaked up a few of the better rays of the day. All this past summer I would go to the beach nearly daily to escape the construction racket around my house. The summer water on the Monterey Bay had more variety of color and texture to it than this November day. In July there were waves, real body surfing waves, and patterns of shifting light, as wafting fog would open and close holes in the overhead blue. The wind would then build and undo the calmness of the surface. I could sit and watch the wind line advance slowly toward me for more than an hour, while small craft under sail would tack just on the front edge of the line.
The bay yesterday was so much different, so quiet, so unconcerned with conditions that might upset the tranquility. Even the feeding masses of pelagic birds had moved several miles to the north, to Santa Cruz, following the anchovies. I thought that sitting here for a spell on the beach and reading in the warm sun might free me up inside. My own mind recently has been filled with monkey chatter, that incessant flow of inner talk–ideas, ambitions, the restlessness of hundreds of fleeting images that cause me to become unfocused. I might as well be one of those birds noisily hankering for anchovy. Sometimes inside of me too much is going on without my consent or control and I know that reading can help.
I buy more books than I can read, but with the Kindle I don’t need to be concerned about where to store them. I only need to find the time and place to carefully explore them. Well, some of them are for helping me to focus, others I bought to help me escape, while some are for pure inspiration. I don’t think I should ever need to buy another book the rest of my life. Just the collection of Russian novels alone should give me enough material to chew on for another decade.
I turned to my meditative collection of books yesterday. I knew I had something that would address the issue of monkey chatter. “Mindfulness in Plain English” is one I picked up, or rather pulled out of the Kindle air, last summer, that has gone unread and unappreciated. I’d learned some of the principles of mindfulness from reading several of the books of Thich Nhat Hahn. Now it seems that I must come back to relearn the ideas that I have allowed to escape me, this discipline of stopping the constant flow of thoughts in my hyperactive mind, so that I might find the underlying peace.
While trying to sleep last night, I exercised one of the key thoughts of mindfulness, which is to watch and listen first to my own breath, the in and out of it, while acknowledging and dismissing anything else that vies for that attention. My mind was so busy jumping from one thought to another with absolutely no continuity between the thoughts. The breathing exercise eventually helped me to put this restlessness to rest, but also made me aware of how much I am at the mercy of the hidden forces that generate all these thoughts.
How is it that the surface of a whole bay can appear so smooth and unruffled in a season when one would expect tumult, and yet, in my own mind, I find this constant nervous flow of wild and disconnected energies that I can hardly quell?