On the first day of 2016 I meditated outside of LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) with a Zen Buddhist monk and my dear friend Lydia. The two of us giggled as we approached the monk who invited people via his Meetup group to a New Years Zen meditation between the LACMA lamp posts. There were two 30 minute sessions. I made it only through the first. Seikan, the monk, settled in immediately. It was impressive. He was as still and as straight spined as the lamp posts. His stillness could be felt. Immediate. Unwavering. Powerful. Lydia and I sat down near him, in this place close to the street and in front of the museum. It was too sunny at 2 p.m. It was hot. My feet were sweating inside my Uggs. Typical California winter. It had been cold that morning. Now it was hot. I hadn’t exercised yet, so was restless. I hadn’t journaled, so had too many thoughts that needed settling or releasing. I wanted to flow, run, dance, work out some wiggles first. Children were running around and in between the posts. I wanted to play with them and help the parents who were yelling in exasperated tones at them. I could feel their stress, their sadness and their frustration. The holidays were almost over. Relief would come soon. I could feel their need for that. I could hear car breaks squeal. The occasional horn beeped. Couples flirted as they walked past. Their energy was like a soft wind or delicate whisper of hope. Some people took pictures of us. I could hear the camera shutters or people up close whispering, probably with iphones. A man walked up and sat directly behind me and joined in. I could feel his presence before I actually heard him. He had been watching. Thirty minutes is a long time to meditate. After about 25 minutes, both my legs completely fell asleep and tingles were shooting up from my crossed ankles to my thighs. I tried to ignore it. Another shuffle behind me and the sense of someone’s energy jolted me as I realized my purse was in plain view. I moved it to the front of me and heard this person walk away. My left leg, the one with the pulled hamstring, started aching. I didn’t bring my meditation cushion, but rather my bolster, thinking it would be easier to carry around the museum later in my yoga bag. It wasn’t high enough, however, to allow a straight spine or a good distance to angle my knees downward. I caved. Within minutes of moving my legs into a straight position, I heard the bells chime. Our session was over.
It was an interesting way to start the new year. Am I a Zen meditator? Probably not, if I’m honest. I prefer mantra, kundalini or visualization-types of meditation. I like my eyes closed, not half closed, as Zen meditators do. For instance, on New Years, I listened to all the noises, felt the energies around me, and then silently kept saying to myself: Trust, Love, Accept…all things I need in the New Year. Zen meditators let go of everything, including themselves. Maybe I have too much ego? lol! Plus, I exercise a lot, so when I meditate, I want comfort. I want to slouch, or to lay down, or lean back against a wall. Seikan shared that he once sat in zen meditation for 20+ hours while in Japan with his master. That’s amazing!
What I truly enjoyed about the day was learning from this man, listening, and then silently recognizing my own needs, my own preferences. Lydia and I walked around LACMA afterwards. She gravitated toward the architecture exhibit. I loved recognizing models of buildings that I had seen in Spain, France and Italy, but overall, the little models of buildings didn’t move me. I gravitated toward the audio/sensory exhibit. I couldn’t move from Diana Thater’s Delphine room for a long time. Lydia left me and came back. It was like being dropped into the waters with a pod of dolphins. Multiple streaming videos of dolphins swimming and playing were on every wall. Lights shown through in a way that made me feel like I was swimming with them, but also in an angelic dream. Joy bubbled up to the surface and I wanted to play. I wanted to swim with the dolphins again like I did in Costa Rica and in Hawaii. I took picture after picture.
When I was a little girl, my godfather bought me a record of whale and dolphin sounds. I listened to it over and over again for an entire year. The mom whale called to her child differently than she did to family members. The dolphins flirted with one another, warned each other, called out. It was fascinating. Probably because I didn’t speak to anyone outside my immediate family until I was 11. And even within my family, I mainly watched body language and waited for an outburst or drama that I didn’t want any part of. I understood the subtle language of energy and behavior exquisitely at an early age. So of course I gravitated toward whale and dolphin family interaction and language! And suddenly I was in this room, remembering how I played the dolphin and whale sounds over and over when I was a little girl. (My Grease and Heart albums finally bumped the whales & dolphins! ha ha). I got so good I could tell the difference between joyful and sorrowful calls. Remember in Finding Nemo when Dory does all the different whale calls! Yup, I get that. So hilarious. (Here’s the Dory whale VIDEO of it for those in need of a laugh!!) I’m that nerd.
We left the museum after dark and as I drove away, I stuck my phone out of the side window (yes, as I was driving 10 mph) and snapped the amazing picture of the lamp posts. I somehow captured this Crazy beautiful last minute moment that would have past me by unnoticed. How often do I do that? Not recognize a moment or a person or an event or an activity that lights me up? Not until much later do I realize that that person, activity, event, etc. was in fact, one of my points of light?
And once I truly recognize what lights me up, what is my passion, what makes my life joyful, I can gravitate and lean in for more (or to give more.) So maybe I’ll never slow down enough to sit for hours on end as a Zen meditator. But I am finally slowing down enough to recognize my points of light. They are my authentic friends on a similar journey who accept me exactly as I am. They are my senior yogis I teach weekly who teach me more about how to embrace true youth: who are filled with more life and more gusto than most people half their age. Other points of light in my life? My sisters and brother, my children. Music. Yoga. Dance. It’s writing this post. It’s letting go.
What lights you up? What really brings you joy? For me it’s both connection and movement. It’s connected to literal lightness as my life has been way too heavy. It’s connected to playful moments. It’s part emotional, verbal connection and authentic friendship, but then again, it’s playful, silly connection with no need for words. I get that the most. That’s why I couldn’t move away from the audio/sensory exhibit. Having dolphins swim and play and twirl all around me, while listening to the water and feeling light swaying across the walls…drew me in. I wanted to jump in. I wanted to twirl and squeak and flip over and swim over and around each of them. I wanted to explore. I wanted to swim fast. And then crash on a beach and sleep lazily for an hour with a bff. Am I Zen meditator? Probably not. But here’s to exploring more points of light in the New Year! 🙂 <3