Unexpected pleasures
Maybe I'm reading too much science fiction...


As we move into September, and towards Tishri, the mountains here remain green but there's a yellow tinge lurking beneath the visual spectrum, waiting for its moment to shine. Here and there a branch has already turned, a torch of red leaves shining the way to where we are all, inevitably, going. Summer's fields of brush have given way to oceans of goldenrod, waving yellow in the cool wind.

This morning I wore my new fall jacket for the first time. It is an eggplant-colored canvas barn jacket, lined with grey flannel and cuffed with rich brown corduroy. I folded it on the seat beside me during sitting meditation; when it came time for walking meditation, I slid it on before taking my slow steps outside. It felt like I was ringing in the turn of the season with my own new color, like the fields and the trees.


After meditation, my fellow meditator David asked the rabbi about variations in practice. David commented that some days meditation is "easy," while other days he can't reach the place he wants to go. In response, the rabbi compared meditation -- or any spiritual practice, from davvening to karate -- with a romance. A romance when it's brand-new is different from a romance five years in, or ten years in. Just so, a spiritual practice is never the same from day to day or year to year. The challenge is to be fully present in what is, instead of getting caught up in what was or what we hope will be.

What the rabbi said about spiritual practice and romance reminded me of a quote by Julia Cameron, from The Right to Write: "Being in the mood to write, like being in the mood to make love, is a luxury that isn't necessary in a long-term relationship. Just as the first caress can lead to a change of heart, the first sentence, however tentative and awkward, can lead to a desire to go just a little further." It's as true of spiritual practice as it is of writing, I think. Being in the mood to pray or meditate isn't necessary if one has committed onself to the practice; once one starts doing it, the mood arises of its own accord.