meditation on the wind

November 25th, 2011

This morning I am sitting beside the Atlantic ocean, and it is windy.

The first time I came close to waking up out of my highly cultivated neuroses, I was at a weeklong meditation retreat in the high desert of California’s San Jacinto Mountains. It was December, and it was cold and dark. The facilities were rustically beautiful, which is to say, off the electrical grid and without flushing toilets. In that kind of an environment, a lot of things fall away: first, all the things you think you can’t live without, and then, all the things you think.

By midweek, my hair was matted and greasy, my back was achy, my legs were creaky, my clothes were stinky, and I could hardly lift a care about any of it. Once I’d worn out my complaints and objections, unspooled my stock of poor-me storylines, I was left with nothing to do but sit and listen.

What we’re usually listening for — and especially when we’re doing things the hard way — is for the damn thing to be over. Aren’t we itching for just about everything to be over? Whenever we’re uncomfortable, which is most of the time no matter what the circumstance, we’re anticipating the end. Fast-forwarding, channel-changing, boredom-breaking, leave-taking outta here!

What I’ve noticed about most of the things that are really good for us is that there’s no easy way out. Not without making a total fool of yourself. So you might as well relax, because you’re here.

When I relaxed on my meditation cushion I heard something outside the window. I heard it morning, noon, and night, unbroken and eternal, like Seinfeld reruns. The next time I saw my teacher face-to-face, I told him about it.

The wind! I said, as if I’d never heard it before. It’s the same wind my grandfather heard!

What is that wind? he asked.

Yikes, what is the wind? I detoured up into my head, which had equipped me for so long with the quick cleverness of intellect and retort. This time it was empty and out of service. Crickets chirped.

Everything, I finally answered, grasping for something. Some explanation, some answer to describe the very is-ness that transcends description. He patted my knee.

Now and then I wonder whether that was the right or wrong answer. Whether it was good or bad, enlightened or deluded, enough or not enough. Whether his pat was a correction or congratulation, a pass or a fail. Maybe you’re wondering too. As my practice matured, I wished I had said something different. When my practice matures further, I will stop wishing. I will stop rewriting the old or re-imagining the new, because when we do that, detouring into the wilderness in our heads, we have lost the wind, we have lost the crickets, we have lost the song, and we have lost our lives, again.


  1. I breathe. I receive. A simple thank you for these words and a simple thank you for how they’ve filled and loved me.

    Comment by heather — November 25, 2011 @ 6:35 am

  2. So bang on! Right now I am in that state – itching fir everything to be over. The wind waits but i am detouring up into my head.

    Comment by Anjali — November 25, 2011 @ 8:54 am

  3. You write that you got to a point where you could hardly lift a care any more. Poetic writing, indeed. “Detoured up into your head” – a great picture of the head as alternative, not home base.

    The best lesson I’ve had in my own endless desires to fastforward came from the Adam Sandler movie “Click”. He too longs to fastforward, gets hold of a truly universal remote and comes to regret it.

    Comment by Olderkirby — November 26, 2011 @ 4:46 am

  4. The wind is sometimes a constant reminder to not ‘stay’ too long…..get moving from obsession.

    Comment by Jim — November 26, 2011 @ 5:22 pm

  5. when i was 15 I got a new hearing aide that allowed me to access the wind for the first time. it was awesome, and terrifying… I didn’t even know all that noise was out there. Now I know, and its still awesome and terrifying… the crashing of the ‘everything’.

    Comment by kate — November 27, 2011 @ 4:24 am

  6. You unfailingly and regularly coax me back to my life when I have unintentionally but habitually wandered off into the mental wilderness. There is a sweet rhythmic feel to the lost and found movement which I now love. It always makes me smile.

    Comment by Connie — November 27, 2011 @ 9:28 am

  7. The wilderness of my mind sure can be thick. Every now and then I find myself in a clearing. Thanks to your teaching and words – reminding me it’s always there and showing me how to find it. This is also why my children can be great teachers.

    Comment by Nichole — November 27, 2011 @ 12:25 pm

  8. I love this post. The wind is particularly loud at our new house on the second floor. I love having a pleasant image to consider as it moves so deeply around us.

    Comment by Shawn — December 1, 2011 @ 5:46 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

archives by month