As the reality of moving to a new apartment in a new city sinks in, there have been moments when I’ve felt unmoored, at loose ends, lost for lack of familiar ground. I am living what I only saw conceptually back in April, before the urgency of the move consumed all my energies and I had time to read philosophers like Guo Xiang. Now I’m experiencing what he meant by: “Every ‘object’ is a phase in a network that has already transformed by the time we react to its traces.” I keep grasping for traces of our life in Princeton and don’t know how to react yet to the equally evanescent traces of living in Philadelphia.
As I thought about these feelings, I remembered a lesson from one of my taiji teachers. When we meditate, he recommended that we focus not just on the breath, but become even more aware of the moment in between breathing in and breathing out. When I sat today, I did that. I paid attention to those moments in between breaths, those instant openings when we’re not anchored by our breathing. And I reflected on how this transition is also one of those moments.
One of the things I’ve learned as I’ve meditated more and more is how to explore an itch or a pain that arises as I sit. They tend not to go away if I just scratch or move to a more comfortable position. Rather, very often as I pay attention to the nerve impulses that are the physical bases for an itch or an ache, I find that the itch or ache seems to dissipate. Not every time, but often enough to notice. The same thing happened today with my feelings of being unmoored as I just paid attention to how my body-mind was generating them.
One of my favorite Spanish historical TV series is El tiempo entre costuras (The time between the stitches). It’s about a seamstress in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. I was attracted to the series because the title seemed so Buddhist. Her story, however, was good old-fashioned cloak and dagger drama.
I’m wandering here, but I’m also reminded of my favorite line from the picaresque Mexican novel La vida inútil de Pito Pérez. “Soy un pito inquieto que no encontrara jamás acomodo.” I am a restless whistle that will never find a place to settle. (My friend and Spanish teacher, David Rodgers, introduced me to the novel and explained that there’s a phallic pun on the word pito.)