I haven't been sleeping. I'm full of anxiety. I've been really sick with a chest cold. I love my sister's apartment and it makes me happy to share the space, even though she's far away. My Google web sites are showing up in Bengali/Bangla because I had to change the timezone on Google calendar.
Generalized anxiety is like a set of boa constrictors, which never quite kill you but choose a different part of your body and squeeze and squeeze until you're all worn out and scared. And if anxiety is snakes I guess fear is dragons -- enormous obstructions that stand in a path you might take and breathe fire at you until you either give up, or steel yourself to walk through the fire.
I've meditated once since I've been here, a simple vipassana. This I find very nourishing. While I am labeling thoughts and focusing on breath, it becomes clear where my mind is, the patterns it is falling into.
At the end of this vipassana, realizing how much anxiety and fear were present for me, I decided to do a bit of tonglen meditation: breathing in the heavy and icky, breathing out light and effervescence.
I have always done tonglen with some degree of reservation. Pema Chodron describes the practice as breathing in the crap of the world without resistance -- as she puts it, the practice "dissolves the armor of self-protection we've tried so hard to create around ourselves." I strongly resist the idea of breathing in the crap of the world. I never know how to breathe in the heavy, polluted yuck that exists in the world without allowing it to stick to me. Sometimes when I do tonglen, I keep that thick, heavy feeling all day.
But this time I read Pema's passages on tonglen differently -- she really sees this, too, as a place to confront our inner demons. "Start where you are. This is very important. Tonglen practice (and all meditation practice) is not about later, when you may get it all together and you're this person you really respect... You don't have to transform anything... That light touch of acknowledging what we're thinking and letting it go is the key to connecting to the wealth that we have." (Start Where You Are, 1994, Shambhala, 35)
The beauty here is that whatever you do for yourself, you do for others, and vice versa. Breathing in my snakes and dragons, being with them, their fangs and fire and scales and terrible constricting bellies, I had to breathe in fully. And, the next moment, I was still there, breathing. The snakes and dragons weren't gone, but they weren't freaking me out so much. Chodron writes, "When the resistance is gone, so are the demons."
I always thought that finger-wagging phrase, "Wherever you go, there you are" had a deterministic and judgemental cast to it -- I have often interpreted it to mean that my wanderlust was sort of an ill-disguised attempt to try to escape myself. The puritanical schoolmaster in me tells me to stay where I am, don't try to get fancy, don't focus all that energy on getting away.
In fact, "wherever you go, there you are" is an amazing and expansive truth -- wherever you go, you find opportunities to work on different things about yourself, you get to know different things about yourself. Different pieces of you are exposed to the light. Wherever you go, you discover new and beautiful and crazy things about you. There you are.
Here's a funny thing from today... I asked a friend if we could go to a bank, and we ended up at an ATM in Baridhara. There's a smiley guy who sits at the little ATM kiosk and opens the door for you. All day! He sits with the bank all day. There are no tellers, no bank managers, just this guy and the ATM kiosk. And he was pleased as pie to see us.