One City

One City

Getttin’ Busy Gettin’ Quiet

Autumn, siren of red and gold, harbinger of tweed and velvet
jackets, of renewed promises and vigor, clear sun-ed autumn you come to us once
again.  You have come Autumn,
shoving the margarita out of our hand and replacing it with a digital life
manager.  You have come and we are
glad – our steps lighten, our mind strengthens, and motivation pulses near
again beneath the layer of our skin. 
The world will be ours, Autumn, you and I, come hell or high water,
gilt-edged or double-spaced.  And
so it is written.  And so it shall
be done.

I’ve been reading to much Greek Tragedy.  I’m in graduate school, or as John Irving refers to it in World
According to Garp
, “gradual school.”  (Irving decriers: whatever, I’ll defend that he’s our modern day Dickens to the grave).  


School!  Je
T’aime!  The library and the
lounges, the theory and the practice, this amazing, ultimate sense that what
you are doing (playwriting) is considered really important and serious by a
whole network of people. 

In the words of Mary Tyler Moore, I feel:




That said, I forgot how stressful school can be.  There are tons of new people, available for alliance, who could be the platonic partner in soul who you have longed for or the individual of whom you use the word “compassion” about when discussing with friends. (As in, “the best thing for me to do with X is to have compassion” or in non-Buddhist speak, someone completely and utterly annoying).  There’s this imminent threat that you’re never going to see your loved ones or get eight hours of sleep again.  I actually had a professor say, while discussing the syllabus “And here’s the time in the class when I DESTROY you with a completely unmanageable work load.” 


There’s figuring out the new stuff, worrying whether your teachers like you, why the chair of the department said hi to one girl but not to you.  There’s worrying about how, as a graduate student, you can parlay with “the real world” in a way you never had to do while still immersing yourself in your studies.


In class the other day, the same teacher who said, “you will BUCKLE under the breadth of this reading,” said something else.  He said,  “in order to succeed, you have to be able to make yourself quiet enough.” 


And that’s the trick I’m learning how to play.  I’ve seen before how a diligent mindfulness practice allows me to handle more tasks with greater concentration and awareness.  I’ve seen how greater concentration allows me to complete a task fully in a lot shorter period of time.  I’ve seen how awareness ups the quality of my output  I’ve experienced how mindfulness allows me to loosen my self-obsessed grasp, so that when I’m not working I can truly enjoy it, rather than feeling all the time that I should be working.  I’ve felt how a steady meditation practice reminds me that stressed out as I may be, my friends and family need my support and love.  Meditation not only reminds me that “the worry is extra” (tattoo it on my forehead), it also reminds me that as stressed as I am, my body needs to move. As much as it seems less important, my sanity actually depends on a clean house.  As banal as it seems, I need at least seven hours of sleep.


Meditation can help us understand our limitations and be gentle with ourselves in times of uncertainty and fear.  Meditation can also help us transcend those limitations as we realize that although there’s nothing to hold on to, there’s also nothing holding onto us.  Right now I appreciate meditation because it makes me specific:  sometimes its about knowing that I can’t do everything, sometimes its about knowing that nothing is beyond my capability.  


Mindfulness is not about success.  Or is it? I know I’m feeling infinitely grateful right now to every Buddhist teaching I’ve ever experienced, be it in person, via book or podcast or video.  Because my success rate with surfing the wild, crashing waves of uncertainty is far higher than before I had a meditation practice.  And it’s all because I can make myself quiet.  When you cancel out the noise, you start to see the space.


So, Autumn, apple-picked, pumpkin-hewed mistress of flannel shirts and corduroys that you are, I welcome you.  Let us walk, hand in hand, into a winter of content and make glorious spring and summer with this daughter of New York.


 Quietly, though.  Let’s do it quietly. 

Comments read comments(9)
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posted September 11, 2009 at 2:50 pm

It is awfully exciting being back in school . . .at first. Glad to hear you’re digging it.
I’m not entirely prepared to accept that it is autumn though. Isn’t it the 21st? I’m going to be pedantic on behalf of everyone not in school – we still have some summer left, dammit!

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posted September 11, 2009 at 3:39 pm

I won’t believe its Autumn until I see some leaves changing around here and it gets cold enough to crack out the hoodies and sweaters. I’m sure we’ve got a heat wave or two still in store here in Wichita.
Good luck Julia! Remember to make the time to just breathe.

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posted September 11, 2009 at 5:02 pm

welcome back Julia.
“School! Je T’aime! The library and the lounges….” – ah the smell of the instituion. yesss…

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posted September 12, 2009 at 10:38 am

Thank you, Julia.
Your musings inspire contemplation and action.
May you be as inspired by your studies this year as I am by your posts!

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