Jostling Routine: “Beam me up, Scotty?”

Part of  my creative journey is to jostle habit and consistency.  Today’s jostling finds me in a long, narrow room with a tiled beige and white floor.   Twelve attendees either sit on individual chairs or  two tan sofas, three abreast.  I make my way to a sofa and sit between a man with wild, white hair, and a matronly woman with tightly, coiled curls.  Stern faces and serious brows abound.

A tall, thin British man stands and welcomes us to meditation class.  He is our guide.  He begins with a series of breathing exercises.  I discover I don’t know how to breathe. Attempting to follow his five short breaths in, hold for five, and breath out for five,  I am hopelessly confused and increasingly light-headed.  In a decidedly unrelaxed manner, I internally say “screw it” and return to my shallow, constricted breathing.

He gently reminds us to let go any unbidden thoughts as he begins a visualization. In a soothing voice, he describes a white, sandy beach with a glowing sun.   The sun’s bright warmth fills my body.  My mind glides to the cat’s hairball in the hallway at home.  Did anyone clean it up?  Definitely let it go.

The instructor continues in his calm voice and asks us to visualize light beaming from our bodies.   Suddenly, I hear “Beam me up, Scotty.”  Where did that come from?  I let it go.

A few more guided imageries ensue and my mind settles.  As the class ends, I ‘m not certain if I have received the intended benefit given my wayward thoughts.  I look around the room.  No more furrowed brows.  Faces are softer.  Something worked.  Maybe I’ll come next week.

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If You Don’t Step Out, You Won’t Know

If you don't step out, you miss the spring.

Exploring  means taking a risk:  risk of failing, looking like a fool, making mistakes.  The alternative is staying put in our self-created “security.”  Part of my journey is stepping out.  Stepping out of routine, consistency, and the comfort of familiarity.

Last night, I stepped out and started a Journalism class at the U.C. Berkeley extension in San Francisco.  New faces, new subject, new teacher.  The class is small, no more than ten people.  When I walked into the class, everyone had staked their territory in the rows of long tables with five chairs to each row.  As each new student walked in, the seated students quickly looked up, glanced at the newcomer, and  swiftly lowered their eyes.  No greetings were exchanged.

The instructor, Mr. A., a white-haired, pleasant man of about 55, in a tan shirt and brown pants, greeted us warmly as he walked into the classroom at precisely 6:30 p.m.  He asked why each of us was taking the class and what we wanted to achieve.  He then asked us to interview a classmate to find out the answers to these questions.

I turned around to look at my closest classmate.  He had dark hair, wire-rimmed glasses, and was dressed neatly in a white and blue striped shirt.  He appeared nervous and shy.  I engaged him in a conversation and he laughed quickly and easily at my attempts at humor.  He was quite self-deprecating in his discussion of his own writing skills.  I pegged him for a contracts lawyer.  Wrong.  W. is a graduate of the UCLA Film School and a playwright.  The piece he wrote about me was elegant and precise.

I discovered that, in this small group of people, there was a fish market clerk, a Danish judge, a Chinese performance artist, an 18 year old who had interned with Rolling Stone magazine, and an active Air Force sergeant from Kentucky.

Stepping out last night resulted in benefits that I had not considered.  Experiencing the diversity of this class and their very different backgrounds will most likely be more richly rewarding than learning journalistic principles.