I wake up to a rare New Orleans day without heat or humidity. The bougainvillea blooms bright orange in my backyard; the sweet olive scents the street; and the woman next door zips up her fleece and jumps on her bicycle. I sit on my bedroom rug and meditate on happiness. And I mentally share that happiness with people who need it.
But at breakfast, I have a toothache, and my throbbing cuspid bites at my mood. I probe my infected tooth with my finger, and all I can think about is the money I’ll have to spend on another root canal. And how I can’t eat the chewy multi-grain roll I wanted for breakfast. I slump in my chair. “It hurts,” I keep telling myself, and nothing about the day feels right anymore, so I sulk.
How did I go from high to low in the space of an hour? My mind flits and flutters through moods as if I’m flipping through the Yellow Pages, searching but never finding what I want. But underneath my mental gymnastics, there is a spacious, unchanging, luminous and natural state of mind. How do I know? Because I’ve glimpsed it, or felt it, during meditation. I’ve had those fragmentary experiences when my skin, my flesh, and my bones peel away until I am nothing but nothing. No toothaches. No dental bills. No anguish. No Whitney.
And then just as fast, my mind jumps back in to define or describe the glimpse I just had. And it’s gone. I want it back. I claw at it. I yearn for it. I beg my mind to make it reappear. But it doesn’t. It’s not at my command. And the only thing I can do is wait. And meditate. Not just when the bougainvillea is blooming and my neighbor is out for a ride, but when my tooth is aching, and I am sulking. That’s as good a time as any.
About Whitney Stewart
Whitney Stewart published her first award-winning biography after interviewing the Dalai Lama in India. She’s trekked with Sir Edmund Hillary in Nepal, interviewed Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, and traveled to China to write about Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong. She is the author of multiple nonfiction books for children. Her children’s biography, Who Was Walt Disney? has sold over four hundred thousand copies. When Whitney is not writing, she teaches Mindfulness. Her newest release is Mindful Kids: 50 Mindfulness Activities for Kindness, Focus, and Calm (Barefoot Books, 2017).