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.