Something to Meditate On

Today, after almost a month, I attended a restorative yoga class that I usually attend weekly. It was like an exhalation. Up until a couple of years ago, I didn't buy into yoga or meditation or other crunchy stuff like that. I have called myself a "pragmatic idealist" for ages, but prided myself more on my pragmatism, and I never considered yoga pragmatic.

But it is. I'm not particularly limber, and I still have no idea what any of these Hindi words mean, nor what the poses are. But when I hit "Do Not Disturb" on my iPhone and lie back on my bolster, my focus during and afterwards becomes singular. I am not sure that my body benefits, though I think it does. But my mind recharges in that hour. Some of my best business-related ideas spring forth from that hour.

I took a Facebook and email break in the middle of December--almost like making a weeks long yoga appointment with myself. My family had plans to go on a cruise. For months, I had imagined what a sunrise would look like from the upper deck of a cruise ship. How bright the Big Dipper would appear in the middle of the night. I had never been on a cruise before, but I once rode an overnight ferry from Brindisi to Corfu, and my fading memory of that starlit night is still magical.

On the morning we were to meet the cruise, we received an email from Southwest: the flight to Florida was canceled. We spent 9 hours on the phone, between the airlines, the cruise, the travel agent, other airlines, resorts, taxis. 9 hours that were not well-spent, but there's no point mourning those hours now. We did mountains of research that morning, only to discover that we would have to meet the ship at second port: Jamaica. The rest of the day was spent preparing for the trip to Montego Bay we were going to take the next day, and salvaging the day by taking the kids to see Moana and grabbing dinner at a favorite hibachi spot.

I don't believe in "blessings in disguise." I don't believe in "meant to be." But I do believe in seeing the good in unplanned moments, in seemingly sour situations. Stress is meant for life and death, and a canceled flight is not about life or death. Our kids got the opportunity to fly directly into a foreign country for the first time, and I got the opportunity to wake up before dawn and hopefully greet a Jamaican sunrise.

I had the whole beach in Ocho Rios to myself. Not a single soul was in sight. I sat cross-legged in the sand under a palm tree, next to a cracked-open coconut and an empty can of Red Stripe, and I listened to music by Snatam Kaur. Clouds hugged the horizon, blocking out the sun both mornings, but I didn't mind missing a Jamaican sunrise. I adapted, and found myself so focused on the music, the heat, the humidity, that I gasped when the tide rose and soaked me.

My eyes opened, and I saw that I was no longer alone on the beach. Two women dressed in bright white aprons, leaned against the wall of the hotel. A young man, dragged a chaise longue across the sand. And a jogger approached, and slackened her pace. She stopped, brought her palms together, and mouthed, Namaste

We did meet the ship, two days late. In fact, I saw it arriving on the horizon before daybreak. There was no Van Gogh-style bright starry night to be seen from the cruise--the ship's own lights were too bright to see. But there were sunrises with no land in sight, and they were not red like the ones in New York, but pale gold. That was a surprise. But not a disappointment. Because it's not a binary good/bad scenario--expectations met or unmet--but instead the sweet curiosity of the unknown, and the lingering complex aftertaste of experience. Of course, all those flavorful subtleties become fodder for deep thought.