Big Box Mind Walk

For a few days back to back last week, the wind was ranging from twenty-five to thirty-five miles per hour. The average human female runs six and half miles per hour, and this human female is a rather light object. Woman vs. wind? If I were to have gone for a run, it was clear who would win. But I needed to get out and move. My tiny apartment in perfect for everything except cardiovascular exercise. T or C lacks an indoor track for days like this. There’s a gym with treadmills, but I’m not a member. I like to move through space. So … off I went to walk in Walmart, the only large indoor space I could think of.

I expected this walk to be boring. I’m not a recreational shopper. In fact, I have an aversion to shopping. Normally, I run for an hour or longer, but my expectation was that I’d last twenty minutes, the minimum necessary for cardio benefits. The first few laps were almost oppressive, with all the consumer goods surrounding me, but then I got into a groove, keeping up a brisk pace, switching aisles if someone was browsing in my path. The sharp turns were fun, and the scenery began to amuse me. A packet of something called Dirt Cake. Day-of-the-Dead-themed exercise shorts with fancy, decorative skulls on one leg. A big poster for black lipstick. In April?

Once I got into the rhythm, I shifted into walking meditation of a sort as the visuals flowed in a stream of awareness, and it became like a walk through the contents of my mind. Automotive thought. Back to the sensation of moving, feet pushing and landing. Music thought. Back to breath and movement. Whoa, look at the great facial expression on that lady—can I describe it and use it for a character? Return to walking. Spacious aisle. Narrow aisle. Pivot and turn. Ah, good, people are eating veggies; look at the crowd in the produce section. Back to body and breath. Hula hoop thoughts. Return the mind to walking. Office supplies, cross-cut shredder. That’s my brain:  a cross-cut shredder. Walk. Breathe. A seven- or eight-year old girl is skating in her sneakers on the smooth cement floor of the meat section. Can I use that behavior for Mae’s stepdaughters? They would skate in a store. Resume body and breath.

After a while even those thoughts softened, and all I saw were words, signs, colors, shapes, fellow humans in the midst of their lives. The passing slices of their experience and my steps became all one flow.

I finally checked the time after I encountered a yoga student I hadn’t seen for a while, and we chatted briefly. I found I’d walked for forty surprisingly mindful minutes.

 

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… flowers, grass, dancing …

I took a turn east while looking for something Irish to share for St. Patrick’s Day. Yeats took an interest in Eastern thought, and in Japanese Noh theater, writing poetic dramas based on Irish myths to be performed in a manner based on the formal, stylized simplicity of Noh. This poem struck me as a kind of awakening.

Imitated from the Japanese

 

A most astonishing thing—

Seventy years have I lived;

 

(Hurrah for the flowers of Spring,

For Spring is here again.)

 

Seventy years have I lived

No ragged beggar man,

Seventy years have I lived,

Seventy years man and boy,

And never have I danced for joy.

 

In Haruki Murakami’s short story collection, After the Quake, a man dances alone on a baseball mound in the middle of the night.

“Yoshiya took off his glasses and slipped them into their case. Dancing, huh? Not a bad idea. Not bad at all. He closed his eyes and, feeling the white light of the moon on his skin, began to dance all by himself … Unable to think of a song to match his mood, he danced in time with the stirring of the grass and the flowing of the clouds. Before long he began to feel that someone, somewhere was watching him. His whole body—his skin, his bones—told him with absolute certainty that he was in someone’s field of vision. So what? He thought. Let them look if they want to. All God’s children can dance.”

The Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats, Macmillan,  New York, 1974

All God’s Children Can Dance, short story in After the Quake, Haruki Murakami, Vintage International, 2003, translation by Jay Rubin