The Spiral

Someone rearranged the collapsed mini-Stonehenge at Elephant Butte Lake into a spiral. Each rock seemed mindfully chosen for its shape, its size, and its colors in relation to the other rocks. At the end of the spiral was a kind of temple, an arch of precisely balanced stones, and then a little offering of green juniper, old wood, and pebbles that reminded me of the flower arrangement at a tea ceremony. Simple, natural, inviting of contemplation.
When I walk the spiral, I am aware of other footprints, someone else’s slow, reverent steps arriving, stopping, and returning outward. I see the bubbles and tubes of the lava rocks, hear my steps on the sand. And nothing else. I arrive at the center and arrive at silence. I return outward, past the smaller and smaller stones tapering out into open space.

The arch fell. The offering blew away. I arranged the remains in a stable position. And walked the spiral again.

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.


One Step

The sun was so intense when I was out walking today, I had to lower the brim of my hat to keep from burning my face or being blinded as I turned to leave the park by the river. I couldn’t see the mountains, the river, the sky, or the two lone trees turning yellow in a world of evergreens, rocks and cacti. Just the ground at my feet. The gravel path. Then dirt with tire tracks. Then a patch of dust and weeds with a narrow path between the goatheads. Once I reached the street, I was no longer facing the sun, but my awareness had shifted.

Those steps with nothing but the view of the next step became walking meditation. I noticed the textures of each pebble, the curves of the tire tracks, and the green ground-hugging leaves and tiny yellow blossoms of the goatheads. Instead of seeing them as the foot-stabbing burrs they will become, I saw them as flowers. Walking slowly, listening, I only tilted my hat up to check for cars or snakes once in a while, then ducked back into my world of shade and single steps. Gravel-crunch. Wind-whisper. One step. Another step. The sensation of my legs moving, my feet contacting the ground. I should do this more often, even when the sun doesn’t force me into it. I used to teach walking meditation to my college students, and those were blissful classes.

Of course, I have no illusion that the rest of my job was bliss. It was work. The three-column to-do list on my desk ran into a second page most of the time. Things to do for work, to do as a writer, and to do for retirement planning. A few days ago, I went back to that system. Things to do for writing, for marketing, and my everyday life. The list is only one page, and two of the columns don’t even reach the bottom. Every day I cross one thing off, maybe two. Life isn’t about what I cross off, though. It’s a living moment. A single step.