Ashley LogoMy heartbeat stuttered. It was a sunny October morning and I was standing in my front garden. My right hand held a bouquet of rosemary and my eyes were focused on what was supposed to be a Buddha but was in fact an empty paver.  Tears instantly formed and were just as quickly pulled. “Somebody fucking stole my Buddha! What the fuck?!” Before I could process it any further the sight of a neighbor approaching compelled me to scoot quickly back inside.

Again tears welled and receded.  I wanted to cry, but also to not care so much.  I wanted to yell but I wanted to be “yogic.” I wanted to swear, and well I did swear.  Repeatedly. Which brought up a distinct sense of un-yogicness. “Not part of the plan!”

You see, it was a sunny October morning AND the 365th consecutive morning I had meditated. 365 days after unsuccessfully beginning a meditation practice 11 other times. My record before this October morning: 6 days. And that was on a yoga retreat. With a roommate who set a morning alarm and my ego that wouldn’t let others witness me flake out. The memory of what precipitated my commitment to meditate was still fresh: back-to-back-to-back losses after which my insides whispered to me one night “Meditate or you’re going to fall under.”

It stuck. I meditated when I was excited about mediating and when I loathed it, through an active case of food poisoning, the flu and two head colds, when great waves of insight came forth and when seemingly nothing happened. Meditating for a year straight was HUGE for me. And I had attached all of this meaning into that one Buddha.

It was on a trip to a nursery a month earlier, to pick up a rosemary plant, when I happened upon that Buddha. Carved from pale, buttery stone, it was gentle, sweet and steady. I felt an immediate pull. In a flash I hatched a plan to mark my one-year anniversary, and my intention of a continuing practice, with this Buddha, in my garden. The perfection of this plan, in my mind, was that my front garden had mirrored my meditation journey. As much as I wanted a pretty garden (like I wanted the benefits of meditation), I couldn’t quite get myself to actually garden (to actually sit). In the 6 years I had lived there, with the exception of a few dandelion-purging sessions, I had sorely neglected this garden.  It was overgrown, unwieldy and ugly. And, just as with meditation, I was armed with a plethora of seductive excuses. I suck at digging holes (I’m actually no good at meditating, I daydream).  I detest tilling soil (Time DRAGS when I meditate).  I get blisters within 10 minutes of gripping lawn tools (My feet keep falling asleep, ugh….). The energy of my yearlong practice, though, was greater than my dislike for the gardening part of gardening. This Buddha was worth it.

Over the next 3 weeks I removed lost-cause shrubs, pulled weeds, worked in compost, scavenged pavers, planted ferns and grasses, rescued a strawberry plant and nursed blisters. When my garden was finally ready I put the Buddha statue on the largest paver, framed by two deep green mosses. But the following week instead of standing in my new garden honoring this commitment with my Buddha I was flustered on my living room sofa, vacillating between holding back tears, wanting to forge on and cursing to myself.

I decided to meditate, and set my timer for 20 minutes. If you’re wondering if this was one of those meditations where skies break open or seas part to usher in gleaming insights, well it wasn’t. In fact it was the kind of meditation I didn’t even think counted my first few months. Bombarding thoughts kicked it off:

Who would do that? The karma!… How does someone make a get-away carrying a heavy rock?… I feel so violated!… Maybe the bad karma is my bad karma, maybe it’s wrong for me to want a Buddha…. With all the practical and easy-to-carry things out there, that have ACTUAL street value, why my Buddha?… After who-knows-how-long of this, what is often referred to as the “witness” stepped in:

Thinking Ashley, this is simply thinking.  Acknowledge any “thinking” and let it pass. Okay, starting over. Breathing… Thinking…. Thinking…. Thinking… Angry thinking…  I’m thinking angry thoughts…. I’m thinking about the fact that I’m really angry. Sigh. No Ashley, just “thinking.”  Right, just thinking, okay.  Starting again… Thinking…. Thinking…  I’m thinking I’m upset. And the fact that I’m not supposed to be thinking but I’m too upset not to think!  Um Ashley, breathe. It’s simply “thinking,” that’s all.  Got it. Breathe and watch thoughts pass…  Thinking… Thinking…. Thinking there’s an asshole out there with my Buddha….

My timer rang. I re-opened my eyes, stretched my legs and scanned my body. I felt angry. I felt sad. I felt like I wanted to finish setting the intention of a continued practice. There was plenty of room for all three to co-exist. What I no longer felt was resistance to feelings that “weren’t part of the plan.” This was enough and so I forged on. It was a couple of hours later while enjoying a cup of tea in my favorite chair when the proverbial seas did part. Suddenly, intensely and briefly I cried. “Somebody stole my Buddha but nobody stole my practice.”

Actual meditating, much like my garden, isn’t always pretty or appealing. Nor is it always illuminating, least of all illuminating on cue. But what it always IS, is available. Over the next couple of months I still got a residual lump in my throat when I’d spy the empty paver. I harbored occasional thoughts of someone out there with bad karma. I half-heartedly looked for a replacement. Eventually, though, I let go. Out of this surrendering grew an appreciation for the emptiness surrounding the paver. This emptiness began to feel spacious. I came to understand, and feel, that when I cultivate spaciousness in my mind I’m less likely to resist what comes up (there’s plenty of room in there!). That means I suffer less. Sorta the whole point of meditation.

Wow! Somebody stole my Buddha and to that somebody I can actually now say “Thank you.”

Posted by: Ashley Dahl, 8 Limbs Executive Director

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