Culture

Accidental meditation: Finding my peace in the moment

Today, I’m half a world away in Switzerland. As a dual citizen, I gained entry in the midst of the pandemic and spent 10 days in quarantine on the edge of an encircling suite of rising pastureland just south of Basel. I was not allowed to leave the premises, not even for a stroll along the wide-open footpaths twisting up and around the pastures, much as I longed to. Instead, I weeded my host’s yard above a small orchard, something I offered to do, somewhat to her surprise.

“But I’d really like to,” I said, when she protested my offer to work. Day after day, I pulled at the wild tangles, filling two large yard bags and quieting my thoughts while I did so. 

My room in the house is small, but up on the second story, with a balcony overlooking the neighborhood and the open country surrounding it. From there, I can watch the nearby farmers plow and disc their fields. It leads me to wonder what, if anything, they are thinking as they work – but, for the most part, my mind is on slow time as I sit out on the balcony. The nearby church bells coordinate with my heartbeat. The cowbells clang with a different rhythm, but they resonate too.

Now, with my quarantine ended, I consulted a map and became intrigued with a three-hour hike, two train stops north, along a karst valley replete with waterfalls, caves, and archaeological sites. Shame on me for not diligently consulting the educational postings about various features. Instead, I simply put one foot in front of the other, listened to the rippling and cascading water, and peered into the dark, blank mouths of trailside caves from the sunlit path.

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There’s a lot to be said for not tuning in to the past or future for stretches of time, for dwelling only in the flank, the windrow, or the footfall – whatever the moment presents. I have a wildly gifted and keenly intelligent friend who once confessed to me, “I can’t turn my brain off.”

I can’t, either. But sometimes it so fills with the here and now there’s no room for more.

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Mark Sappenfield Editor

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