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Lions Roar : July 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2011 36 Skye’s fifth-grade teacher, an online yoga work- shop, and a trip to Walgreens to buy wart remover. And I haven’t even washed the breakfast dishes yet. Not that there’s anything wrong with plan- ning, in and of itself; my plans have created some wonderful outcomes over the years (as well, of course, as some spectacular misfires). The problem is, my planning respects no boundaries. I plan while driving, hiking, washing my hair, and sit- ting on the toilet. I scribble my do-lists everywhere—crumpled napkins, torn-up envelopes, Post-it notes, dream journals, the palm of my hand. I sit during meditation retreats planning to sit during future meditation retreats. For decades after I started my mindfulness practice, my inces- sant planning—amazingly—remained largely invisible to me. Sit- ting in meditation, I noticed the ice storms of fear, the tsunamis of lust, the endless reruns of disastrous love affairs and childhood disappointments. But my planning mind was a constant back- ground hum I took for granted—the way when I visit my brother, an editor at the New York Times, NPR is always playing on a radio on the kitchen counter. (Once, on a recent visit, I suggested that we might not want to eat our scrambled eggs while listening to a broadcast about how syphilis was on the rise in the D.C. area. His whole brilliant, well-informed family looked at me in bewilder- ment, as if I had suggested turning off the oxygen.) But a few years ago I began to catch myself planning during my yoga practice. I’ve always thought of yoga as a sanctuary from the din of my thoughts—a sensual, intuitive, intimate realm I explore with no GPS. But there I was, deep in a forward bend, swimming through a wordless flow of sensation and emotion—when I noticed my own voice-over, preparing instructions to an invisible future yoga class about how to swim through a wordless flow of sensation and emotion. There I was, blissfully doing sun salutations under a tree on my deck, when I caught myself planning a “yoga in nature” retreat, where I could do yoga under a tree on a deck. Suddenly it was as if a black light had been turned on in my in- ner world and all my invisible-ink planning was glowingly apparent, scrawled like graffiti over every available mental surface. I realized how often I slaughtered my actual life—the smell of bay laurels in the rain, the creamy surrender of an avocado to my spoon—on the altar of a ghostlike future. I saw how regularly I sat outside the wide- open gates of heaven, trying to order the keys online. I was horrified. All those decades of meditation and yoga, and things were still this bad? Surely, there must be something I could do about it. There must be—well, a plan! So I promptly made one: To make planning itself an object of my mindful awareness. To learn The glowing red ball of the sun over the runway, the crunch of hot buttered toast, the laughter of my boy on the bed next to me. The trip—just as it was—was bursting with miracles. Above: Anne and Skye setting off on their trip. Right: the hotel room. Opposite: view of the runway from the room.