Recently, a friend asked me what I do with my time. When I tried to describe a typical day, I laughed. The reason is because I do a whole lot of nothing. This reminds me of a Buddhist joke. A disciple of the Dalai Lama gave him a present for his birthday. Upon unwrapping the gift he found it to be an empty box. The Dalai Lama joyfully exclaimed, “Nothing…just what I always wanted!”
Nothing subtly enriches my life. I walk a lot, often alone along the same upper valley roads. The distances grow longer and my pace increases. Usually, I carry my camera. You’d think that by repeating the territory of my rambles the photography would become stale with retelling. Yet I find the opposite to be true. Even now, in late November, with the fall colors gone and the flat light of my
midday treks, I see marvelous compositions. Lately, clouds provide endless subject matter. They squirm like young children. Capturing them when their mystery peaks requires patience. Most photographers know that just being there is half the battle.
Once a week a yoga teacher comes to my house. In between sessions I’ve mustered a short routine of poses, which I perform most mornings. I am not physically accomplished with the postures. I notice, however, a quieter mind. Since I was diagnosed with cancer last year, I’ve contended with a whirlwind of thoughts about mortality, wills, insurance, and etc. Multiple myeloma is more than a physical ailment. Though it may manifest itself in my body, it carries with it mental and spiritual challenges. These also need good medicine.
My days normally include a nap…or two. For this discipline I rely on my cat, Buckwheat. She is my sensei of power napping. Animals are natural healers. For them, loving devotion is a martial art. They
know all the moves. Their companionship soothes our souls. Buckwheat’s temple is the couch next to the pellet stove. When I choose to join her, I am welcomed like an aspiring pupil. She nestles between my legs and radiates wisdom.
The kind of nothing I experience, day in and day out, takes some getting used to. I don’t say that tongue in cheek. Nor should anyone think I am just sitting around waiting for the cancer to make its next move. I’m getting on with things, still wandering, still marveling at the wonder of it all. Cancer can weigh me down with its burdens or it can make me stronger. To lighten the load, I’ve found meditative walking, yoga, and my cat. The more of this kind of nothing I do, the more it feels like something.