Meditations

Meditations
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

I recently wrote about my morning ritual. Listening to new age music, consulting several books: Everyday Serenity by David Kundtz and 365 Tao Daily Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao, among others. During those sixty minutes, my world is focused on words that inspire, challenge, and ask more questions than I ever thought I needed. This is my time. A meditation on one moment in my life. To begin the day aware. I am prepared to make every second count, even if that means doing something or just letting life pass by me by doing nothing. And I’m okay with that.

“No matter how much restriction civilization imposes on the individual, he nevertheless finds some way to circumvent it. Wit is the best safety valve modern man has evolved; the more civilization, the more repression, the more need there is for wit.”

“Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious” (1905) Sigmund Freud
Meditations
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

I probably don’t laugh, tell, or listen to enough jokes. Or laugh at me enough. Be silly enough. Speak enough witty statements. Look at the world and scream laughter at how silly this all is. It’s shocking and laughable all at the same time. How foolish we are here in the United States of America, where the past is being exposed as untruth for some, and for others, the past is being revealed for its truth. Someone has been lying all the years I’ve been alive, or maybe they believe what they want to think. I should laugh about that more often because, in the end, I need to understand how all this will impact me at my age.

“Remember that you are always your own person. Do not surrender your mind, heart, or body to any person. Never compromise your dignity for any reason.”

“Youth” Page 239- 365 Tao Daily Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao
Meditations
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

I often tell myself I am a leader more than a follower, but I question that sometimes. I come across a piece of writing that grabs me, and I tell myself I would like to write like that. I read about a person who inspires me with a quick wit and charming charisma and is a famous writer, actor, or visual artist, and I’m like, “I wish I could be like them.” And I know that’s silly because I know that I have much to give and be, and I find those qualities endearing and with a certain amount of charisma and hell, I’ve made it this far without being successful at killing myself, and I think “That has to count for something.” It does. I know it does, so why do I sometimes think that’s insufficient? One is unsure of themselves because they have spent a good part of their adulthood (45 years to be exact) running away from themselves and smothering themselves with drugs and alcohol and fear and insecurity. Yet somehow, there were flashes of brilliance, genius, hard work, successful work, and play that didn’t involve unnatural stimulants, illusions, or delusions. Just naked me. Open to all possibilities.

“Living life as an artist is a practice. You are either engaging in the practice or you’re not. It makes no sense to say you’re not good at it. It’s like saying “I’m not good at being a monk.” You are either living as a monk or you’re not.”

The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin
Meditations
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

I dream of being an artist. And yet the truth is that all along, I know I am. I have been one since I first remember looking up at the clouds when I was very young and seeing people, animals, buildings, and plants in them. My imagination would run wild like a spinning merry-go-round that has come loose and is out of control—spinning faster and faster. It took me years to slow it down and realize that I was going around and around and seeing and being the same things. To change and strike a single path forward to open myself up to different views of life, different people, and truths that were opposite of the ones I believed for a long time. Being an artist allows me to immerse myself in life even when it often feels too much to take in at once, and I would drown, even if it was for a moment, three, or years.

These were the painful moments when I would shut myself down and be blind and unable to hear, speak, or feel. I didn’t want to feel anymore because it hurt. Deep down inside.

Meditations
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

Now and then, a sliver of light would break through, and I would create a poem, a story, a video, a line of great thought, and there would be a relief, an insight, a truth that would inspire me to do it again and again and again. But, the pain would return, and I would have to wrap myself in a cloak of doubt, insecurity, denial, confusion, and wonder if I could ever live free again.

Meditations
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

Learning. Opening my pure self to new life, new thoughts, and new experiences that’s what drives me now. To create. To put out evidence of my art while being my art. Living unencumbered by foolish memories and instead using them to hold back any thoughts of pain and to focus instead on the warmth of the sun, the tranquility of the ocean, the unique nature of a flower, the shade of a tree, the sizzling touch that comes with hugging those you love and the friends who support and love you with their trust and support. And in turn, you give back a hundredfold in the circle of life.

It’s all good. It really is.

Morning Ritual

Morning ritual
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

“Build your life brick by brick.

Live a life of truth,

And you will look back on a life of truth.

Live a life of fantasy,

And you will look back on delusions.”

Order “365 Tao Daily Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao”

Waking, shaking my body free of sleep in the mornings, any morning, is a ritual, more than a series of routines, habits that one is guaranteed to fulfill because they are a robot and not a live, breathing human being. There were other mornings when I would crawl out of bed on hands and knees because my mind and my body were so poisoned (you pick the poison, alcohol, drugs, the despair that comes with no sleep from breaking night) that I could barely testify whether I was in a dream or a nightmare or death.

Sleep was an interruption to a stress-filled rush of time measured by how fast I could speed through minutes, hours, or a day that it all became a blur; a series of events, people crashing into each other with no purpose or goal other than it just was and my body would carry me along praying (not in a religious sense but in the sense of desperation) that it would not drop me. Until it often did.

Morning ritual
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

Now, I know better after years of falling hard. Of getting my head crushed under the weight of failure and disappointment, I get it. You can either let time control you, or you can control time. Your time. No one else’s time, just yours. And it begins with that moment you wake. You know this is another opportunity to discover, to be someone new, to build a day brick by brick different from yesterday, more beautiful than yesterday, to live with purpose and not just glide through with no hope, no moments of joy, allowing yourself to be in a time of being.

“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.”

Henry David Thoreau (1817-62)

That second that I push or pull (aging can do that) myself up from the bed begins my morning ritual (I will not lie; I am often in awe that I am still here). Shaking my body to the bathroom with each step, eyes opening from looking down to looking straight ahead, from stumbling to erect, catching my stride from wariness to determination.

The water flows, warm, over and through my hands, washing over my face, erupting every cell in my cheeks, mouth, nose, eyelids, and neck. The electric toothbrush in my hand vibrates in my mouth, stimulating every cell ending awake and alive.

I stand in the quiet of my bathroom in our house (I recognize that I have the privilege to have one). No one else is there with me, another privilege knowing I am lucky as fuck to have my own space while everyone else is still asleep at five in the morning. My only companion is the quiet that accompanies me to the kitchen and the Keurig coffee maker as I scan the world outside through my phone to ensure the outer world is still here (those news alerts).

Morning ritual
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

The sound of coffee filling my cup (we have cups from around the world, and it’s always a happy moment to celebrate Tokyo, Barcelona, Paris, or New York). The smell of Bustelo Coffee wafting into my nose, bringing back memories of that first spoonful Titi Bebé would give me, of that strong coffee when I was too young to be drinking coffee at all. Flashbacks to 2595 Third Avenue in the South Bronx when my memory swears, I could smell the roasting coffee coming into our apartment from a nearby Bustelo factory.

Cup in hand, I walk, determined to my office. No hangover (I am sober twelve years this September) and no scratching mistakes from the previous day out of my mind.

There’s a ritual. I recheck the day ahead. It’s all laid out before I go to bed (yes, I have a ritual then too). My headphones pump meditation music into my brain, creating a cocoon of thought, wrapping me in a warm blanket of sound, and giving me peace and inspiration. I open my meditation writing notebook and begin a reading and writing ritual that opens a universe before me. Wise words followed by their meaning for me, how they inspire me to create my definitions, and my interpretations for what opportunities I may build brick by brick for my day ahead.

Morning ritual
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

A poem, a narrative, a story built from memory, or a fiction coming from somewhere deep inside of me whose origin I cannot trace, and I swear it didn’t come from a book I read or a video I watched, or a podcast I heard or maybe it came from all those things. Maybe, it came to me when I was fifteen years old on my way to school on the number 26 bus rolling over Westchester Avenue, or was it when I was lying prone in my vomit when I was thirty-two in a stranger’s apartment after testing my limits with alcohol and failing miserably. Stories, true or false, come to all of us in the strangest of places and times if we can remember them all. The truths that would rise.

“Take the breath of the new dawn and make it part of you. It will give you strength.”

Hopi saying.
Morning Ritual
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

In my quiet time, I gather my truths, my strengths, the courage, and determination to throw the past behind me as lessons learned, know that today will be one day part of that past and that I have the power to shape it, to make it shine with beauty and peace and wisdom during my morning ritual.

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