Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Monday, 31 August 2015


On cumulus clouds:

They sometimes resemble a series of cotton balls, or a cauliflower. 
Cumulus Clouds

On anti-depressants:
At the eating disorder program at the children’s hospital in Ottawa, the team wanted me to go back on Prozaac. I was strongly opposed to the idea. I felt it was unnatural, and cheating. But I was super down and although I had resumed healthy nutrition, my progress had sort of stagnated. I told the doctor that I didn’t want to go on anti-depressants unless the psychological surveys confirmed that indeed I was depressed.

“We don’t need the measures to prove you’re depressed,” said Dr. Feder. “I can see you are profoundly depressed. You’re only happy when you’re so busy you can barely tell where you are.”
I was seventeen years old and life seemed so long. Time is precious. Time flies. Everyone says this. Tempus fugit. Before you know it, you’ll be a grandmother dying of morphine. Imagine. I cannot. Me, the dying grandmother, counting all my limbs, wiggling my fingers and toes and laughing at how the massive and tedious hours were now over. And I’d survived all the hours, with no amputation or spinal cord injury.

On Counting Down:
Don’t tell the vipassana people, but I went to the Zen centre a couple times in June. One Saturday morning, a woman who had been to the intro session with me brought her seventeen year old daughter. For your first month at the Zen centre, you don’t have to sit for the whole hour and a half. You can leave after half an hour, or one hour. The woman and her daughter left after one hour.

On Sunday, June 28th, Simon’s 36th birthday, I brought daisies to the rooftop of Simon’s apartment building, where Simon had jumped off and killed himself. I walked home in the pouring rain. Just a few blocks away from Simon’s apartment, I ran into the woman from the zen centre. I had already walked all the way down the city and all the way up the 23 floors of Simon’s building in silence. Now I was in front of this woman's apartment on De Bullion Street. The silence and the ritual were over. Or at least changing. The woman told me that after their hour at the zen centre, she and her daughter had gone to a café, where they’d laughed with immense relief.
“We were both so happy when we heard the airplane fly over the zen centre. Finally, something else to think about,” she said. “We were so relieved to get out of there. I wonder, is that what death will be like? Deep relief that it’s all over. Like finally, we made it through?”

I wonder.
In the meantime, we get so busy we can’t even tell where we are.

I’ve counted down so many days of my life.
The summers when I was eighteen and nineteen, I worked at a camp for kids disabilities. The sessions were ten days. Just like at vipassana, you arrived on day zero, and left on day eleven. Just like at vipassana, I would count, Day One, Day Two, Day Three. Seven days left to go, six, five, four. If there were six days left, I would count how many days ago this was, and decide whether or not this seemed like a long time ago. Almost always, it seemed like a long time ago.

When I worked at the house for adults with disabilities, during my second year, I counted down from March to the end of July. How many days is that? A depressing number.

At vipassana, I would count down the hours. Twelve hours left in the day. Twelve hours ago, we were going to bed. It felt like forever ago. 
Sixteen years old, with my friends Tamar and Caleb,
reading Amelia Bedelia, at another summer camp where the sessions were only 5 days.
Well, I don't look like I'm counting down. Must be the excellent book.

On Breaking Up:

When I was with the Boatman, every trip, I would count down the days until I got to see him again. No matter how wonderful the experience, I couldn’t wait. Last year at vipassana I remember crying in the woods and thinking nothing would be more beautiful than seeing him again.

I just got back from a short three-day stint at vipassana. Only three days, and of course I counted them down. It was Day Two that I realized how many of my days I’d counted down to seeing the Boatman. My body was filled with memories of Halifax and our relationship. By Day Three I felt panicked at the idea of going back to Montreal. I was counting down to nowhere, nothing, no one. Up until then, I hadn’t cried all that much or intensely. I had made immense progress on my delicate weeping skills, just letting the tears slide naturally down my face, not succumbing to hysteria.  I did not feel that this could last. I wished all the pain and loneliness would dissolve in one enormous emotional blow-out.
“It’s a long path,” the teacher told me in our interview. “There’s no quick fix.” Alas. She suggested to continue with the vipassana technique, scanning my body, observing the sensations and not engaging with my internal conversations and emotions. It worked okay. No quick fix. No ultimate cure. It’s a long path.

When it was all over, I turned on my I-phone. God bless I-phones. My friend Emily had sent a message that she needed me to feed her cat. I was happy about this because it made me feel like I was part of someone’s life.
Through much of the vipassana course, the song in my head was, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel.

I think it will remain one of my favourites.
“When we meet on a cloud, I’ll be laughing out loud, I’ll be laughing with everyone I see. Can’t believe. How strange it is to be anyone at all.”

The End.

On Coherence: maybe next time. It’s nice to be blogging again. 
The Spiritual Pants made an appearance at vipassana.
Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor

What a Beautiful Face
Deep Unyielding Depression, Part One
Deep Unyielding Depression, Part Two
In the Aeroplane over the Sea



  1. It's not cheating to check out the Zen centre! But it is good to not shop around too much. It's too easy to keep moving on and on and never stop and really face the music. That said, there is a guy who is a Zen teacher in Halifax - Koun Franz. I only know of him through a blog he used to keep but, to me, it seemed like he is the real deal. If you can find him and sit with him, try it. I think he has something to offer.

    Please take good care (as they always say at my Zen centre) but I mean it too.

  2. Thank you, Robyn! I am actually in Montréal now and unfortunately didn't come across much Zen while I was in Halifax. After nearly eight years of the Ashtanga music, these days, I feel somewhat wary of pledging too much allegiance to one system. But I know what you mean, and maybe that will shift in time. You too, please take care. Xo.

  3. Ugh, yes - duh! I knew that you left Halifax yet I still had that association in my mind, I guess. Also, I want someone to study with Koun because he seems so incredible. He's new to town so you likely would not have encountered him. My Zen contacts don't extend to Monteal, alas.

    Agree re: acceptance. I think there is some perfection in there too, which helps sometimes.

  4. Wow! Blogspot ate my nicely curated comment!