10 Minutes of Nothing

I sat outside for 10 minutes at lunch time. I did nothing. I closed my eyes.

This video inspired me. Taking a 10-minute break connected me to my senses. I felt the sun on the back of my neck. I heard hip hop music from a car stopped at a traffic light nearby. I opened my eyes and saw a sparrow, a few feet away, tilt its head.

I thought about the mastercard bill I have to pay. I strategized about meeting my daughter before one play practice today and after another. I wondered if it would be good enough if she had only a slice of pizza for dinner.

I felt some things. I thought some things. But I did not get bogged down in my thoughts or feelings. I hopped from thing to thing like the sparrow.

There may have been a few moments when I entered a state beyond thinking or feeling. I drifted into the sky. I saw a gold frame against the sky. What happens when you frame infinity? I thought, How funny – that there are stars in the sky during the daytime too. I don’t see the stars, but I know they’re there.

I thought, I have to work on my Magical Realism curriculum for the 10th grade World Lit class tomorrow. I added that to the part of my mind that contains the long To Do list.

I slowed my breathing. I glanced at my phone 9 minutes had gone by. One more minute to sit. One more minute to think about nothing. Closed my eyes. Heard a strange tapping. Then, I heard footsteps crunching. I opened my eyes. A mother and her teenage son walked in front of me, serious, going somewhere.

Meditation is watching a movie in my mind. Being a bystander. Not hopping on stage. I am not the star of the film; I am a witness.

Focus. Calm. Clarity.


I learned about this video and 12 others that inspire at Let Why Lead. We are part of the 31 days of writing campaign.

A Long Winter’s Nap

Tabata, my sister's cat. She doesn't care much...
I get sick of cat photos but this one’s cute. (Photo credit: creative commons, Wikipedia)

Yesterday the weirdest thing happened. I had a lot to do, so I napped. I never nap. I only napped when I was pregnant.

I felt guilty for napping. Guilt is my fall-back feeling for doing anything that does not improve the house, help my husband or my kids, earn money.

After all, I had to:

  • Clean the house. (The cleaning lady couldn’t come due to the impending storm.)
  • Write a proposal for the Players Club about a January blogging event.
  • Say yes! to a request to lead a social media workshop in April 2013 at Religion Communicators Council gathering in Indianapolis.
  • Begin a magazine writing assignment.
  • Watch the president’s acceptance speech. (Couldn’t stay up on election night to wait for Romney’s concession!)
  • Help my husband with bill-paying.

So I napped. I slept for two and a half hours. I woke up groggy, confused. I had dreamt I was at a racetrack with my son and I was drinking champagne. It was a warm afternoon and I was enjoying our shady spot. I wanted to stay asleep.

My kids chased each other with snowballs into the apartment building.

The kids come home from school, dropping their backpacks by the front door, noisy and hungry for a snack or attention.

But I couldn’t help them. I couldn’t remember who they were, who I was, or where I was. It took me half an hour to feel right. That’s why I never nap. It’s discombobulating.

I know I’m tired because I’ve been waking early to get the kids up to their bus and get to my 7:30 am guided meditation class.

In meditation yesterday morning, a long-haired dude sitting next to me was falling on my shoulder, snoring away. It threw me off my meditation game.

My nap threw me off too. Since it snowed last night, I’m wondering if maybe I was just getting ready for a long winter’s nap.

Reading at the Art Share

I locked up my bike. I was pretty nervous about the reading. I used to perform a lot. But it’s been a while. I do presentations for work, but that’s not the same.

Reading my own story, I could be judged, not just on my performance but on my material. I had signed up to read at the New York Insight Meditation Center Art Share. http://www.nyimc.org/ Not exactly the stress of Amateur Night at the Apollo, but still, stressful.

Just breathe, I reminded myself.

Buddhism and its practitioners are known for non-judgment. What a great concept — not judging.

I was reading a story that I knew to be funny, poignant, true. It was a mash-up of a few blog posts, one of which was about a mindfulness walk on a retreat.  As I walked, I took out my phone to snap  a picture and then it happened — I got caught in the web of social media — answering emails, texts, updating my Facebook, all while trying to meditate. I had gone on the retreat to get away from it all, but unwittingly plunked myself right back  into the thick of it all. https://mbcoudal.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/blue-cliff-monastery/

The reading went well. I got some laughs, some nods, some smiles.

After the reading, I felt that post-performance high — that arm-stretched-in-the-air pose of a gymnast who has just nailed her floor routine.

I bumped into an acquaintance who was about to teach a yoga class. She told me that my reading went well.

“Thanks,” I said, feeling grateful.

That’s when I realized the purpose of doing a reading or blogging or putting myself out there — is to turn acquaintances into friends. And to feel grateful.

I got on my bike. I rode home feeling proud and humble at the same time.

Christian Ashram

Dear R.,

Great to see you and meet you at the Religion Communication Congress in Chicago. Great event!

Really enjoyed the article on the Christian Ashram: “Ashram draws followers from across country” by Mallory McCall, Apr 23, 2010.

I recently spent the night at a retreat center/monastery with my son. It was a little spooky AND very peaceful. Here is my blog about it. https://mbcoudal.wordpress.com/2010/04/01/greymoor-ecumenical/

Retreats! I love the Women’s Division-sponsored Schools of Christian Mission. For me — to learn, to pray, to sing, to share meals, to worship, to simply be! It is so restorative!

Also, I’ve recently been thinking about retreats as an authentic experience with God. We often hear about Eastern faiths that include meditative practices. Yet Christian faith has a long history of meditation as a spiritual practice as well. We all need that direct and unfiltered time with God. I believe this is the reason that world religions which include and encourage retreats are so popular – in this multitasking world, people need time apart.

In the United Methodist Reporter article, Sandra Hancock says she waited until her children were grown to experience the Christian ashram. Yet, I encourage and invite women and parents with children of all ages not to wait. Consider a retreat with their local United Methodist Women or Conference School of Mission now. I’ve taken all three of my kids to schools of mission. They love them. Tons of schools of mission happen all over the United States, often in June – at retreat centers, college campuses, church basements – and they are awesome.

To learn more about School of Christian Mission in your area, ask your local United Methodist Woman or United Methodist Conference leader. – mb

PS I’m cc’ing colleagues who might be interested in the UMReporter article. http://umportal.org/article.asp?id=6677