Zen and the art of chandelier repair

One cat lay quietly nearby with zen-like stillness while I meditated this morning. The other cat jumped up on a table and lunged at a dangly snowman ornament hanging from a chandelier directly above my meditation spot. His aim is good, though he lacks thumbs, and this is the only thing that saved him and me, not to mention the poor chandelier. I broke pose to scoop him up and scold and nuzzle his so-soft head.

It’s not like he’d roused me from a state of nirvana. I’d been thinking “wow, 10 minutes is soooo long.” While I was periodically remembering to return to the breath, I hadn’t practiced meditation since last spring and my mind was an unruly mess. To call it monkey chatter would imply a massive hall of laryngytic monkeys. These monkeys were howling.

This meditation thing is going to take time and practice.

Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, Jenna from Drinking to Distraction recently sent a copy of her new book by the same name. Jenna’s was one of the first blogs I followed sober, and what drew me to her then was her openness about staying sober without the 12 steps. Her approach feels holistic and her bottom high, and both of these things appealed to me then and now. In fact, I found myself nodding in agreement throughout much of her 82-page book.

It was a light and thoroughly satisfying read. She touched on all the struggles I remember about identifying as an alcoholic in the first place. She perfectly described those early firsts of sobriety – the tense family gatherings, the awkward dinners with old party friends, the dry dates. She wrote with raw honesty and self-awareness in a way that at times reminded me of Caroline Knapp, the highest compliment I could pay.

Her story was about the common struggles we all go through once we give up drinking. The initial obsession…the turn to other less punishing distractions which eventually assume addictive proportions…and, best of all, the gradual turnaround and healing that comes with time and consistently healthier decisions. It’s uncanny how similar the process and payoff is no matter your background or bottom, and reading Jenna’s book made me feel a little less alone. That is always a beautiful thing.

Back to meditation. Jenna touches on the ways meditation freed her from some of that oh-so-familiar worry and pain we feel when we give up the drink but are left with ourselves. She describes the discomfort and challenges of meditation in the beginning, and also the rewards that come with continued practice.

As we say in recovery (and at many a 12 step meeting), I want what she has. She inspired me to try meditation again and this morning I jumped back in. And the cat jumped in the chandelier. This should be pretty fun.

Zen Cat.
Zen Cat.
Chandelier Cat (but I probably didn't need to tell you that).
Chandelier Cat (but I probably didn’t need to tell you that).
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22 thoughts on “Zen and the art of chandelier repair

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  1. Chandelier cat… priceless! Is that catnip in that party bag? Although I’m digging Zen cat too–I kinda want what *she* has. And I really want to read Jenna’s book! I am waiting patiently for the kindle version to hit, hopefully any day now. I love that it inspired you to give mediation another whirl. Sorry about the monkey chatter/howling, though happy it reminded me of Darwin and a murder of monkeys. And I’m sure your hot-dog eating god knew what was up when he said to cats, “no thumbs for you.”

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    1. You may also remember him as Refrigerator Cat, aka Spicy V8 Cat. Also, Mink-Stole Kitten from way back. He is a precious monster and I love him and my god for not granting him thumbs. The party bag was not filled with catnip, however did contain a hot-pink feather boa and fake hair extension (little girls’ parties are so…girly). I had to hide it right quick.

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  2. Another good reason for me to never own a cat! However I don’t own a chandelier either :-/

    I bought a DVD/Book combination on meditation – it got the response I’d have expected from my family – i.e. intense ridicule. I did try a couple of times but I’ve no staying power with stuff like this. I do still get the monkey chatter (must remember that… I have a friend who says the Itty-bitty-shitty-committee-in-my-head which I love) maybe I should I get back to it again one day.

    Recently I’ve been reminded about the obsession that accompanied the first few months – in particular I was talking at a meeting last week and a lady bravely shared that she couldn’t stop drinking the obsession was to great and led to a compulsion she had to fulfil. I was so impressed at her honesty and bravery in owning up to it in a large meeting. I hope with those qualities she’ll find the way to the other side of it.

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    1. I kind of do remember this obsession, though feel a certain distance and relief. It is helpful to read new blogs and be reminded what it was like…and be reminded that over time or occasionally suddenly it leaves. I smiled at your meditation dvd and book…I have no idea why, the thought of it just tickled me.

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      1. It was a Buddist guy – which made the howls of laughter from the family even more. Poor guy was a touch on the … *seeks appropriate polite word*… portly side so him just sitting down seemed an intense effort. Honestly if you want to see my wife and daughter shaking and crying with uncontrolled laughter you just have to put it in the player… they are terrible!

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  3. This is so beautiful. Interestingly, I also have a zen cat (Darwin, who does happen to have thumbs) and a Chandelier cat (Rufus, who is growl-purring in my lap as I type this). At times I think about writing a post called “Everything I needed to know about sobriety I learned from my cats,” as the contrast between the stoic one and the troublemaker often mirrors the extremes to which my mind will go when faced with the trials of everyday life. I love what you have created here and am so grateful to have you as part of my sober-sangha.

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  4. I had the pleasure of reading Jenna’s book a month or so ago – wrote a review (just yesterday) for it in return 🙂

    It was a wonderful book, and was really taken in by the second half or so where she discusses meditation and her deepening journey into Buddhism. I have to get the books she got, because they sound marvellous. I hadn’t meditated in about a week, and last night I did and I too felt like it had been forever. 12 minutes was the best I could do, *constantly* having to return to my breath. Ugh. No cats to distract, but I might as well have had a room full of squirrels on acid. That’s how random and furious my thoughts were going. But it felt great. It was like a good stretch, really…for the soul and mind.

    Great stuff…let’s both keep it up!

    Paul

    P.S leave the cats somewhere else…lol

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    1. I saw that! Great review! I do plan to stick with it this time. Looking forward to getting that stretch feeling you described. Funny how it must work to have to build up to it, but that’s enough of a promise.

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  5. Wow…
    i have to check out this book.
    This is exactly where my recovery leads me…into meditation and yoga and a very buddhist way. I’m interested in what she has read, early on kevin grifffins books really helped me thru the 12 steps. I want to be part of your sangha!

    meanwhile…I am really digging reading and listening to dharma talks and meditations by Tara Brach, I really identify with the way she lays everything out..her book True Refuge is blowing my mind these days.
    I also want to recommend a $1.99 app…Buddhify. It sounded silly to me, but there are some really cool, fun features and the little guided meditations that can be done anywhere are very cool.

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  6. Does sound like a great book .. I read a little excerpt on Drinking Diaries today and related to so much of what she wrote. It’s funny to think how alone I felt and now how many similarities there are for so many of us.. your ’10 minutes is soooo long’ made me laugh! Love the cats too xxxx

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  7. I totally relate – my cat climbs the drapes! But, I’m a sucker for cute cats! Jenna’s book sounds great. Thanks for the heads up. And, like you, I still haven’t figured out the meditating stuff. A work in progress!

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  8. One unexpected gift that my quest to sobriety gave me was the realization of how much we are all alike, for someone that likes to pride herself on being singularly unique, I wasn’t sure I liked this. But now it is a great sense of comfort to me. Every time I am nervous or scared, I can tell myself, “There is nothing wrong with you, everyone feels this way and they still get through it and you will too.”

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  9. HOW DID I MISS THIS POST?!?! I must buried under a mound of snow (hee hee).

    Love it, and a timely reminder that I have COMPLETELY failed at incorporating meditation into my life. I am so happy you are attempting this, and I hope you will update us on the progress you are making, hopefully it will inspire me to try, try again!

    Also, thanks for the recommendation, I am researching that book as soon as I log off WordPress!

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