Saturday, August 15, 2009

159/227 - Evening Strolls

Day off.

Rest and class are working about equally well right now, and this morning, I felt like taking some rest. So I was lazy and didn't go to class.

The day 222 meditation discusses how Gates can measure his spiritual progress by how he feels about others while taking an evening stroll. He talks about a nice summer's evening walk in Northampton, Mass. The brief description of the walk made me a bit nostalgic. I've had the pleasure of living in lots of great areas for walking. But the Houston area is definitely not one of them, and I miss my walks.

In New Haven, I walked everywhere, of course. And then, often, just for fun we would go for walks -- up science hill and beyond, or just through the town square, or out to Worcester Square for the best pizza in the world.

Then there was Manhattan, where there's something new and interesting every few blocks. For a few years I lived near Fort Tryon on the northern tip of Manhattan, and its one of the nicest parks anywhere. On summer nights sometimes, we would walk down to the George Washington bridge around sunset, and then over it to New Jersey, just to get the amazing views of the river, and to be able to look back onto Manhattan at dusk.

And in Los Angeles, I lived in Venice and would walk up the Venice boardwalk up to Santa Monica to watch the beach volleyball and maybe have a little fun with the chess hustlers. In most of LA, of course, walking is pretty much unthinkable (Hollywood and Westwood are exceptions I guess). But Venice is one of the strangest places around, and filled with people of all sorts. It made for great, cheap entertainment.

In Minneapolis, it was the either the lakes or the river. I lived right on the Mississippi, so my evening walk was across a suspension bridge by the waterfalls. (The city exists because there's a drop of several feet in the river there, and the riverboats had to stop, unload, and then reload on the other side of the falls.) Then it was a walk along the riverfront, through a district with a fairly active nightlife, to the next bridge or the one after, and then back home.

And Paris was best of all, though I was only there for a little more than a month. Of course, in Paris, everything is new and magical. At sunset, I'd walk down one of the wider boulevards, watching the old men playing boules, and taunting each other. Or find a park where children would play with miniature sailboats in the fountains. Or just watch the stylish women walking their dogs. And of course, a walk in Paris is combined with stops at cafes or bars, where I'd try to make conversation in stumbling French.

But here in Houston? There just isn't much made for walking. It's too hot. People avoid the outdoors, especially in summer. And I miss the evening walks (or at least Gates has prompted me to miss it).

Gates main point was about his attitude to others when taking a stroll. He talks about feeling connected to everyone, enjoying their present, and simply being full of love. It's a nice thought, but Robert Hunter puts the idea much more simply, I think, in Scarlet Begonias: "Strangers stopping strangers, just to shake their hands; everybody is playing in the heart of gold band." The second line always seemed a bit like a non-sequitor to me, but Gate's meditation makes me see the point. When everyone is connected, then its like everyone is playing in the same band, and because the connection stems from love, it makes sense that the band would be the "heart of gold band." (And yes, I realize I'm probably over-interpreting, but there it is.)


thedancingj said...

Whoa whoa whoa, your yoga book is talking about Northampton MA now?? That town is where I'm FROM! That's where I went to high school!!! Oh man, I was NOT expecting to read that! There is a very lovely Bikram studio in Northampton now, by the way... I am great friends with the owner. :)

That's cool what Gates says about his feelings towards others on the street, cause I have definitely experienced those same feelings VERY strongly at times, and it's nice to know that it is not just me! I thought I was a little bit crazy for it... but it feels really good.

Bosco said...

That's a great sidebar about evening strolls. Paris gets my vote.

I think a key to this meditation is where Gates says "judgment has lost its grip on me." If we can let go of our judgments about people what is left is a feeling of love and unity - the Heart of Gold Band.