Meditation on a Banana and Writing

It’s been a year focused on mortality – hits and misses, losses and anxieties. Someone of my morose temperament is more likely to start self-medicating than rallying forth. Having given up on drinking and smoking years back and never really taken much to drugs, I’m left to my own devices, which usually involve excessive organizing, surliness, and voracious reading. Solitude has been a fleeting, rare creature for months now. Writing, the beast which I chase in my dreams, still eludes me most days.

15799151It is times like these when other artists save me. I just finished reading 842450Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: How Artists Work and Jill Krementz’s The Writer’s Desk. These are the kind of books – part inspiration, part instruction –  that you pick up when time and space seem to conspire against your best laid plans. Maybe it’s a hope that something is contagious in reading about other writers’ lives. I come away feeling less alone and more heartened about the piecemeal fashion in which I pursue writing.

Writing carries baggage for me. That baggage is full of mixed messages: the fears that I may never accomplish what I seek to accomplish and the realization that it all matters so little in the scheme of the universe. It is full of envy and self-loathing, disgruntlement and all manner of desperation. This can be heavy and paralyzing, lugging the baggage along into every writing session.

Like muscles that tighten into a knot, no movement is possible until you relax. There are meditation and Zen practices, most of which have now been repackaged and priced and sold along with a set of knives capable of cutting a car in two. The simplest of these practices, and I offer it to you absolutely free of charge, is to focus on the moment.

I had the most delicious banana this morning, but it took me a few minutes to run canstockphoto25301478through the overthinking that comes with anything I do. First I thought about the fires in the Amazon and wondered how they affected the bananas. Then I thought about how they were predicting that this particular kind of banana would be extinct in ten years, due to various fungi. Extinction made me think about the climate and Greta Thunberg and how adults, in their usually capacity as jackasses, were criticizing and mocking her this week for lecturing said jackasses on their climate paralysis. Then I thought about plastic and the fact that I can’t stop seeing it everywhere, with every product, without thinking about whales’ stomachs.

I was halfway through the banana.

Earlier in the week, I’d lectured a friend on catastrophic thinking and how imagining the worst thing that can happen is deleterious to one’s current state. I didn’t use the word canstockphoto65164533deleterious, but that’s how I’m telling the story. When we’re in the middle of a situation, our brains have this capacity to go completely free-range, snarfing down every bit of anxiety in its path. Bloated with neuroses and catastrophic thought, we rarely take action that alleviates it. Instead we eat ice cream, drink wine, binge watch TV or porn, smoke pot, go shopping, or rage online – anything that distracts us from the bloat.

Three-quarters through the banana.

If catastrophizing makes nothing better and churning in those thoughts brings us misery and paralysis, the only solution is this moment, this banana. It is delicious, I am enjoying it…it is delicious, I am enjoying it. It bears repeating, because already my brain is starting to think it is gone, what next?

And then it really is gone. I missed most of the joy – too busy letting anxieties ramble unhindered through my thought processes instead of having the visceral experience of eating a delicious banana.

30659Is it not so with any endeavor? How dense and rich would life be if we practiced being in the moment, having the experience, tasting the food, looking at the scenery, rolling words through our brains? Those sentences make me laugh. I’ve been reading Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations. It’s made my prose a tad odd.

The point is, and I am pretending that I have one, is that this can be applied to writing as well. All the thoughts about publication or how it measures against others’ works – all the thoughts about never succeeding or maybe being too old to be in this game – all the thoughts of self-denigration and unworthiness. These take away from the moment you’re in – the writing of a delicious sentence. The picking of a word. The telling of a story. The befriending of a character. The joy of expression.

Write the words. Eat the banana. Be present.

 

Other Books for Inspiration:

Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chödrön

Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artist Process Edited by Joe Fassler

Room to Write: Daily Invitations to a Writer’s Life by Bonni Goldberg

Daily Rituals: Women at Work by Mason Currey

The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes

46 Comments on “Meditation on a Banana and Writing

  1. Now I want a banana.

    But, in all seriousness, a great post Michelle. There is so much going on, in the world and in our own lives, we all need to be reminded to live in the moment. Easier said than done some days.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s a tough balance to strike – living in the moment while caring about the future, but sometimes those things cannot be done simultaneously. With the world being as interconnected as it is and all the info available, there is nothing we can do or consume without having some sort of consequence. On the other hand, if we don’t stay in the moment and appreciate what we might lose, then maybe we’ll be less inclined to stop its loss.

      Liked by 2 people

      • It’s complicated and challenging to be sure, but I do think it’s possible to be in the moment without losing sight of what matters and what’s at stake. I know I have to work at it constantly and sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Your summation and the process you went through to come to it ring true with me. You can read all the how-to-write-better books you want, but in the end you have to find your own way [and voice]. Whatever works, works. A trite saying but one I’ve come to realize is the truth of many things.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I like reading about other writers, if only for more experiments to try with my own writing and routines. I read a book called Designing Your Life that talks about prototyping and I think of that when I read how other people have arrived at what works for them.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Mature, supportive feedback above… Maybe this comment will be the one that gets me blocked from your blog. It’s inspired by someone I heard a decade or so ago; unfortunately his name escapes. Anyway, this holding pattern you’re in, or however you view it, what do you get out of it? What benefit do you get by not writing or making progress in your writing? Thinking through a situation with this approach can turn up surprising info about oneself.
    P.S. I really enjoy your posts. Please don’t block me. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve only ever blacklisted one commenter on the blog and that was a guy who liked to talk about how big his unit was. I think you’re safe!
      Those are good questions to ask and normally I’d be the first one to ask them. I’ve had so much situational stuff going on this year though, that I’m cutting myself some slack. What strikes me as interesting is that when old routines are disrupted by a crisis, there’s a window of opportunity to create something better. I wrote this post about not being productive and just finished writing session of a couple thousand words. There is some kind of magic to saying one’s fears aloud. Suddenly, they have less power and one is freed.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I always enjoy your posts. They often echo what I’m thinking and wondering about, but you write them in a more entertaining way. My latest inspiration is that fear is a self-perpetuating habit. Like an addiction, it feeds on itself.

    It occurs to me that all the associations you made as you ate that banana are part of the enjoyment, the multi-dimensional appreciation of the here and now. Would you have connected all those dots without the banana to stimulate them? They are part of the whole experience.

    I may have asked before, but do you journal? If so, do you consider that writing? I journal every day and have found that ideas percolate and evolve over time. Sometimes, it takes time for them to gel into something worth sharing with others.

    Liked by 2 people

    • While I like free-range thinking, most of my thoughts while eating the banana were anxieties as opposed to pondering. Anxiety, like fear, is one of those things that eats up personal energy, drains the joy out of life and as you say, is often self-perpetuating.
      As for journaling, I did it from my teens until my late 20s. These days, my journals take the form of writing down random ideas, especially when I’m reading. Between personal correspondence (I’m an old school letter writer), the personal essays here, and fiction writing, journaling doesn’t appeal to me much – even while I understand how valuable it can be.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Michelle,
        I guess it depends on how you define journaling. I count rambling ideas, notes on reading, and even personal correspondence, as a kind of personal historical record.

        Like

        • I guess I’m no longer sure what journaling means. Much like scrapbooking, which used to entail me gluing newspaper cartoons and ticket stubs to pages, the idea has been corporatized. I’ve seen elaborate versions of both that involve workshops and expensive supplies. But I’ve always thought of a journal like a diary.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Me, too. For me it serves as a kind of personal history and takes a stream of consciousness format. I look forward to sitting with morning coffee and pen/paper, staring into space, and writing whatever comes to mind.

          After reading your last reply, I wondered if the anxiety about your free-ranging thought stemmed from a judgment over what form “being present” should take. Doesn’t “being present” include being aware of thoughts without judging them? That your mind turned to the things it did was unique to you. Other people would undoubtedly have different thoughts while eating a banana and still be present with the total experience.

          I do understand what you are saying, though, and you say it well. I have often wondered if my judgment of an experience contaminates the experience itself.

          Liked by 2 people

        • You mention something that I often have to remind myself of: allowing for thoughts to rise and pass, as opposed to judging them. I think that skill is harder and harder to come by in a world of reviews and ratings and everyone’s publicized opinion about everything. Still, back to the practice…

          Liked by 2 people

        • I’m glad for this dialogue, because I’m a severe judge of my own thoughts but judge myself even for that. I think it’s pervasive and begins in childhood, when children are taught to lie, such as being told how they “should feel,” or “shouldn’t feel.” I contend that feelings “are,” and the judgment leads to repression and self-condemnation. I think this is why our society (and perhaps the world) has become increasingly intolerant of our own and others’ perceived shortcomings.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Brilliant post! I’m one of those people you are describing. I live either in the past or in the future and never focus on the now. It’s really hard to live in the present, but I will try to do that in future.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks. It’s a very human thing to time travel in our thinking. Problems arise when it disconnects us from where we’re at. I think one banana, one sentence at a time. Sometimes I manage to stay present, sometimes I don’t. Like anything else, it’s a practice.

      Liked by 1 person

    • There’s a lot of wisdom in it, but you have to tiptoe past some of the patriarchal “be head of the household” stuff and the occasional whiff of misogyny. Like most literature written before…yesterday.

      Like

  6. Great post! A wise person once said to my husband and me, “Don’t live in the worst case scenario.” We call each other on that now. Yet, as a writer, it can be cathartic I write out the worst case scenario, amplify it, dramatize it, really slather on the ridiculousness, and then laugh at it. And yes, now I want a banana too. And I want to go to Costa Rica where my friends reported the most delicious bananas you can imagine. Thank goodness for imagination in the meantime.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks! I was raised on the “prepare for the worst, hope for the best”, but somehow the last part of the phrase never quite had the impact as the first part. I tried the “so what if this happens” back and forth with my life coach friend and while I see the value of exagerrating one’s anxieties as an exercise, I have found that what defuses me most easily is the breath focus and trying to mentally record the moment I’m in. What is happening at this very moment? Also, a lot of time in the garden does wonders!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sound advice Michelle. I try to practice being in the moment while I’m walking on the beach or hiking through the woods or driving through the mountains, but it’s difficult to do it consistently, as you so deftly laid out here, while our minds are reeling under the weight of so many things that seem to be going so wrong. But it’s definitely something we can try to put into practice to keep things in proper perspective and to help improve our attitudes.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Nature has a wonderful neutralizing effect on the anxious mind. Is it any coincidence that the more “indoorsy” we become as a species, the more mental maladies afflict us?
      I will likely never be a consistent “present” person, but I think becoming aware of one’s “yellow flags”, when anxiety is overwhelming or when we can’t get out of our own heads is useful. Then we know it might be time to meditate or go for a walk or do whatever it is that works to bring our focus back to the moment we’re in.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Pingback: Meditation on a Banana and Writing — The Green Study – Meditating into Happiness

  9. Hi everybody. Here is another one of my writings that I wish to share with all of you. It’s called:

    Potentiality (C) 2007 Kevin Shearer

    Our days are what we make of them in all we say and do.
    Whether to be or not to be is up to me and you.

    With every choice that we will make, we shape our destiny.
    The breath of each decision is Potentiality.

    Potentiality makes dreams reality.
    It’s through the focus of intention how things come to be.

    Potentiality is a field of energy.
    Eternal in it’s origins. A part of you and me.

    In all of nature, you can see growth and development.
    Without Potentiality, both would be irrelevant.
    In between what was before and what can never be
    lies the present moment of Potentiality.

    Potentiality makes dreams reality.
    Potentiality is all possibility.
    Potentiality is a part of you and me.

    Blessings,
    Kevin

    Like

  10. Bananas are a lot more powerful than I thought. But this is an amazing post. The humour of the banana leading to life-changing revelations is wonderful 😁😊 keep up the awesome work 👍

    Like

  11. OMG I needed to read this. “Write the words. Eat the banana. Be present.” This really needs to be my new motto. Maybe I need to just let things unfold as the do. Maybe I need to start buying more bananas.

    Like

Share Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: