Dani Shapiro
May 28, 2017

On Finding the Quiet Within

When I’m home, I have a first-thing-in-the-morning ritual.  I splash cold water on my face, brush my teeth, pad quietly downstairs to pour myself a coffee. My husband is often sitting at the kitchen table — he’s an earlier riser than I am — but we don’t exchange more than a few words.  I head back upstairs and enter my tiny meditation room.  This room was once an abandoned room, the place where everything we didn’t know what to do with piled up. It was a sad, forgotten space.  Now, it’s spare and peaceful: a futon, two lamps, a couple of meaningful photographs.  On the futon I keep my traveling altar filled with crystals, and my traveling kit of essential oils

I take a few sips of coffee and set it on the window sill. I have an atomizer, and I pour  in a few drops of an oil (this morning’s was called Gratitude) and it begins to fill the air with a soft scent. I don’t know what the scent means or does, or how it inspires gratitude, but it helps me get set up. It’s the ritual that makes it happen.  I open the altar (really just a small tin) and place the crystals around a heart given to me by the same amazing yoga teacher who brought me the crystals. I already have Insight Timer on my iPhone set to twenty minutes.  I close my eyes and begin.

Here’s the thing, what I really want to say. It’s hard. It’s hard to sit, to watch, to notice, to witness what’s in the mind. My mind is chaotic, even more so than usual these days. I’ve counted how many readings and talks I’ve given in the past six weeks since Hourglass was published. I’m at twenty-eight and nowhere near finished. I’m overstimulated, and on a  less-than-nodding acquaintance with my inner world. I’m not writing. I can’t — not while I’m on the road. And when I’m on the road, I find it much more difficult to meditate, even with my traveling rituals, because I’m waking up in unfamiliar rooms, in unfamiliar cities. I remember, many years ago, one of my best friends came to visit us with her very young son, Manu. They slept on a pull-out sofa in my husband’s office, and when the little boy woke up, he spoke his first sentence: Where Manu?

That’s how I feel a lot of the time. Where Dani?

But I know that when  I’m in this state of intense, outward living, it becomes even more important to ground myself in the rituals I know and love. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, I resist — oh, how I resist. But I feel the difference, the space inside me that I can only access when I crack open the door to the infinite quiet.  Wherever I am — if only I get out of my own way, remove myself however briefly from the noise and chatter —  I am able to return home.