Be Here Now


Be Here Now.

I read this post by Kate Johnston and felt like I was there in the moment with her. Beautifully written and thus I’m sharing it here.

Kristin

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Flexing your language muscles


I go to the gym a few times a week to keep myself sane and healthy. Another benefit of going to the gym as an expat is that most of the time, the classes are taught in Dutch. Words that you might not otherwise encounter in daily conversation “buikspieren” (stomach muscles), “sleutelbeen” (collar bone), are delivered up in short instructive sentences, combined with physical movement. This combination lets the words seep into your body and brain in a way that vocabulary lists or passive conversations can’t. But lately, there have been more expats than natives in the Body Balance course and the teacher has been switching to English.

My 8:15 a.m. sloth-brain appreciates the English, but the part of me that wants to get the language acquisition part of my brain in shape feels cheated. Please speak in Dutch! I want to say. But this morning, our Body Balance instructor also had a case of sloth-brain, and admitted she was too tired to translate the whole class in English today, despite the number of expats in the room. 

“It’s good for our Dutch!” I encouraged. And she set forth in her native language. My inner sloth-porcupine  prickled at the switch, discouraged that it had to work harder, but by the end of the class, not only were my muscles stretched, but my mind as well.

On my way out of the gym, with another expat of French origin, one of the trainers asked us in Dutch if we had “zin” (interest) in a group training. 

“Nee. Dank je wel. Ik heb zin in de bakkerij.” (No thank you. I have interest in the bakery.) I responded. The trim fitness coach with long blond hair and perfectly sculpted buikspieren laughed at my response and patted me on the arm in camaraderie. Usually, my sense of humor is lost on the Dutch, but this morning, a Dutch person not only got my sense of humor, but laughed in response! Now that is an accomplishment!

Playing God


My default place to run on a rainy morning is on the treadmill in the gym.   I of course miss the feeling of the earth beneath my feet and the smell of The Hague’s urban forest where I run in friendlier weather. When I run in nature, the worries or preoccupations crowding my mind slowly release into the atmosphere, as if the leaves are not only oxygenating the air, but cleaning the clutter from my mind, creating space for grace and God to enter.

But this morning, as I look at the red blinking triangle tracking my progress around the imaginary track, my mind is in overdrive, running its non-stop commentary. It doesn’t seem to matter that I just finished a Body Balance class which ended with a short meditation; my mind wants all the attention. It wants to strategize about marketing my novel, and make a checklist for work–don’t forget you need to send that one client a confirmation of their reservation. It has taken over, already throwing me into work instead of letting me be here, in the gym, in the moment.

Sometimes I tame this mind with prayer as I run. Each lap is dedicated to a friend or family member and the red blinking light guides my thoughts to my friend: I envision him or her as happy, in perfect health, that her children are well, that she has time to read. It goes on and on with each blink of progress and then I switch to another friend as the next lap begins.

But then the view pulls my mind into other thoughts. The modern gym with walls of glass windows is located above a supermarket on the corner of a busy intersection.  The treadmills lining the east-facing windows look over the street below. It is from this bird’s eye perspective that I can run and people watch at the same time. From this perspective all people become children in my eyes. The man with the large belly in a black and white striped shirt who blends into the crosswalk, the old woman with puffy white hair blowing in the rain, the young girl bicycling next to her mother in the bike path, the Muslim woman with a headscarf pulling a cart of groceries down the street, the people in the bus sitting in their seats, gazing out at the world.

From this elevated perspective, unnoticed and sequestered away behind the glass walls in the warmth of the gym, I feel an inexplicable warmth toward everyone. My judgments of others diminish. These are simply people like me–all expressions of what is possible in the world at this very moment. I wonder how it would feel to be an omnipotent presence, a God, some guiding force of the universe recognizing each and every one of these people in all of their grace and uniqueness. I try looking at each person and sending them a blessing. My head spins by the sheer number of people going by. It’s hard enough to keep up with the people just in the cross walk and on bicycles. Then the light changes and cars and buses full of people wiz by. So how would God know each and every one of us? How could he or she keep track of all of that? Just trying to track the numbers of people at this one intersection in a medium sized neighborhood in one city is mind blowing. 

I think of bored math geniuses who have done the calculations to figure out just how fast Santa would have to travel across the entire world and how big his sleigh would need to be to bring every child in the world a toy on Christmas eve–and how by presenting the facts, they pronounce Santa as dead.

Such musings could also be a fatalistic blow to the concept of God as a force working in each and everyone’s lives. Take this excerpt from Teju Cole’s OPEN CITY for instance. In this part of the book, a young Nigerian doctor who lives in the U.S., is vacationing in Brussels, Belgium. He has befriended a young Muslim who is an academic and free thinker. The Muslim, named Farouq, has the following to say:

I am sure you know what Paul de Man says about insight and blindness. His theory has to do with an insight that can actually obscure others things, that can be a blindness. And the reverse, also, how what seems blind can open up possibilities. When I think about the insight that is a form of blindness, I think of rationality, of rationalism, which is blind to God and to things that God can offer human beings. This is the failure of the Enlightenment. 

I’m not suggesting we all just give up rationalism to let God (or Santa for that matter) into our lives, but to say that sometimes the world isn’t rational and the things that matter most–love, attraction, kindness, compassion, serving others, faith–have nothing to do with rationality and everything to do with making the world a better place.

Many people who categorize themselves as religious describe their faith in terms of “the bedrock, backbone or foundation” of their being. I find that God for me is constant only in a sense of constant change, always evolving in expression and meaning. My mind plays at knowing God, but it is only when that mind shuts up and allows space, that I feel grace and God come through. 

Green by Kristin Anderson


Have you ever seen an image that stirs you within? Reminds you of childhood, of longing, of romance, of hope, of nature, anticipation? I had such an experience when I encountered Catrin Welz-Stein’s digital artwork online, especially her painting The View. I looked at that painting and decided I had to order a poster.

Then, as I was working on the final draft of my debut novel, I imagined her beautiful image on the cover of my book. But it wasn’t quite right for my book. I needed a more contemporary version of this same piece. I needed to lift the melancholy out of the clouds and add anticipation and hope. 

But that was a dream, after all. I couldn’t just contact a Swiss artist in Kuala Lumpur out of the blue and ask her if I could not only use her artwork for the cover of my book, but alter it. Could I? Well, if there’s one thing I learned from Doctor Seuss, it’s that you don’t know until you try and it never hurts to ask.

So I contacted her. 

After working with her over the internet for a number of months–me sending mock-up drafts, and she providing her thoughts on composition, color, balance, we developed an idea that suited both of our needs. I called upon my husband’s graphic design skills, and got the final version approved!

Green by Kristin Anderson
Green by Kristin Anderson

I am so excited about my book launch coming up on Saturday, November 16th, 2013, when I will officially release this book into the world. Like more info? Check out my author blog: http://www.authorkristinanderson.com or Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/authorkristinanderson