Today was a day of taking other people’s suggestions to heart. This morning, I read an email that my friend Alice Tropper forwarded about a 21-day meditation organized by Oprah and Deepak Chopra. I barely read the forwarded email before I came to my conclusion; sure, why not? I could use some meditation. Click
Then I went to work for a few hours even though I’m technically still on vacation. I had heard that a handful of reservation requests had come in while we were away that had not been confirmed. Seeing as I can be a bit, um, fastidious at times, I wanted to send out confirmations and get them entered into my system so I could relax that part of my brain that would worry about it during the last few days of my vacation. I’ll just go over, spend a little time on the computer getting things in order, have a cup of coffee and then head out; low-key, mellow. I told myself.
But when I arrived, it was kinda hectic over there; a lot of volunteers were busy cleaning the church–working really hard scrubbing the luxaflex that hadn’t been cleaned all year, repainting walls, fixing things. After the third person asked me why I was there, I explained that if reservations aren’t confirmed in a timely manner, sometimes clients move on and look for another location. That shut them up from trying to protect me from myself! And then my little guy came by, looking bored. The sun was out, the sky was blue, and we were supposed to be on vacation.
“You should go to Scheveningen today,” suggested Jan, a church member from Scheveningen.
“That’s a good idea,” I responded. And so we did.
Scheveningen is a touristy beach town in the Hague that comes to life in the summer months when hundreds of strandtenten, temporary restaurants, are constructed for the season in the sand. Each strandtent (literal translation is beach tent) has its own upscale theme with music, decorations, plush cushions and quite often beach chairs further down the sand where you can lounge.
My husband was relieved to learn we were headed to the sea. He awoke at 4am with a brutal tooth ache, and since dentists also go on vacation, he wasn’t able to schedule an appointment until 4pm. His best medicine to endure the wait, besides popping ibuprofen, was time to himself. That left Ezra and I on our own. We packed our bags, caught a tram to Central Station, deftly changed to tram 1 and arrived in Scheveningen.
We hopped off the tram and walked through a passageway between tall buildings to the beachfront. Ezra was in great spirits. We dug a sandpit together, splashed in the water, played tikkertje (tag) and buried each other’s legs in the sand. Now that I was relaxed, the idea of the meditation wended its way into my thoughts. Can you imagine how many people Oprah and Deepak could pull in to meditate and how powerful that could be if hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people were all meditating each day? Perhaps they had a secret plan to bring about World Peace in 21 days. I wanted to participate as well, even if for a fleeting moment or two. While Ezra was busy sculpting reptilian shapes, I retrieved the small paper bag where I had scribbled the Deepak-Oprah 21-Day meditation centering thought for day one:
Today I am open to the presence of miracles.
I breathed in this thought along with the fresh sea air. This elixir bounced around in my mind and lungs. My lungs suddenly realized their potential and took in a deep, rather than shallow breath. Considering the vreselijke spring we had in Holland, this beautiful summer day was a sort of miracle in itself. I’ll be launching my first novel this November. What if I could channel my energy over the next 21 days into that novel being a miraculous success?
My thoughts wandered to my husband, at home and in pain. Where was the miracle in that? I tried to imagine all of his pain disappearing and the root in that one bothersome tooth experiencing instant bliss. Since I was at the beach with my little boy, I wasn’t in a position to do a 30-minute meditation, but I did keep returning to the idea of being open to the presence of miracles, over and over again, almost like a breathing meditation.
I chased my son through the shallow edges of the North Sea, splashing and being splashed, and the meditations on miraculously blissful teeth and successful novels flitted away from my thoughts. Not a bad thing at all, considering I was entirely in the moment. If I lost the thought, I would pull out the crinkled paper again and re-read it.
I was stretching, my legs thigh deep in the shallow warm water caught between the beach and a rise in the sand at the ocean’s edge. A Dutch woman walking out for a swim stopped and talked to me. We talked about the water, about swimming. Within moments she knew by my accent that I wasn’t Dutch, and began the usual rounds of questions, which led to further topics. I am originally from California; she has a sister who lives in Woodland Hills, California. While we talked, Ezra made a game of splashing me. I think he was annoyed that my attention had shifted away from him. After the woman moved on into the sea for a swim, I realized the significance of the moment; this stranger, an older Dutch woman had stopped and chatted with me and held her attention on our conversation. It was a simple, yet beautiful exchange.
Earlier, Ezra and I had waded into that same shallow water and made a game of picking up pieces of floating plastic. We didn’t see anyone else on the beach playing this game. One girl found a broken pair of sunglasses in the shallow water, laughed at how silly they looked with one plastic lens and promptly threw them back in. They ended up in our sack along with approximately 7 icecream wrappers, 5 plastic bags, 4 candy wrappers and 1 waterlogged chip bag. On our way out, we found a beer can, a beer-can’s-throw from the trash can.
I picked it up and went into drama mode. “Oh. It is so heavy. I couldn’t possibly put this in the trash can over there.” Ezra started laughing. He found half of a small plastic container that had probably held a single serving of potato salad less than a foot from the trash can and did his own one man act as he tossed it in the garbage.
“I’m sue-per lay zee!” he slowly enunciated. “And I can’t find the trash can right in front of me!” We cracked ourselves up.
When saying our simple prayer before eating dinner this evening, Ezra had the following to say:
“I wish everyone in the world was Arie Jan’s friend.” (He’s given up on calling us mom and dad.)
“Why?” I asked, completely perplexed. Did he think Arie Jan was in pain because he was sad, or that he didn’t have enough friends?
“Because if everyone was his friend,” Ezra explained, “then they would all want him to feel good and if they all thought that, his pain would go away.”
“Wow. Where did you learn that?” I asked. I hadn’t shared the world-wide meditation concept with Ezra and I don’t think we’ve talked much about the power of group prayer.
“I just have this feeling,” he said. And there it was; my miracle of the day.