Screaming at the Buddha at 5am

Taichung, Taiwan 2011

There is a meditation group of older ladies that meets at 5am outside our apartment. They have tinkley music and loud announcements in Mandarin. It’s peaceful/not peaceful.  They stand like statues and do slo-mo aerobics. Tai chi?  But they have their Guru booming directions out of a speaker of sorts.

It had been days since I slept, Lily our youngest has needed a very little sleep since she came out of the womb 20 months ago. I was exhausted. You know the tired when your eyes feel like sand?

I stormed through the house and went out on my balcony to scream at them.

I stood there in my panties and t-shirt. I just looked at the women. They all had matching navy blue tracksuits. I wondered if it was because of  wanting to look official at 5am or to keep out other 5 am interlopers who would just drop in for a class without paying. I took a deep breath. They looked so still and beautiful. The city was not yet awake, but they were, and now I was, and they moved so slowly through their exercises as some guy screamed directions it seemed they almost were not moving at all. I was charmed by the sight.

I was so tired.

I took a deep breath. I don’t speak Mandarin so I had a moment of clarity. I had no idea what I would scream. Some ideas:

“Hey you. Pipe it down.”

“Hey hey hey. No good.”

“Nee How.”

That’s the only thing I know how to say in Mandarin. That and “thank you.”

I ended up choosing to whistle, with my fingers in my mouth. A loud Wheeeet. They didn’t move. They didn’t turn to look at me. I did it two more times, Wheet Wheet. Nothing. They didn’t move.

I started laughing at myself. “I’m out of my mind.”

I went back inside the apartment. I sat and tried to meditate on the couch. The bullhorn started up again. That was it. I got up and wrote a long and pissy email to our rental manager. I am not proud of this, but that is what I did.

The next day I woke up at 5am and it was peaceful and still. And they were gone. The little blue tracksuited ladies were gone and the street was still.

I felt sick to my stomach, like I had killed something alive or spit on someone’s poem. I felt instant remorse. I felt like a hit man. I felt like the word “writhing” sounds. I wanted to curl up in a ball. I made the sweet old ladies leave.  I kicked prayers off my corner of the world.

I didn’t know how to make amends for this. I sat in meditation with huge judgment at myself. This judgment feeling is so old and familiar it’s like a blanket in a way. I can cozy up with it. But it had been awhile since I felt it so strongly. My head was very loud, varying between hating myself and trying to find a still, quiet breath. I watched myself berate myself. I heaped big cups of shame on myself and poured it over my own head and then I sat and looked for one quiet moment.

I apologized out loud. I wanted them back. I wanted to be awoken at 5 am by a Guru on a bellhorn. I did not feel powerful and efficient for my email that made them leave.

I finally put my hand on my own heart and said, “I forgive myself.”

Then, I fell asleep until the kids woke me up at 9.

The next morning at 5am I woke to the Guru on the bullhorn. I heard the annoying, tinkly music. I ran to the window and there they were! They were back in the same blue track suits in the dimly lit street. They were still, barely moving through their Tai Chi.

There is grace and forgiveness in this world. They were only taking a day off. It had nothing to do with me, and yet it was a great teaching . Let life be, Kelli. Just let it be.

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3 Responses to Screaming at the Buddha at 5am

  1. rachel says:

    I think you were being too hard on yourself. But I understand that relief upon their return. If they could just do without the bullhorn. Ancient rhythmic poses and bullhorns don’t mesh.

  2. Natalie says:

    sometimes it takes little old ladies in blue track suits to crack us open again. we shield ourselves from people invading us all the time in our posh little environments of quietness and kids banter. I’m the same way, kelli-belli, the guys who mows the golf course at 5am drives me crazy in the summer months…. thanks for the lesson in acceptance and forgiveness, my friend.

  3. nysha says:

    brilliance. pure. utter. love.

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