Monday, January 27, 2014


Meditation by Odilon Redon

I just went through one of the most physically stressful weeks of my life. I didn’t run a marathon or climb Everest. I flew back to my house in Seattle, which should have been ready for me to live in, but in fact was still full of fumes from my recent renovations.

 On December 21st I wrapped up my indoor renovations, and made colossal efforts to get a new ventilation system installed before I left for DC. That way, I could leave it running for a month until I returned, making my house healthy for me again. It turned out the ventilation system had not been turned on, although BelRed Heating, who installed it, assured me it was set to be working 24 hours a day. It also turned out BelRed had installed the system incorrectly, so that once I turned it on (on January 21st instead of December 19th) the system was ineffective.

So it was that I was exposed to the construction chemicals in my house every day last week. (I slept on my friend Ghusun's couch, but for various reasons needed to back to my house for short intervals during the day. I also kept trying to convince myself the air in the house was better, until I felt sick enough to know it wasn't.) In addition, I spent far too much time driving or simply riding in cars; I spent the day in noisy places desperately trying to find a temporary place to live by typing on the maddening keys of my iPhone; I had a hard time sticking to my diet and taking my round the clock pills on time. Finally desperate to get out of my circumstances in Seattle, I gave up and flew back to my parents’ in DC, thus making two cross-country flights in eight days.
During the week in Seattle, all my Lyme symptoms returned—fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks (these when I was breathing the air in my house), and lastly a general sense of despair (yes, I chalk this up to a chemcial exposure/Lyme symptom!).

It has been years since I’ve had a regular practice of meditation, but I boarded the plane back to DC so worn out I no longer cared about anything but being able to rest, and do exactly what my body needed every hour of the day. My daily habit is to start writing as soon I can, usually while I'm still eating breakfast. Yesterday morning, I was far too tired to write anything. Instead I sat at the comfortable chair in my sunny room in my parents' house, and I meditated.

During that hour, I felt tension slipping away from my body, again and again, as I let my thoughts go in order to follow my breath. After an hour, time felt entirely different. It was rich and full, no longer hurried or agonizing. My body and brain knew how to rest again. Last night I slept deeply, and woke with a sense of peace.

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