“We think of time as passing, but to inhabit time implies to know it as breath and awareness.”
- Katherine Thanas* -
For days it’s been insanely crowded in San Miguel de Allende, a town that draws thousands of people during Semana Santa (Easter week). This year Passover falls on the same day as Good Friday. So yesterday was not the best time, though necessary, to go shopping for some forgotten ingredients for my family’s special dinner.
The parking lot was full, aisles crowded, and checkout lines long. I’d read the Zen quote the night before. Suddenly remembering it, I stepped away from the entrance, and with deliberation, breathed slowly and fully, pulled out my list, read it, and went in search of horseradish. If I didn’t find it here, the essential bitter herb for the Seder plate with its symbolic foods would not be complete. I checked the gourmet aisle. Nothing. I heard my “oh no” thoughts start to run for the hamster wheel in my brain so they could get some real momentum. Returning to the word deliberate, I tuned into my lungs filling with air, with awareness felt the exhales.
Calmer, I texted a friend who just might have some horseradish in his refrigerator. His reply made me laugh. No. Get some raw horseradish root and grate it. Raw horseradish in my neighborhood market? The whir of the hamster wheel grew louder. Yet despite thinking it would be impossible to find any, I made my way over to the produce section and asked for rábano picante, the phrase Google Translate had given me. The nice young man led me over to the radishes (rabinitas). Close, but no. Pushing the cart around, I noticed he was now talking to a manager. I walked over to them, and after I repeated my request in both Spanish and English, the manager said, “Come with me.”
We zigged and zagged through the crowds. I kept feeling the inhale and exhale of my breath, noticed how the crowds seemed to clear before him, how the huge ring of keys pulled his pants low onto his hips, how the day’s questions and crowds had ballooned his white shirt out of its once neatly tucked-in position, how confident he seemed to think that horseradish would be found back in the gourmet aisle.
And there it was, a jar of creamed horseradish, hidden behind some jars of garlic paste. My “oh no” thoughts fell out of the hamster wheel and faded into oblivion. A few more items, a not-so-long wait in line, and I was driving home to begin preparations.
Our Passover began at dusk, the candles glowed. I sat with my family, the dogs under the table, and enjoyed each beautiful, connective, loving moment. Thanks to a Zen master’s words read in a Catholic Latin country, the celebration of a Jewish holiday, and this human’s continual need and desire to make friends with my breath, to become more aware of my surrounding, to inhabit time, to inhabit my life.
*Katherine Thanas, The Truth of This Life: Zen Teachings on Loving the World as It Is. Shambala, January 2018.
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Calming Practice: Make It Easier
Next time you start to feel overwhelmed by a situation,
remember this quote by Thich Nhat Hanh:
"If you're feeling overwhelmed, you're trying too hard."
Take a breath.
Slow down to a comfortable pace.
Inhabit the circumstances, breath by breath.
Inhabit your life.