13 September 2019

Meditation Writing Series 1: Living with a Dream of a Cappuccino

It was then that I saw the first October snow in my life. Even when we move a little away from home, the climate changes quickly.

It was then that I saw the first October snow in my life. Even when we move a little away from home, the climate changes quickly. I met this unforeseeable snowfall unprepared with my light blue jacket and my summer sneakers that I normally wore in the fall. In order to relieve my aching knees from sitting, I am standing in a place reserved for the participants of the retreat, the kind used by the police, bounded by yellow strips separating the crime area. Not too big, but not bad for pacing up and down. After my knees relax, I raise my head and look at the mountain view without an end. My lungs are filled with the air of these hills, a huge red forest whose name I don’t know. It’s dry and clean air. I'm in a village in Austria. In the distance, perhaps very close, I smell the sweet smell of an unfamiliar kind of flower. I feel good for a moment. It’s a magical place. It must be. It must be magical. Because when we describe a beautiful place, we probably imagine a place like this or similar, don’t we? However, there is no magic for me at all in that moment. I am in the place where I planned to be months ago, with a great desire. However, I do not have any magical, spiritual feelings in me, my only wish is to return home as soon as possible. Sit down from 4:30 in the morning to 21:00 in the evening; all the time sitting down, I can’t put up with it. I often ask myself: why did I come here? I was a person who lived in her own thing and lived happily within her own borders, why did I put myself in such a difficult situation? The bell rang at that time. The hour we were allowed to go out to the courtyard during the day finished. It’s totally prison life. It is a prison of my own free will. This is indeed my own prison.

The retreat, which lasted for ten days, passed blindly lame, counting the days and hours. Years later I realize of course I had many things left to me. It took time to understand; years passed, it is still taking time. I didn’t see it at first. So, I was saying. So what? This is it? I wanted something concrete. I wanted to have fancy words and stories to tell. I wanted to feel great. I mean I had done so much meditation. I wanted to feel great. I wanted to be able to explain and tell with my own mind and reason. I didn’t have any of this when I got out. I was just a little surprised. It was just like the saying, fish out of water. Oddly, I kept thinking of a cup of cappuccino obsessively throughout the retreat. I wanted to drink cappuccino madly, as if I was born with cappuccino in my hand out of my mother’s belly. There was no coffee in the retreat. But there was a lot more than coffee. The point was that what I didn’t have at hand turned into an obsession, into an object of desire. I must have suffered a lot because I was deprived of a cup of coffee. Everybody outside can have their coffee, why wouldn’t I? I thought when I get out of there, I’d drink this and that, imagining even the finest detail of my cup, I forcibly convinced myself that I would drink the best cappuccino of my life. At the end of the retreat, during when we did not have any permission to speak to each other, I had finally a chance to speak to her to bid farewell, I learned that she had similar dreams for a cup of hot chocolate. But I don’t even like hot chocolate, she added.
I thought I was going to take a run and rush myself into a coffee shop and immediately order a cappuccino. That was my plan. But the interesting thing was that after I got off the train, I didn't have the slightest desire for cappuccino. How come? I didn't need it. This dream had lost all its power before my eyes. It had lost its power to make me run after it. It was there, like a phone that ran out of battery and had no function. I deserved a coffee, though. I deserved an award. So, after that entire sitting, did my knees hurt in vain?

Before returning to Istanbul, I would stay in Vienna and allow myself a few days. I thought it would be good to rest for a few days without throwing myself into the crazy traffic of Sabiha Gökçen Airport like fish out of water. That was indeed good. In the meantime, I was to go to a coffee shop of course. I was hoping I’d have the best coffee experience of my life. With this motivation, I fed the idea of cappuccino, charged it and brought it back to life. I wanted to drink that cappuccino again. A few days after I had been there, I went to the city center, I entered a good coffee shop and ordered my coffee, sat at the table I had chosen for myself. It was a quiet morning in Vienna. The weather was cold and clean. The coffee shop smelled just great. There are friendly, pleasant people around. I could hear the frothy sound of my coffee. I was heading towards the happy ending. I was preparing myself for the flavor bursts in my brain. I’d be definitely happy to drink it. The cup came in front of me. There it was, the holy cappuccino in front of me! We were looking at each other. That was the moment. I reached for the foamy cup. I was excited. I had no doubt of the taste. Pleasure would spread all over my body. Every sip would make me more content. Then I was going to come and tell you all, I had the best coffee of my life. Wow, everyone would say. Come on, cappuccino! Prove yourself! Teach me something with the great taste you offer in this life!

I took a sip; my lip got smeared. New people open the door and enter in the shop to order coffee, new smells mix in the air, and a jazz piece is vaguely heard. However, I was having the most ordinary coffee of my life. I was totally surprised. I took another sip. Yeah, it had nothing special. It was definitely not as tasty as in my dreams. I could never live the happiness in my dreams. It was just an ordinary day and coffee in my life. That’s it. Maybe I was having the best coffee in Vienna. Could I say it was a terrible cappuccino just because it’s not what I had dreamed?

I was trapped, dear friends. It was a trap of an equation that my mind had forcibly created. I imagine ‘good’ in my mind; I try to find ways to achieve this ‘good’ thing. I desire to achieve that ‘good’ in the way I imagine. When I reach it, I expect to experience the happiness of my dreams. However, the ‘real’ is not like in my dreams. The result is always frustration. Does it sound familiar?
This is exactly the same meditation trap we have today. Meditation, from a distance, can only seem to be in a ‘serene and peaceful state’. At the end of a regular and continuous practice, yes, the nervous system calms down, which gives us that ‘state‘. But meditation does not make such a promise to us. We desire and design the state we dream of without realizing it. This desire creates an expectation. This expectation devours the healing potential of the experience insidiously. The truth is, however, far greater than our expectation, and if we are stuck with the expectations we have created, we will not be fully immersed in the vast, healing sea of meditation. Does it make the sea bad if it is cold or wavy that day? If our problem is to cool off, if we throw ourselves into that water, regardless of whether it is wavy, mossy or cold, isn’t the sea ready to cool us in every way anyways?

To sit in meditation, leaving all our expectations, ideas and prejudices aside. This is the first step. Forget what we’ve known, what we’ve heard.
What about the next step? Let it be the subject of the next article. See you in the next article!