Contemplative Space

Personal Writings

New Orleans:  Everyone should have a good doctor.  I have several. 

There is Dr. Emmett Aluli, my good friend who runs the clinic on Molokai Island in Hawaii, there’s Zach Polett, who runs Project Vote and is ACORN’s political director, but who went to Stanford medical school for two years before he hired on with me, and then there’s Jay Hessey, an old friend and organizer for SEIU, who specializes in holistic medicine, and finally, Andrea Kydd, another old friend who is a program officer for the Nathan Cummings Foundation in New York, but goes back with me to the day as an organizer with welfare rights, who I consult on matters of mental health.   Today as daylight savings time comes in, time is on my mind — along with other things — so I would advice from Andrea has kept coming to mind all morning.

As opposed to many, Andrea was paid to become a health whiz, because she drew the straw on her job that specialized in what was happening in health care.  Consequently, she was paid to get ahead of the curve and figure out what was really happening on the cutting edges.  Andrea’s health advice I find very solid, but it is not without a fine sense of irony that one accepts her advice.  For example during a meeting once a dozen years ago, she passed me a note that her dad was dying, and I really needed to think about quitting smoking — it would mean a lot to her she said in the note.  I was greatly moved by her thoughtfulness and kindness.  I haven’t smoked for ten years now — though that is another story all together — but I did notice when I saw Andrea in New York City last week that she met me on the curb in front of her job to start our conversation, so SHE could grab a cigarette.  So, this is a case of “do as I say, not as I do.”

Anyway, we were talking these lo many fifteen or more years ago — and probably sharing a smoke for godsake! — out in the deep fog a little ways out from Bolinas north of San Francisco.  She was explaining some of her work to me at the time.  She was getting up to snuff on general health benefits that come from creating what she called “contemplative space.”  The bottom line seemed to be that if you could find it or make time for it in your life, then from what Andrea had determined, you were going to be healthier.  I bemoaned the fact that unfortunately the one thing I did not have was time, and I surely therefore did not any “contemplative space” so I was a gon pecan, cher. 

Andrea scoffed at that and said that in fact in my life running every day was how she believed that I had found contemplative space, which probably centered my life in some way and immeasurably helped my mental health as well as my physical well being.  She may have gotten all of this abracadabra from quacks for all I know, but for me it was a gift that I have taken on board with me from that time forward and think of almost daily, especially now and when I’m on the road.  Now when I run, my right knee hurts more than the left knee that I have gimped along with since the cartilage was torn playing high school football.   My feet have started to hurt, especially the right one.  The pace is slower and the road seems always longer. 

But Andrea’s off handed comment has become a mantra that pulls me out every morning to do something no matter what, because I find a way to seek that contemplative space and slow the world enough to let me catch up for a minute or two no matter how quickly everything is racing forward at warp speed. 

Losing an hour today, one particularly appreciates good advice, and in my case — and perhaps yours — it’s just what the doctors ordered!