Quieting My Mind

Joy is found in the fallen leaves. Outside, along a quiet path. I am happiest with the quiet of the earth.

This weekend I went to the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center here in Bloomington. Everyone is welcome to walk the grounds and step into the temple. Sometimes I take a cushion and sit in meditation. On Sunday I found silence in solitude.


My introversion was in full effect. There were plenty of people on the grounds following a service. I dodged them, keeping my eyes trained ahead of my feet. I stayed away from conversation and hellos, interested in hearing myself. It turns out I haven’t listened to me in a long time.

I had woken with anxiety clawing me hollow. I am exhausted from nightmares these last three weeks. Nightmares and uneasy dreams I can’t quite remember trying to pull me back into sleep. The anxiety was too big to eat around and not even my medication could calm it. So I left for a few hours to take care of work I was struggling to complete at home. But before I switched on my inner boss, I switched off.

Acorns were falling from the trees like a gentle Spring shower. I picked up those that called to me, thinking to take pictures or add them to my home altar. The grew warm in my pocket as I knelt in front of a Buddha statue, smiling into his face. I pulled one out and considered leaving it with the other offerings left around him–dollars, coins, candy, jewelry.

I patronized benches dotted around the property, sitting for a minute or two at a time to feel where the sun touched my body. I breathed in deeply, filling myself up with the fresh scent of healthy earth. At one point, a bubble of sadness rolled up from that place where my anxiety had gone back to sleep. I cried.

I could have stayed for hours. Instead I collected a chestnut from the ground and found a space to work. But I completed my tasks with a sense of lightness I had not felt for months, possibly. It was a connectedness I easily lose sight of, best regained with Fall. This is my season, when the world slows and before it halts. This is when my heart is happiest. It serves me well to remember.

Shawna Ayoub

Shawna Ayoub is an essayist, fiction writer, poet and instructor with an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. Some of her work has been published in The Manifest-Station, Role Reboot, [wherever], The Huffington Post, The Oxford Review and Exit 7. Her writing explores the intersections of race, place and survivorship. She writes with honesty about her own experience in order to transform pain.

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