After a few weeks of midterms, a week of randomly having a bunch of 8am meetings, and a week of anxiety and stress about this weekend, I finally made it to my grandfather's apartment in Queens. And it feels SO good to be back.
I spent a lot of time here when I was younger, and know exactly what to expect in terms of the Buddhist chant that plays nonstop, the smell of incense, the rhythmic clicks of two abnormally loud clocks, the perpetually dripping bathroom sink, and food I should always check for an expiration date before eating any. Yet as familiar as this particular space is to me, for some reason I've never quite realized the feeling of peace that I associate so closely with being here. And walking in last night, after a five-hour long drive in pouring rain, after panicking over equipment and checking that my camera plate fit the tripod and that I had extra batteries and TWO 64GB SD cards and the right LED lights and an extra-long boom pole, after generally spending this week being strung super tightly in preparation for this shoot...I took a breath for the first time in what feels like forever.
I'm currently taking a class on classical Chinese philosophy, which I'm enjoying a lot, mostly because it gives me the vocabulary and cultural framework for how I've watched my Chinese grandparents navigate the world. I hadn't realized how much their beliefs in Buddhism and knowledge of the Dao had transferred to me—without my ever realizing it, since we don't speak the same language—throughout my childhood. Without verbally hearing even one word about the Way, I've seen my grandfather especially move softly through time and place, flexible in the face of change and challenge, but quietly powerful in his intuition and ability to gently influence others. I admire a lot of those qualities, and I think that, to some extent, I've tried to embody them, too.
This apartment is where I've learned everything I know about spirituality; and sitting in front of the Buddhist altar, watching smoke rise from incense, BREATHING somehow for the first time in a week, I felt recentered and calm. It reminds me that I can study philosophy and feel smart for being able to intellectualize parts of my life all I want at school, but it really takes a moment in silence and solitude for me to truly feel the wholeness of myself and interconnectedness with the universe that I understand to be my own Catholic-Buddhist version of spirituality. And while it has been this physical space that has most taught me how to feel these things, I am now feeling really inspired to construct some way for me to access these feelings of peace and calm in my life at school, too. After the past few weeks, I know I need it!
All in all, happy to be here and to spend time with my grandfather (whom I haven't seen since before the summer), joyful at having the opportunity to unite the high-level language I've been hearing at school with my familiarly visceral, textural experience of spirituality, ready (as I'll ever be) for the shoot, and relieved to have remembered ways in which I find peace, in the midst of stressful times.