Mini-Story: Hayao

Legs crossed. Feet on thighs. A gentle pulling on the muscles to pull your mind into focus. Rest the hands in the centre, like leaves floating on water, delicate, graceful. Thumbs touching to symbolise the fire within you. Fire, even when you are still.

Was this room too warm? Hayao could feel heat radiating off his shoulders. He opened one eye, then closed it again. Concentrate, Hayao.

Shoulders back, spine straight, eyes closed. Keep your body neat, but relaxed. Taut, but not tense. Enough to keep focus, but not enough to make you weary.

Now let the mind relax. Put aside your thoughts and worries. Concentrate for now on your breathing. In, and out. Slow, soft, smooth, like the erosion of time makes hard stone into polished pebbles, like a bird’s wings in slow motion. Make your breath deliberate and measured. Control this one thing, and the rest will follow.

He could feel a muscle twitching in his upper thigh, a sign that he hadn’t meditated enough this week. The body has ways of protesting if you don’t use it right, and use it often. His thigh muscle was protesting now because it was being strained, the same way bread dough will be stiff and unflexible until you knead it and warm it up again. He felt like a big lump of hard dough.

You are a piece of cloth, dyed black by the stains of the day. Your stress builds up like coal in your lungs. Become white again, bleached by allowing your mind to drain, by allowing the stress and ache to drip from your bones and pool beneath you.

Brush the knotted tangle of words in your head into strings and let them fall. Let them come unbidden into your head like music, but remain passive to them as they swirl and dance in the currents of your peaceful mind.

It was becoming easier now to meditate, and Hayao could feel the thoughts and stresses in his mind soften like melting ice. When he first began to meditate, he felt tense, his eyes were screwed up and his muscles taut, but now he sank into the position, growing more comfortable and relaxed with every passing minute.

Picture now your tranquil thought: a flickering candle flame, a field of grass caressed by the breeze, the feel of a leaf on your fingertip. Imagine the sound, gentle at first in your ears, then let it become all you can hear. Let the sounds of the room become background and let your visualisation come into sharper focus. Picture its colours, its smells, its feeling. Is it warm on your skin? Soft? Sharp? Does it move, or is it still?

Focus again on your breathing. Inhale from the centre of your body, and let your shoulders rise, feel the breath rise up your spine. Unfurl like a fern leaf.

Imagine yourself sitting here for decades, unmoving, untethered. Imagine roots growing over you and vines coiling around your arms. Imagine becoming fertile ground. Let moss grow beneath you and spores fill your lungs.

 

- BANG -

 

“Hayao, can I borrow some tomatohhhh my god I’m so sorry!” Geny burst through the door, mid-sentence, before she noticed Hayao sitting in the centre of the room.

Hayao took one last, deep breath, tried to push the frustration of an interrupted meditation down to the base of his body, then opened his eyes. Geny, standing in front of him, looked a little panicked.

“I’m really sorry, Hayao, I didn’t realise-”

“It’s ok, Geny. Really.” Hayao unfolded his legs and stood up to meet her. “What was it you were looking for?”

“A tomato. If you have one. It’s BrX’s birthday, and I thought I would try to make him something nice to eat, rather than rations again…” Geny trailed off. Hayao smiled.

“Let’s see what I have.”

Hayao’s little store of fruits and vegetables was precious to him, and the whole team understood why. It took a lot of attention and care to grow something viable with the limited water they had, and anything you planted had to be grown into something good so that the water wasn’t a waste. Every single time a seed was placed into soil, it was a deliberate action, a declaration that you would spend the time required to raise this tiny little thing, with all the power and potential stored inside it, until it was ready. The day-by-day progress often felt like nothing - it was a slow process, for sure - but gradually, Hayao could coax a leaf, a bud, a flower, a fruit, out of this tiny, tiny seed.

When he had grown something, he would take the fruits and vegetables he did not immediately need and dehydrate them, preserving them perfectly for later use, or leave them out in the sun to dry into concentrated flavour.

This was what he pulled out now for Geny: a handful of small, wrinkled, sundried tomatoes, deep red and studded with seeds like gold nuggets.

“Take as many as you need,” he said. “I don’t have many left, now, and it’ll be a while until I get to grow more, but special occasions are important. If we can’t use what little we have to treat ourselves every now and again, then there’s no point in this mission - there’s nothing to save!”

Geny inspected the ones in his palm, before taking half of Hayao’s handful into her own. “Thanks, Hayao. Now, I know I said borrow,” she said, “but you do know I’m not going to bring this back, right?”

Hayao chuckled. “Yeah, usually people don’t bring food back after they’ve used it. Please don’t be an exception to that rule.”

“Okay.” Geny smiled. “Thanks, Hayao. I know how much these little things mean to you.” She cradled the tomatoes in her hands as Hayao replaced the others in his storage.

“Just one request, though,” Hayao warned. “As your benevolent provider, I think I’ve earned a little taste of whatever it is you’re making.” He smiled up at Geny, who returned the grin.

“I’ll let you be the first to taste it. That way, if it’s bad, you can tell me!” She winked, turned, and walked out the door.

The meditation session was over. Hayao wasn’t really in the right state of mind to settle back down again. He rubbed the ends of his hair thoughtfully and breathed deeply, contentedly, as the drug on his fingertips blossomed into his brain.

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