calmness and mindfulness and equanimity develop and deepen on their own..."
|Rain clouds at the bus stop|
Unlike this year's incessant springtime showers, we had been in a drought for months. Overnight, Mother Nature had graced us with rain and was promising more.
The birds seem to have noticed. The overcast morning echoed with their animated songs.
Living in South Deerfield at the time, I had just arrived at the bus stop en route to an appointment with the eye doctor, when I realized that I had forgotten to slip my insurance card into my wallet before leaving the house. A quick look at the cellphone verified that there wasn't enough time to return to the house to get it. At that moment I realized that I would have to appear at the receptionist's counter to face the moment where I'd be asked, "Can I see your insurance card, please?"
My fate was sealed.
At this point, you might wonder where the hell gratitude comes in here-- unless, of course, I am outing my own masochistic tendencies. Which I'm not. (I don't think.)
Past Horror Shows
In the past, what would have emerged at that moment as I stood there on a cloudy late spring morning would have been the opening scene of a horror show that would have played across the movie screen of my mind for the next 45 minutes -- at least. Lost in my own conditioning, a whole sequence of physical, emotional and mental reactions would have erupted to make the remaining time at the bus stop, the ride to town, and the half mile walk to the doctor's office a virtual tour through the depths of hell.
Fear, anger, self-hatred ("how could I be that STUPID!") would have had their moments on stage. Deep anguish and self-pity would have then joined them in a circle dance of negativity.
I would have been totally stressed out, with images of demonic receptionists spouting flames and casting worst-case scenarios raging through my mind's eye. It would not have been a pretty picture.
None of that happened that morning.
The moment I realized what the deal was, two or three fleeting mind-moments of "uh-oh" and "what now?" emerged. Immediately the worst case scenario appeared as "re-scheduling the appointment" which was followed by the thought "no big deal". On the Standard Scale of Emotional Intensity nothing registered more than a 1.5 out of 10. At no time did any of it really dominate my awareness. It was no more important than the feeling of my feet on the earth as I stood there, or the majesty of the storm clouds brewing overhead. It was just part of the Big Show.
I then took a full, deep breath of cool morning air -- and grinned. Curious as to how it was all going to play out, I stood there surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of a gorgeous late spring day, feeling a deep grateful to be alive.
I blame the Practice for that.
The Gateless Gate of Ease and Joy
In the Zen tradition they speak of the Dharma Gate of Ease and Joy. At this stage of the journey I seem to have somehow bumbled and staggered my through to the other side -- at least much of the time. Now, held in the embrace of the One Love, even the gnarlier aspects of life are usually quite readily acceptable. The nitty-gritty and the grand have both become opportunities to Practice compassion. They have become the warp and woof of the Ongoing Miracle of Life.
I write this not as a means of boasting, but as encouragement.
If a poor welfare kid from Chicago can survive childhood poverty, emotional and sexual abuse, generations of mental illness, physical abandonment, foster homes, and the generic neuroses endemic in our contemporary ego-driven capitalist society to heal, I sincerely believe anybody can.
It just take Practice.
|On the Way hOMe|
Now at age 73 I find myself hanging out at the Gateless Gate propping it open as best I can, ready to welcome anybody who wanders by.
It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it, right?