And you run into yourself
Then you know that you have turned
All the corners that are left"
And then there are those times..........
As folks met for Monday Morning Mindfulness at Community Yoga in my absence this week, I had the opportunity to explore Practice quite differently. The setting was a Manhattan bound R train heading for the notorious confines of Port Authority. At one point, a women, disheveled and smelling of urine, stumbled and fell across my lap. Lost in a non-stop rant about everybody being "into her business"; she then recoiled from me, apparently aghast. Regaining her balance, at least physically, she arose and then sat next to me, all the while continuing the agitated conversation with herself.
It took me a couple of minutes to move through the initial shock of the physical contact. Watching feelings of repulsion and fear arise and pass, observing thoughts emerge and dissolve (Eeek. I'm freaking infected with something, etc.), I took a long, slow breath and began to relax. Here it was--what my buddhy Peal might call "hard core Zen"--yet another chance to do Tonglen on the front lines. Absorbing what I could into the expansive space of the Heart on the in-breath, breathing out to extend my aspirations for peace and well-being--hers, mine, theirs, ours--into a subway car rattling through the darkness, I practiced.
Breathing in, breathing out.
At one point, as I began to allow my gaze to turn toward her, I noticed that her agitation increased immediately. Her ire at other folks "being in her business" was, afterall, the locus of her current hell. I cut loose of any attempt to engage her more directly--and that's when the real work began for me.
I felt completely powerless, utterly helpless.
Oh no, not THAT!
As a child I witnessed my mother's struggle with the demons of her own psyche, up close and personal. Diagnosed at times as a paranoid schizophrenic, at times as manic-depressive, her struggle to navigate through life were a painful journey that, of course, affected me deeply. Although I certainly enjoyed many perfect moments of childhood (wandering through fields for hours in awe of grasshoppers and butterflies, sitting on a hillside watching a rainbow emerge and dissolve, etc.), I also was often profoundly frightened and saddened as, again and again, my mother would disappear into the throes of her mental illness. As a young child feelings of utter helplessness were not uncommon. I ached to have Mom "re-appear"--and was powerless to bring that about. I could see those same feelings emerge--in spades--as I sat there that morning hurtling toward Port Authority. I can feel those feelings emerge now as I sit here at the laptop.
Breathing in. Breathing out.
Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them all.
I vow to attain it.
That seems fair enough.