I’m tempted to say “I’m worried about my grandfather” this morning, I’ve been thinking about him lately, worried about his health. He’s 87, and he’s had a mrsa infection in his leg for two years now. Mrsa is a kind of staff infection that can’t be killed with antibiotics. His leg is always swollen. Even so he still walks three or four miles a day. He had a cold this weekend too. But that’s not entirely what I’m feeling. It’s an internal tension, it seeks to attach itself to something, to have a reason and place to focus. Perhaps it is the moving going on around me; 3 sets of my immediate neighbors have moved out. Perhaps it is the work that lies before me this week. Perhaps it is the pilgrimage I am about to take to Guatemala, the preparation my innards are doing to be in a place of such power, history, fecundity, and beauty. Perhaps it is unknowing. Perhaps it is fear about the future. Perhaps it is this grey weather, it plunges me inward often. Without the blue sky to touch, without the open ceiling, without the sunshine to say “Hey, Life!” I develop some melancholy, even though I relish the feeling of being in bed with the sounds of rain, the simmering sounds that ebb and flow through the night, making the warmth of covers that much more comforting. I relish, too, how even mundane tasks like going out to the car take intention and planning, they become small adventures. The memories of building boats of paper to float in gutters remind me to have fun and to do the things that keep you alive, like literally running in the rain and jumping in puddles.
I’m remembering now that as seasons change we are often called to think about what the change represents and what it brings. I’ve been reading the Shambala Sun the last few days and there was a particular section that struck me. It’s an excerpt from a book written by Chogyam Trungpa.
“Fear is nervousness; fear is anxiety; fear is a sense of inadequacy, a feeling that we may not be able to deal with the challenges of everyday life at all….You don’t have a sense of your place or posture. So the problem begins in a very simple way. When body and mind are unsynchronized, you feel like a caricature of yourself, almost life a primordial idiot or a clown. In that situation, it is very difficult to relate to the rest of the world.”
I have felt that before, like a caricature of myself. Who am I being today? Is it bright and sunny? Is it kindness without justice? Is it acceptance without discernment? Is it joy without equanimity? These characteristics, or ways of being, are unbalanced. Or as Trungpa says, unsynchronized. When I catch this the only thing to do is to take extra care to be present, move slowly, be thoughtful, and choose to think about the ordinary in different ways, look for the detail you miss, seek a pure moment, whether it is a moment of pure peace, or pure chaos, a moment of perfect misunderstanding, a moment of perfect kindness, a moment of pure simple beauty, a mother helps a child put a coat on, a kind smile, a petal dropping off a flower…
Just enough of a glimmer to pinch you
Sometimes underneath whatever joy I bring to the moment, which is still undeniably real, I experience these feelings of nervousness, anxiety, and fear of inadequacy. Rather, these sensations are happening, but am I actually allowing myself to feel them? Am I allowing myself to sense my powerlessness? Or am I trying to solve these feelings as though they were elaborate puzzles?
When I go to the farmers market I have the opportunity, no matter what I am feeling, to have a window into a larger perspective; people going about the mundane yet beautiful parts of their daily lives. Feeling sad? Feeling full of joy? Feeling worried? The market seems to flow on without much mind, and there I can allow my own feelings to flow into the street, away, and release my attachment. Yet with school and my job, a large portion of my time these days is spent alone, and in some ways geographically isolated. I don’t feel but a small amount of regret about this, I like what I am developing in this time. But to be honest, my analysis and thinking deeply about systems, problem-solving, and personal inquiry, tend to spill into my personal life, even more than they are already present there.
These days with such intensity and scheduling, I can’t help but feel a little schitzophrenic; I go from feeling my chest swell with appreciative joy looking at prayer flags, feeling the love, hope, and heartfelt desire for peace represented in the gesture of putting them out, to an anxiety about being good enough, accomplished enough, calm and centered enough, chastising myself for letting a glass of wine go to my head. Where is my forgiveness for myself? What is this strange egoic demand to be perfect in my appearance of imperfection, strong in my portrayal of weakness? I have to think about this.
And again, when I see this dynamic my first compulsion is to analyze and problem solve, to safeguard against it. So I’ll think “okay, while I’m going through this time with much on my plate I need to make time every day to be present with my fears, I’ll add this to my morning routine.” As though it were a chore I could check off my list. Okay, I’ve made time for looking at fear today. Yes it is important for me, and I love myself for thinking that way, to create a gesture that I can touch, that I can have connection with. But what I’m noticing is that my intention feels like a desire to eliminate fear, and I think that misses the point. Is fearlessness the lack of fear? I don’t think so… perhaps it is the equanimity to face it as it rises and choose intentionally not to attach to it? Perhaps one leads to the other eventually, but not out of seeking that end? and in the end, all we have is today to practice.