Thursday, September 6

doing something different

This week I've added a new small practice to my mornings, now that Silas wakes up--oh glory of glories--somewhere around 6:30am, and that I can actually wake up before him. I sit on my cushion, in the corner of my bedroom, and after a few simple upper-body stretches, recite the following aspiration: "May I see what I do. May I do something different. May this be for me a way of life." The aspiration is from Pema Chodron, and expresses accurately and succinctly what it means to live a life of awareness: to observe our habitual ways of reacting and responding to our circumstances, to the small events of our days, and to, as Pema says, "see neurosis as neurosis"; to shift away from those habitual patterns, to try something different instead; and to do it over and over again.

I had an opportunity to see this seed practice bear fruit yesterday. Both of our vehicles were in some state of disrepair, which it would be too long and boring to explain. Suffice it to say that there were tears, despair and self-pity yesterday morning when, all dressed and ready to head to the gym with the little man at 8am, I found the back tire of the only car I could drive completely flat. It's still 100 degrees everyday here in Central Texas (I KNOW) and the thought of being stuck out on the road with a flat tire and toddler in tow prevented me from inflating the tire and going to the gym anyway. Quickly flashed through my mind images of days and days stuck at home with Silas, unable to go anywhere (did I mention that car also didn't have a working A/C?), too hot to even go outside. Though the morning was muggy and almost slimy feeling I made the best of the situation: since I was already dressed for it, I strapped the boy in his stroller, and went for a quick walk down the road.

Moving my body, being outside, helped the gears of my mind shift out of despair mode and into action mode, and soon I had a plan. Not too long after I had a babysitter, and appointment at a tire shop. Before I could go, of course, I had to inflate the tire.There I was, sweaty and febrile, stomping around the backyard, trying to find an outlet for the cord that would power up the tire inflator, cursing the godforsaken Texas heat and my bleached, brittle yard, when a loud voice in my mind shouted "I can't handle this!" And just as soon as those words echoed in my brain did a smaller voice chime in, like a sweet but firm tap on my shoulder, whispering "You're handling it."

That stopped me in my tracks. It was true--I was handling it. I was cranky but I had a plan. At that moment the morning's seed practice burst out into fruit, and I was able to see the habitual pattern--the talking to myself, narrating my miserable experience, reinforcing the feeling of despair and self-pity--and do something different instead, which was to acknowledge that, as is almost always the case, everything would be just fine. That I was up to the task that my life was presenting me, and that the biggest obstacles lay not in the flat tire and pounding heat and bleached grass and injustice of it all--that the biggest obstacle to happiness and connection in that moment was my own mind. And that my mind was something I could change in that very instant.

Silas had a blast at a new friend's house, where they had a train table and an outdoor slide and many other wonders. I got the tires AND the A/C fixed, knitting and listening to podcasts and reading blogs while I waited. The day's challenges were met, after the initial meltdown, with equanimity. I was even singing along to the radio on my way back. I had handled it, and all would be well.

For that day at least. And now to do it all again today, and tomorrow, and surely again the day after.

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