Beginning Gets Harder (2)

The other day I pulled a tarot card that said I may think I know more than I do right now. I flashed on how I bristle whenever one of the teachers at the meditation center begins a sentence with, “Those of us who have been sitting for a long time know . . .” I feel dismissed, as though all my years of paying attention mean nothing. And I feel excluded. I am not part of the secret club of seasoned meditators. But I know I am only beginning to wrestle with what may be possible through regular sitting practice. And even though I balk at things I am not ready to give up, even though doubt whispers in my ear, even though it seems almost impossible to imagine getting from where I am to where it seems people have gone, there is this underground current, this subtle sense that maybe sitting practice really does lead where people are saying it goes. Maybe I really do think I know more than I do right now. Maybe I need to stop thinking that, find a way to accept I am a beginner here. Maybe that’s the only way to move forward on this long, mysterious path. And maybe one day years from now I will be saying the same thing that so irks me today, like fingernails against the chalk board. “Those of us who have been sitting for a long time know . . .” But still, if I last all those years practicing, I hope I’ll find a kinder way to word it. Or maybe I won’t say it at all. Maybe I’ll remember we’re still the same regardless of where we are on the path, each part of this odd collection of human beings with all our messy imperfections who are willing, again and again, to just show up.

[Editor’s note: the post that follows this one is my apology for the tone of this one. ;-) ]

Oh, Look (1)

If we are paying attention, we know we cause trouble for ourselves, spending so much time in the future or the past, planning (scheming?), regretting, having arguments with other people in our heads. I am sitting in bed sipping my morning lemon drink when I hear the rustling of a plastic bag outside my window. I consider getting up to see who is out there, but then I decide hearing a plastic bag can only be good. It means someone is picking up after their dog. I think about how upset people get about the dog poop, how they decide no one picks up after their dogs, how clearly wrong that thinking is. If that were true in our neighborhood we’d be awash, piles of poop everywhere, no open ground. I grimace because as usual it is the one rotten apple messing things up for everyone, making me think of the recent poop appearing along our road and my grumbling suspicion of the people who let their dogs run loose. I remember one of them, a little yipping thing, chasing me on my bike the other day. Before I know it, I am having a long imaginary conversation with the creepy owner. I even bring my aunt from Palm Desert into it, how she is deathly afraid of dogs, how we can’t even walk down the street. (We wouldn’t anyway, but I thought this was good “ammunition” for my argument.) Then I am back in my home, the warm, round cup in my hands, the scent of lemons and garlic. I can see the tops of the sunflowers and the bougainvillea blossoms in the courtyard. The house finch are chirping, quiet breakfast chatter. I hear the high-pitched twittery sound of mourning dove wings, and someone else who I don’t recognize is cheeping from the top of the power pole on the other side of the trailer. My body is tense from my imaginary worked up anger, my manufactured argument. I am annoyed with myself for adding to my own stress in such a ridiculous way. I know I do it all the time, but today I have no sense of humor about it. Today it just pisses me off. And that makes me sad. How do I cultivate a lighter touch? Where is that kinder, “Oh, oops” when I need it? How do I come to celebrate instead with a glad heart each time I return? Where is that gentler voice? I’m glad you’re back, Riba. And, look. There is a white-crowned sparrow sitting on the fence.