I’ve been reading a book my mother has often recommended, Rapid Relief from Emotional Distress, which is largely a cognitive approach, and I’ve been finding it remarkably helpful, though one must be careful not to use this kind of thing, ditto one’s meditation practice, to try to avoid feelings that need to be felt. So I say to myself, “I accept that the building manager has a party every Thursday night,” and immediately feel a bit of relief, and less anxiety and urgency.
As it happened, there was no party this week, which was great, but it would have been OK if there had been.
RRFED says that once you have accepted things as they are (where have I heard that before?) and understand that if your happiness depends on other people changing, you’ll always be unhappy, you can then decide on your goals and consider your actual choices, which are likely many.
This is basically equanimity practice. I observed to my mother that Dad has a great deal of equanimity; she agreed. I recalled a time when my mother accidentally (did I say this before?) drove a rare brand-new car of my father’s clear across town with the parking brake on. He went into a store to do a quick errand and my mother said to me, “Oh, no. The parking brake was on the whole time.” I wondered if she might simply not mention it, or if she did, whether my father would be quite annoyed.
But when he returned, my mother immediately said, “I drove all the way here with the parking brake on,” and my father said, in his normal tone of voice, “OK,” and that was all there was to that.
He’s also very kind; I know I’ve said that before. My mother has decided to get more exercise, so, to support her, my father is accompanying her on walks and told her he’ll be happy to do so every day—he said that while she might regard it as her exercise program, for him it will be togetherness.
(Thank you, Dad, for taking such good care of my beloved mother, and of all of us.)
This past Sunday I went to Phillip Moffitt’s daylong at Spirit Rock in a City CarShare car. It was a rainy morning, and just as I was getting to San Rafael on 101, there was the most spectacular huge rainbow. The daylong was kind of miserable because I had stayed up too late cooking the night before, and so was sleepy all day, but it was definitely worthwhile. We did several sessions of meditation using a variety of techniques, and Phillip mentioned several times how there’s the experience, and there’s the commentary on the experience, and how as soon as we start commenting (mentally, to ourselves) on our experience, we are no longer available to the actual experience.
This idea of availability has stuck in my mind. Phillip spoke about this explicitly. What is it to be fully available? Perhaps it means not thinking about one thing while doing another, and also not having tense, cramped places in the body. Since the daylong, I’ve been particularly inspired to focus carefully and to try to prolong the spaces between mental comments—two seconds here, five there, ten!
After not having done laundry for a month, I did seven loads yesterday evening—a sign that I have too much underwear and too many pairs of socks—and these events occurred: A slender fellow about six feet tall dressed all in dark baggy clothes came in, bought laundry soap from the machine, put his clothes into two washers, put his large black duffel bag on top of one of his washers, and departed.
Then he returned, picked up the bag, walked over to me, and asked, “Is this your bag?”, at which point I realized it was another fellow entirely, of similar dimensions and sartorial persuasion.
I said, “No, I believe it belongs to the guy whose laundry is in those machines.” This guy had rather intense, borderline menacing energy. He noted my answer with a “Hmm” or a “Huh,” walked away, appeared to be tapping on the box that contains the fire extinguisher, and then departed. I couldn’t figure out what he’d been doing, so I walked over and saw that he had tagged (tagged on?) the fire extinguisher box, just a few characters, the last being “3.” I could still smell the marker fumes in the air. (It was red, if that matters. Oh, maybe it does, come to think of it.)
The first fellow returned, eating from a crinkly bag of crunchy snacks, suggesting he had been to the corner store. I told him what had happened, pointing out that his bag wasn’t where he had left it—the tagger had thrown it down on the other washer—and I showed him the new graffiti and asked, “What does it mean?”
He said firmly, “It doesn’t mean anything.” Then, “It means ‘I am a moron.’” Then, with extreme casualness, “Which way did the guy go?” And then he looked out the window, in a very low-key fashion. A vague unease came upon me at that point and I was kind of glad I was taking the last things out of my last dryer. When I left, he said, “Thank you.”
I went home and reported this to Tom and said, “I think he knew perfectly well what that graffiti meant,” and Tom said, “I think you’re right.”