A couple of weekends ago, I went to Maria’s place for an afternoon of singing folk songs and Beatles tunes, with Noel accompanying on guitar. The company is congenial and it’s a satisfying way to spend an afternoon. Maria and I had a cup of tea after the others were gone and chatted about Carlos. She knew him for decades, as so many people did.
The following Saturday, I took BART to Walnut Creek to have lunch with C., a former co-worker. She was my team lead, a role in which two or three of her outstanding qualities made a big difference, one being that she is a natural-born peacemaker. When I would call her grumbling that someone had done such-and-such—and we did have an out-and-out bully in that group who made life miserable for years—C. would propose other ways of looking at the matter, until I could feel the upset ebbing away and had to say, “Well, maybe you’re right.”
And she has a very strong practice of gratitude, thanking everyone for their slightest contribution. Sometimes she would email the group asking for a minor piece of assistance, and one of my co-workers would make fun of her, telling the rest of us, “I sent the answer, and now she’s going to say, ‘Thank you, Bill!’” And indeed she always did, and if she hadn’t, I think he would have been slightly crushed. Trying to follow her excellent example, I make it a point to thank everyone for everything, particularly at work, and to applaud any success I observe.
This was the first time we’ve ever gotten together outside of work, and we had a great time. We had tons to talk about. We had lunch at Lark Creek downtown—I had a superb veggie burger and fries—and then we had additional refreshments at the Peet’s across the street, and later C. drove me back to BART.
I’ve finished watching the second and final season of House of Cards. It was hard to get into, seemingly about nothing but people manipulating and mistreating each other, and it was also hard to keep track of the many subplots and characters who came and went with lightning speed. At times it was enjoyable, even dazzling, but—spoiler alert—in the end, it was about nothing but people behaving very poorly, and the ending was profoundly unsatisfying—I’d hoped to see the two main characters marched off to prison. Now that it’s done, I’m kind of sorry I spent time watching it.
A meditation friend asked if I could fill in for her ushering at The Marsh, which is three blocks from where I live. I think of it as being a theater, but they don’t put on plays there. They stage one-person shows and offer classes in developing solo performance. Once or twice, someone has suggested I should go take such a class, and for some number of years, I’ve been meaning to. I was going to say no to the ushering request, per my automatic reaction to most new ideas, but remembered my intention to get more involved at The Marsh, so I said yes, and went over there Thursday evening of last week to usher for Marga Gomez’s show Lovebirds. The work itself was very easy—I took tickets at the front door and got to say hello to everyone who attended, as I do on Tuesday nights at Howie’s—and Marga Gomez’s various characters really made me laugh. Before I left that evening, I told them I’d be happy to usher in the future. In fact, I’d like to see this very show one more time.
Last Sunday, Ann and Tom and I saw Oakland native Marcus Gardley’s play The House that Will Not Stand, at the Berkeley Rep, about four free women of color in New Orleans in 1836. The poetic language and the very strong performances were marvelous.
Howie, my meditation teacher, didn’t react a few weeks ago when I was carrying on about Google’s misuse of mindfulness—he’s low drama, as he recently mentioned, which does seem to be true—so I was gratified when he said a week or two ago that mindfulness is everywhere these days, which is great, but it misses the point if we’re not aware of the effects of our actions on others.
And if you don’t believe Howie, the Dalai Lama, speaking recently at Santa Clara University, said, as quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle, “If you forget about others’ happiness, you will suffer more.” And, “Compassion brings mental peace, mental comfort.” While business may bring “physical comfort ... we need both.”
Tuesday evening this week was our monthly Happyness Hour, formerly known as Bring Your Own Burrito, when people are invited to come early and have dinner together. This week we had ten or 12 newcomers. There is a fancy new housing development just around the corner, and I’m guessing many of the new people were from there, which is good, because once “new rich neighbors” become “my fellow practitioners of mindfulness,” it will be hard not to feel friendly toward them.
Truly, every single soul I ever see has a sincere wish to be happy and is trying his or her best to achieve that, often by means that can bring only the reverse (including myself, when I entertain judgmental, unkind thoughts). When I remember that, it’s easy to feel openhearted, but, unfortunately, it’s a very easy thing to forget.