Monday, March 03, 2014

Olive Oil Testing Protocol

I did end up talking to the refinisher several days after the furniture was delivered, first digging up the email I sent about the color of the chair to see if there could have been any ambiguity whatsoever, and there couldn’t have been. I started by assuring him that I wasn’t upset but just wanted to understand, and we had an entirely cordial conversation. He said that the chair looks lighter because, besides being newly finished, it had been dirty and now it’s clean. He said that over time, it will become darker as it oxidizes. That wasn’t one hundred percent satisfying, as it seems to me that if you say you want a thing to be a certain color, it should be more or less that color, clean or not, but I’m at peace, and also glad that friendly feelings were maintained throughout.

I’m back in physical therapy for a different symptom and this time am seeing a Rolfer as well. She was recommended by my physical therapist and is right in my own neighborhood, a striking-looking young woman with a beautiful working space in grey, silver and white. I’ve had acupuncture and cranial-sacral work and osteopathic manual bodywork and many kinds of massage, but this was my first experience with Rolfing, which I first heard about more than 30 years ago. Rolfing seeks to free up frozen fascia between muscles.

Before I went for my first session, my physical therapist and S. the Rolfer exchanged emails so the latter would know exactly what needed working on. The symptoms are likely being caused by a pinched nerve, which my physical therapist said is something they see all the time, so I’m hopeful that between the exercises my PT teaches me and the work S. does, all will be well. I think things are better already. S. watched me walk back and forth and told me to imagine a hook pulling up the back of my skull while everything else dangles in a relaxed manner; not to jut my chin forward, shortening the back of the neck and tensing that whole area up. I asked if Alexander Technique would be helpful, and she said yes, indeed, that Alexander Technique or Feldenkrais would be excellent. I’d slacked off on my ten minutes of daily Alexander Technique reinforcement, but now I’ve gone back to it.

On a walk last week, I got to wondering why there’s not a lot of fuming about well-to-do neighbors during formal periods of meditation practice. For one thing, there’s much less sensory input, with my living room completely devoid of carelessly parked luxury automobiles. Even if there was one there, my eyes are closed. And there is a very strong intention to return to the designated objects of attention. Theoretically I could do the exact same practice anywhere, and of course I have the intention to be mindful all the time, but when seeing and hearing so many things, it’s hard not to drift into stories and judgments, generally accompanied by ill will, and then I beat myself for having ill will, which is just more ill will and solidifies the mistaken idea that there is a self, and not only a self, but one that is bad because it’s so full of aversive opinions.

The day that occurred to me, I experimented with trying to do what I do in formal practice, adapted a bit for walking. I put my attention on the sensations in the bottoms of my feet, a nice object for walking practice, and when I saw something I didn’t approve of, which is pretty much all the time (in part because that habit has been practiced over and over—how I envy those who have practiced feeling friendly toward what they see), I noted the thought, naming its content, and returned my attention to the chosen object. It was a much more peaceful walk and I came home in a neutral mood. Sometimes I practice metta while I’m walking and come home in a mood of radiant love for all beings, which is wonderful, but I’d be more than content with a peaceful, neutral mood.

For the first time, it occurred to me that I might do better not to walk on Mission St. It may be, as a teacher once said, a “hindrance factory,” with constant, potentially disagreeable sense impressions. I’d assumed it was cheating to avoid things that trigger ill will or greed, but this teacher made it clear that it could be a wise choice, also known as “guarding the sense doors.”

That evening, Tom, Chris, Kristin, Bino and I had dinner at Café Ethiopia, for Chris’s birthday. It was nice to see everyone and the food was yummy. Kristin and I shared two vegetarian dishes.

A week ago at Rainbow I came upon a table set up with olive oil for tasting and little chunks of bread for dipping. I stuck a toothpick into a chunk of bread just as another woman walked up and said, “You can’t really taste olive oil properly using bread.” I assumed she was just making a general observation, so I didn’t respond. I tasted the olive oil and walked off and she walked off at the same time, repeating her opinion. I’d heard it the first time and this seemed to be more of a monologue than a dialogue, so I continued on. I suppose I should have said politely, “You may be right,” because she actually followed me and said, as if I’d argued with her, something like, “Seriously, that’s really not a good way to taste olive oil!” I wasn’t annoyed, just looking forward to life without her, and fortunately that was the last I saw or heard of her.

That evening I went back to Café Ethiopia by myself for more mushrooms and eggplant. I spied what seemed to be a hair poking out from under the edge of the injera, and when extracted it did prove to be a long, dark hair. But whatever. Some people have nothing to eat at all, and presumably it was a reasonably clean hair. If it had been a fingernail clipping, that would have been a different matter, or an entire human digit, but it was just a hair and I’ve been going there for years and this was a first. When my very nice server came back, I mentioned the hair, adding that it wasn’t the end of the world. She apologized profusely, and came back to apologize a second time, and when I got my bill, they had taken half off. I thanked her for the perfect response and left a 66% percent tip.
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