First, a word on vocabulary. I find myself using terms that I used to giggle at as too "New Agey". You know, terms like "make space for" and "just sit with it" and "explore the edge of that feeling". But now that I know what people mean by these terms, they do seem useful! I have learned a lot from teachers who told me to sit with my anger, or make space for the feelings of someone I'm talking to. But I know that jargon also alienates. So please know that I am using terms that I think are the most descriptive in order to aid understanding, not close myself off in a special club. I think everyone has their own unique way of seeing things, but I also think that we must have some way to communicate with each other. The way people of different faiths use terminology, especially in a situation of interfaith dialogue, is fascinating. Please share your own descriptions with us by posting a comment.
So, since I wrote the first part of "Thoughts in Ruku'" in my journal about a month ago, I have been seeing things a bit differently. At that time, it seems that I was walking a tightrope and could fall off on the side of good or evil if I so much as sneezed. Now, I am trying a different strategy.
Throughout my life, I have loved planning. I make to-do lists and to-write lists and my-life-will-be-perfect-tomorrow-if-only-I-follow-this-list-lists. But I noticed that some of the most fun I had making lists was when I was doing the opposite at the moment; for example, when I settled down with a bag of candy to record the resolution that from tomorrow I would stop eating sugar. And sometimes from such extremes come good results. Sometimes the best way to swear off of donuts is to make yourself sick by eating too many of them. But for me, a lot of the fun in making plans was that they always existed in a pristine future, untarnished with the difficult choices of today. That future never fully materialized. And when it didn't, I felt like a failure and figured I might as well go back to the candy.
Now, for some reason, I'm sitting in the present moment, watching myself do things good and bad, and my brain does not flee to the projections and the perfections of tomorrow. It doesn't judge myself too harshly for watching a movie instead of writing on my blog.
I'm experimenting with feeling the present, and feeling out how to make small tweaks in the moment to change things for the better. It doesn't always work. Okay, who am I kidding? It seems like it rarely works, thought there might be some subtle process I'm missing. It feels like when I was learning to drive a stick shift with my dad. He would tell me what to do with the brake and the clutch and the stick and then--clunk! clunk! clunk! stall...--clunk! clunk! clunk! stall... Over and over, until suddenly, I'm in first gear! I'm sailing along, I'm--almost at the edge of the parking lot! Ah! Clunk clunk clunk! Stall... There was no way to know it immediately. His word was that sterile perfection that did not translate well into the skill I was learning in the now. And how I hated having to muddle along! But eventually my hands and feet got the hang of it, and the VW Bug made peace and stopped trying to buck us out of its seats, and I learned how to drive a stick shift.
I hope that by staying present now, I will be here to make those imperceptible adjustments that will allow me to get closer to my goals, whether they be about candy or God-consciousness, and that I will be more open to the wonder and the humor and even the sadness and anger of the moment.
In my previous post, I felt I had to tiptoe across a balance beam over a marsh. Now I'm just slogging through. I feel like I'm reaching for yet another sublime metaphor. But I won't do it. I'm not sure what it means. I feel the muddy water sucking at my shoes, and the mosquitoes are dancing around me. There's a chorus of frogs on my right, and the call of an unknown bird to my left. I take a deep breath of humid, earthy air, and smile.