Monday, January 9, 2017

Where am I going with this?

One of the blessings of a gratitude practice is that over time you can develop a more open response to challenges -- by which I mean you begin to trust there is a purpose in the present; that whatever is on your plate today has something to offer you.

That said, I am still, like slightly more than half the voters of our country, finding our current political climate particularly challenging.  But I was very struck by Meryl Streep's speech last night at the Golden Globes, not just because it was both courageous and articulate, but because she seized the opportunity to make a difference, to use her moment and her credibility to state what she believes to be true.

Will the rest of us have that kind of courage? Will Congress? Will the press? But, more importantly, will I?  Awake and fidgety last night at 3 in the morning (my personal witching hour -- or perhaps my twitching hour), I decided to run a sort of test. An odd test, to be sure, but still...

I mean, there I was, warm and dry, in a comfortable bed; think of all the people in the world who do not have that luxury.  And yet, deeply restless, all I wanted to do was get up, get out, get moving, get food -- to do something, anything, to tame that hyperactive beast within. So I decided that this would be a good spiritual test: to commit to staying in one place, unmoving, as if I were on a Zen meditation retreat, in honor of all the people in the world who are imprisoned, or cold, hungry or homeless; who are trapped in untenable life situations; or just those who voted for our president-elect, not because they liked him or even approved of him but because they were desperate for change. I needed to experience how that must feel.

I went into it confident that I'd be able to sort of meditate my way through; get beyond the fidgets and into that serene space. But nope, never happened.  It just got worse and worse; I found myself staring at the clock, willing time to pass so I could finally be free. Truthfully, the last minute before the 2-hour deadline I'd given myself seemed to go on -- literally -- forever: I kept waiting for the number to roll over and it just wouldn't.

So -- as my husband always says to our girls -- what did we learn from this?  In my case, I am forced to realize that I have more in common with our senators and representatives than I'd have been willing to admit a day ago.  It is appallingly difficult to put ourselves in someone else's shoes.  Easy to say we care for the marginalized; hard to give up the slightest bit of comfort to make that actually happen.  I would tell myself that if I could stay in bed for one more minute, some child might not go hungry, but still I found it difficult. Perhaps if I knew that were true I'd be better at stillness, but the truth is that I am human, and far too attached to the life I have, the choices I am free to make, to be at all sanguine about relinquishing any of that for those in need. And though I claim to have a reasonably successful meditation practice, it's really just an easy one; easy to sit quietly in a familiar spot for 20 minutes a day with a body conditioned to do that for that time in that space.

Assumptions, projections -- we all have them, make them, do them, whatever that verb should be.  A humbling reminder: my perspective is only mine, and not necessarily accurate.

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