Wednesday, September 30, 2009

You Don't Talk On Metro

The other day I was coming home on the metro after going downtown for a job interview. I was sitting in my seat reading Happiness Is An Inside Job by Sylvia Boorstein when a woman in her mid forties came and sat in an adjacent seat next to a young man fresh from college. At first the young man was listening to his mp3 player and jamming to his tunes. After a few minutes though, he decided to engage the young woman in conversation. In the metro, as a rule, strangers do not talk to each other. There is a metro decorum which says remain in your own little world and do not engage the other passengers. At first, because he had broken the decorum, I thought that the two of them knew each other, but when she responded by saying " "You must be new here, don't you know that people don't talk on the metro", I knew that they were strangers. I smiled and paused, alert like a cat watching a mouse hole to see how this exchange would go. The young man however, did not give up, he continued by saying "no, that can't be true" and repeated his question about how her day was. By now the woman was smiling too. He was serious in his attempt to be friendly. They began to talk. Soon they caught me smiling and observing them and the three of us engaged in a very pleasant conversation.

As all of this transpired, some other passengers began to smile too. It was not quite like what happens here: but it was interesting to observe. At one point the two asked me what I was reading and what it was about and I found myself in a discussion about cultivating happiness internally rather than looking to external circumstances to provide it.
I even mentioned that we are not our stories or our reactions or anything else that we can name and found myself talking about how we often respond to events from a place of our particular conditioning not from the expansiveness that we are. We chatted more, talking about our jobs (or former jobs) and where we lived and eventually the woman departed and said goodbye to the both of us. Eventually I got off too.
We never even learned each others names but we shared a wonderful connection that day. That connection exists all the time with everything if you take the space to be aware of it. But most of the time we are operating from our conditioned responses. " Its not ok to engage other passengers" "I must remain in my own world" "S/he will think I am coming onto them if I say something" We do not allow ourselves to feel our oneness or let it drive our actions. We do not see that we are created anew in each and every moment, as is the rest of the world. We operate as if what we did a moment ago, governs what we must do now. How freeing would it be if we realized deeply that we are reborn each moment and that it is only our mind which conjures the illusion of continuity. We do not have to brush someone off on the metro when they start talking to us just because that is what is done on metro. A new world awaits us.
How lovely it was to watch the young man crack the shell of our conditioning and remind us that we are all in this new world together.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What Do You Seek?

It is very common to want more. It is common to feel as though fulfillment is just around the corner, if only I could just . . . . Our minds tell us that we are not complete as we are. They keep us in eternal seeking mode. Perhaps it is a cleaner house that we are seeking, or that perfect relationship, or even enlightenment. The mind is constantly trying to get "there" not understanding that we are already there. What the mind cannot understand is that the breath we are taking this moment right now is fulfillment -- if there is clear seeing.

But I am frightened in this moment you say, I have just lost my job and I don't know how I am going to support myself and my family.

As humans, we try to control our environment. "Knowing" itself, is an attempt to describe or figure out the world so that we can supposedly better function in it. Understanding and knowing have served us well for thousands of years, and they have their place, but what if that knowing is at the "expense" of a deeper intelligence and deeper freedom that few have ever realized. What would happen if we really embraced the idea that we cannot really ever "know" anything. How would we live? Can you entertain the notion that it might be freeing? After all , things would still happen - you would likely still take your next breath, your cells would still multiply and divide, you would probably still go sort your laundry into piles. Life would all still be "moving", a deeper something would still be operating, but you would not be the center of it. Life would go on being life somehow, even if you did not try to control it or make it fit what you thought it "should" be. Most of us go through life with the illusion that we are in control but is that really true? Take a moment and ask yourself if you have ever been in control of your life? Do you even really know what's "best" for you? How would you judge?

Yes, it is true that it may be scary to lose a job, but as humans we are capable of wonderfully complex feelings and emotions. Its a part of the richness of our experiences as humans -- why can't fulfillment and fright exist side by side? What would happen if you inquired about your fright or accepted that you were afraid? Does being afraid have to cancel out joy, or fulfillment? If it did, then why do people enjoy scary movies or roller coasters or ghost stories?

Exercise : Take a recent situation that you are worried about or frightened about and look at it as an observer for several hours? Did the shape of the worry/fright stay exactly the same over time? Were you worried/frightened continuously or did other things take your attention from them for respites? If so what were they? Where did you feel the worry/fright in your body? Is the fright or worry as monolithic as it was at the beginning?

It is the mind that tells us that we are not fulfilled, that we want more or something different; that something must be "wrong" with the experience we are having. It may not be a "pleasant" experience. It may not be an experience we would care to repeat, but it is, simply what it is, - nothing more, nothing less. By making the experience wrong, we set up resistance which IS our suffering. In those moments we are "resisting" the flow of life. We are resisting life itself. It is, as it is. If there is something we can do - do it, if not, accept it. It is the stories we tell, that we attach to like a burr to a sock that are the origins of our pain. As Byron Katie says Who would you be without your story? Our stories are the movements of our mind. They create a "me" where emptiness exists. Don't get me wrong, the mind is not "bad". It is not something to be rid of - that would be more resistance, rather it should just not be taken so seriously. It simply is. It tries very hard to do a job for which it is ultimately unqualified - bringing you peace. True joy and peace come from the vast depth of who you are, not from chasing particular fleeting circumstances.

It is peaceful to mimic a porch screen through which events pass like a summer breeze.

For they will pass, both the "good" and the "bad". Nothing lasts, it all dissolves away into beautiful nothing.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I once read an essay about the beginnings of stories. It quoted the great literature and talked about why some beginnings were so good. I don't remember much of what it said but it clearly differentiated the good ones from the bad ones. At least one thing is true of them both; beginnings always circumscribe the infinite. Before a beginning the potential is limitless.

This is a kind of beginning for me in many ways.

This blog was nearly called "Extradordinary Ordinariness" or "Wide Open Spaces" but ultimately "Compassionate Space" rang out most truthfully as what the blog was trying to accomplish. In this compassionate space, I hope to bring forward the everyday miracles of life that are present with a little awareness. I hope we can share life as it touches us, sensing that our sharing is not a separate part of life but one of the many forms through which life communicates with itself.

Life is indeed filled with the extraordinary in the ordinary and it is true that through giving wide open space to all that is before us we invite peace, but compassionate space as a title resonated and I have come to trust those little inclinations.

Yesterday, I witnessed a doe that had been shattered and dragged to the side of the road. Once a creature of magnificent grace and beauty, it lay there lifeless and decomposing. Life is so very precious. Be the space for it to happen. Why make a problem out of it? To have a problem is to be identified with the circumstances of your life, but YOU are not your so called "problems", YOU are so must vaster. Draw on that depth. You are the compassionate space through which the world unfolds. Be still and see if this is true for you.

Tell me, where do you begin?