Monday, June 21, 2010

Practice


One of the lovely things about Buddhism – and really just about any major faith – lies in the challenge of bringing the foundation of your faith or spiritual philosophy into your living on a daily basis.

Though a measure of forgiveness or patience is not built into all spiritual roads, Buddhism definitely seems to encourage the practice of letting go of one's shortcomings... even as you attempt to expose each and every one of them so you may know yourself better.

I like this idea of practice. I am in love with the notion of concentrated and nearly continuous effort toward the betterment of oneself. To be courageous in the response to one's darknesses and failures. To be persistent in honestly assessing where you might be at any given moment. To hold a mirror up during times of tension or pain... and know you are still responsible for your piece of the human equation.

I am not always mindful... but in my spaces of mindfulness, I am forever surprised by the infinite number of opportunities I receive to practice the ideals I wish to embody. Compassion. Patience. Honesty. Trust. Peace. And in a full circle sort of way, how many chances I get to remember them when I fall short of my goals.

Today I received a parking ticket. My daughter had been pokey, and I knew we were running late. I had relaxed a bit on our departure time, imagining no one would come down our little side street. I had refused to carry her when she said she was too tired to walk (despite running around just minutes prior in the theatre), and she had thrown a fit—flopping down and lying prone in the middle of the sidewalk, refusing to move.

We turned the corner to see a woman nearing our car, and we both started running. My daughter's little legs suddenly recharged with energy after her insistence she could walk no further. (I had alerted her to the danger of tickets if we did not return on time, and instinctively she seemed to understand how important it was to get to our vehicle quickly.)

"We're here! We're here!" I called frantically as we ran up. We were less than 30 feet away and rapidly closed in, just as the woman stuck the ticket in a bright orange envelope and handed it to me.

I told my daughter to stand on the sidewalk as I took the ticket and attempted to look the woman in the eyes as honestly and openly as I could. "You're late," she said. "This expired at 1:21." She handed me the ticket.

"I have a four-year old," I said trying very hard to make it a statement of fact and not an emotional backlash.

And then she walked away. An older gentleman who had been standing about 15 feet away from us approached as she left and asked if we had still gotten the ticket. I told him yes. "I can't believe that," he said, shaking his head. "One minute earlier and you'd have been fine."

I got in the car and tried very hard not to be angry. My daughter immediately blamed herself and started getting upset as I tried not to cry. I didn't want her to feel guilty or responsible; life is such a complex tangle of factors it's ridiculous to isolate any one person or event as being solely responsible for anything. I told her everything was ok... assured her it was not her fault... and we rode home together feeling upset and sad and worrying after each other.

Although there were flickers here and there, I was able to keep my reactive hatred and retributive hostility in check until I got home and opened the envelope. $50.00. We were less than 10 min late.

That's when the real anger kicked in. Remembered slights and all the unhappy baggage of my childhood years exploded open the emotional doors... and for about half an hour, I struggled to keep those feelings in check. To remember my promises to myself as to what kind of person I wish to be... what kinds of feelings/thoughts/actions I wish to put into the world.

I stopped myself from wishing comeuppance or even karmic payback. I resisted the urge to post something on Facebook wherein I could pour some venom or release some spite back into the ether in the hopes it would somehow make me feel better. And finally, I even stopped crying. Stopped thinking of it as something done to me or the universe treating me unfairly and instead decided to write this.

Which hopefully aligns with those values I mentioned earlier. Compassion. Patience. Honesty. Trust. Peace.

It is easy to love my daughter for being so empathic and caring so much about me. Easy to love the random stranger who came up and tried to make me feel better by commiserating about Mayor Daley's parking meter decisions. Easy to love my husband who listened to me sob on the phone and tried to calm me down.

What takes practice, today at least, is loving the woman who gave me the ticket. The upstairs neighbor who walks heavily through her apartment in high-heeled boots. The grocery store patron who looked at my daughter with disdain. The landlord who has not fixed the lock on the front door. The driver who nearly sideswiped us.

But if I am to remain true to my goals, to my spiritual focus, and ultimately to my self, then I must love them all. Love myself when I fail. And then try again.

May you remain open to your opportunities. May you remain patient in your practice - especially with yourself.

5 comments:

  1. Oh Genevra, this is exactly what I needed to read. Thank you for being so open and brave to share.I have been in a tangled ball of anger towards two very illogical and selfish people recently and I just was letting their actions rule my life. I was not being a very good Mom and carrying rage and well, hatred with me everywhere. You gave me comfort and now I must practice. Be well. You are super!!!! Tara

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  2. G:

    Beautiful. And thanks for the mindfulness. When I get a parking ticket, I feel ashamed. Isn't that funny? But I feel ashamed to have to pay for something avoidable, ashamed that I did something wrong, ashamed that I really, really feel intense anger toward the person who issues the ticket and the city officials who write the laws governing parking.

    Shame is a criz-ap emotion. One of my least favorites of all time. Time takes it away. I mean, you will not remember the fifty bucks in two years. Probably won't even remember the ticket.

    Eventually, if you live in a big city and drive, you're gonna get a ticket. So "avoidable" is really kind of wishful thinking. It's the law of averages, it happens to everyone sooner or later, and hey, maybe they'll use that 50 bucks to fix a pothole?

    :)

    Love,
    Mary

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  3. wow, so strange to have found your blog TODAY. I'm beginning a new journey in my life.. or maybe it started long ago but I am now taking charge of it. your words are so inspiring, thank you.

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  4. Hello Cristina, I'm glad it found you too. I love how you put it: "maybe it started long ago but I am now taking charge of it." That really resonated with me and is something I return to again and again in my own process of practicing, deciding, acting, choosing, living...

    I wish you the best of luck! Thanks so much for your comment. ;)

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