Saturday, November 29, 2008
Life Road; Destination Unknown?
When you first look at the photograph below, you probably see the dry tan colored road. As your eyes travel into the shot, you see a line of color in the sky, then a hint of color above...a double rainbow! For most people, the dry road holds our attention, maybe we remember the taste of dust in our mouths and the gritty feel of sand on our skin. If we'd look to the road-side, we'd see a variety of green plants-or up ahead, we'd see there's light and it's getting brighter. Not only is there light but also color up ahead! The impact of the scene is related to where we place our attention. In the Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, Drs. Deepak Chopra and David Simon write that whatever you want to increase in your life, you should place your attention there. Keep returning your attention to what you want to increase in your life. Like this road, you could look down, to the side, or up ahead. Whatever you focus on will impact you the most-it will seem to be the most significant. I try to remember that when I am in the midst of some sort of crisis-like feeling; I will myself to see a broader perspective and through that effort I find relief. Sometimes it may seem as if I am out of touch with the situation but I am cultivating the ability to shift my focus when it gets over-attentive to what's wrong-after all, usually something is going well in all circumstances. And the Buddhists have an often remembered phrase-at least in my memory,"Good luck, bad luck, who knows?" It's kind of leveling phrase that reminds me that your perspective shifts depending on where (in time) you're focusing. So when a loved one tells me in sympathy, "Your having a lot of bad luck, lately," rather than feeling sorry for myself, I think of transition/change, and how I don't know if what has happened is indeed bad in the whole scheme of things. Today, I was reading an interview with the Dalai Lama by Spalding Gray (in A Simple Monk; Writings on his Holiness The Dali Lama, New World Library 2001). Spalding confessed that he would have an alcoholic drink to calm his nerves when he was traveling to a new place, then he asked the Dalai Lama if he ever felt fear and what was his calming technique. The Dalai Lama admitted that he used to be afraid of flying, and that he would recite a mantra or prayer to relax his anxiety. Ultimately, however, he accepts karma, "If I created some karma to have a certain kind of death, I cannot avoid that. Although I try my best, if something happens, I have to accept it. It is possible that I have no such karmic force, then even if the plane crashes, I may survive...that belief is very helpful. Very effective." I also remember reading Pema Chodron's, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Shambhala Classics). She writes that often it's the reaction to bad news that triggers more consequences and consequently, more pain. I remind myself it's best not to run around crazy in fear or anger; it makes things worse. How can I help myself or anyone else if I give in to panic? Many years ago, I was walking with my hatha yoga teacher, Helen Curly Brown, when she dropped her camera down the stairs, "Bless you" she said as she reached down to retrieve it and continue walking. In her quirky way, I noticed how she cultivated patience. Pressure to act in reaction to emotion is strong; I'm grateful that most of the time I do find my center. I come back to my practice and know that all is well. By meditation, I have learned that ultimately, all is well...as a mantra when anxiety visits...I mentally repeat all is well, all is well...all is well until I remember and accept...all is well. May we all have patience and the mental strength to continue to consciously act- but also to know and accept that all is well. May we attend to the double rainbows in our lives and not keep our attention on the dusty road any longer than necessary. Om Namaha Shivaya