Earlier in the week I was sitting in the lobby of the dance studio where my daughters take lessons. Next to me sat another mom who had plopped down with a sigh and said, “I guess it’s not cool anymore to wave at ‘mom’ during class.” I asked when it begins and she replied. “Too soon. Too soon.” Her daughter is twelve. My daughter, Lana, who is eight came running out to give me a hug and steal a cinnamon Altoid from my purse. I saw her differently in this moment, surrounded by other girls, younger and older in her studio class, in clear recognition of the only way we can experience time on earth: through change. It is the way of this life.
Lana has been coming to this studio from the age of two, so she passes her younger selves, as I do, in this studio space on a weekly basis. The moment reminded me of the choices I have in any given moment. Am I here? Or am I off in my head reminiscing or planning? Can I be aware of my propensity to cling and to rush? (keep my daughters little, but get through this afternoon?) The dialectic of each moment is staggering; joy and remorse, grief and humor, longing and impatience, interest and boredom. So much, so very much happening in any given moment for all of us. Strange bed fellows these feeling states but they are constant companions. Cling and rush have alter ego’s: push and wait. I practice aiming for somewhere in the middle, where allowing and being sit quietly, observing all of the mental chatter.
So what’s underneath all of this clinging and rushing in response to change? Is it the belief that time is very limited? Whose time is limited? Is the clinging connected to identity or to expectation or both? It is very hard to navigate in the mind. It really cannot be navigated with just thinking. I have found the ultimate teachers in this practice of noticing “the cling and the rush” are those who are living with change in ways that challenge independence and autonomy: the very things praised and clung in our society. Suddenly, when dependent on another, we have an opportunity to notice more clearly what we are holding on to as ours. And, for example, when we depend on another adult to drive us where we need to go or help us schedule and attend activities we experience time differently. As oneWisdom Keeper explained recently in describing his experience of trying to find a word or express his thoughts he shared, “Someone has to wait. Someone must wait for me.” Or as another illustrated with her practice of acceptance several years ago, “Since I am no longer safe on the road I need to wait for others to take me where I want to go. I can be patient or impatient. Which would you rather be? I have more time to read now or just look out my window and see the world.”
The Wisdom Keepers present us with profound and difficult questions to consider: When we are challenged by change will we be able to acknowledge and accept what once was (accomplished or executed) but is no longer (expressed or acted on) due to illness or other life change and remain open to what is? Or will we douse it with regret, longing and cling to what it not here, focus on what is missing ? What is the price of this choice? What does it cost us to cling or let go? The Wisdom Keepers remind us the answer is in our ability to simply notice what is actually happening. It is the only way we can enjoy, or sometimes, simply cope with what is here. Only then there is room for allowing it to be enough. Just as it is.
Ever want to challenge what you are clinging to? You can begin by noticing your own thoughts. It’s an illuminating exercise to practice on a regular basis . Thank goodness we are not our thoughts. They run around like unsupervised kids high on sugar most of the time. This is, of course, easier to accomplish when things are going well, but what about when they aren’t going well? When life is a little fuzzy or when it’s very, very loud in our head or in the body (as pain)? This past month has been a flurry of activity in my life. How about yours? Illness, school programs, lessons and appointments, destinations and obligations, out-of-town guests and a house that seems a perpetual mess. Gradually, I have come to understand and appreciate this as not-so-personal, but something all families struggle and flow with depending on the day, or the moment.
Of course, it IS very personal in the details and the in choices, but my busy is not any more busy than another’s really. It’s easy to get caught up the my part, especially when I am tired, even more so when I have a headache and exponentially challenging when our or my children are sick. The ego is hardwired to defend and qualify, justify and exaggerate. After all, we are the center of the universe, right? I mean, the center of our universe. How can we know anything but our own experience of the world around us? Does the universality of being create an opening for us to explore what we are layering on top of it? How the story of incessant me (me, me, me) makes living seem heavy, like ladling molasses onto self-cleaning gear? When we are able to get out-of-the-way, the body and the mind have a natural way of negotiating the moment without all of the direction and commentary from our inner chatterbox.
I recently heard a quote I love and have repeated many times since, I only wish I knew the author.
“You cannot have a date with disappointment unless you’ve made an appointment with expectation.”
It hit me like a firm pillow in the chest. I love this expression for its clarity, wit and universality. It’s part of our being human and the ongoing work of noticing the hop-scotch rocks we throw ahead on our path and the feelings and beliefs that accompany us when we skip ahead or balance on one foot and look forwards or backwards. Trust. Letting Go. Allowing. Being where we are. It is “zen” some say, or “heart-centered” and “conscious” as defined by others. I like to call it “awake.” Call it what you will. Seeing it is the important part. Awareness gives us choices when we are holding on; it helps us peel the fingers back from our illusory iron grip. I like knowing what I am clinging to. And I am likely to keep clinging to many things in this life. It will happen over and over again I am sure. The difference will be in noticing if I am clinging to clinging itself.