I had a magnificent example of kissing off my own life this morning. I was in the middle of my morning ritual of toilet > incense > shower > teeth brushing. I had left my towel over the back of a chair in Olivia’s house yesterday and had forgotten to bring it over last night.
I had started to write a response to a colleague who had asked me a question about anger via email. I had dug into some old papers that I brought back from a retreat that I attended 10 years ago and I was taking these papers back to my bedroom. For clarity, I should mention that I do my blog posting and dictating first thing in the morning so that my voice does not disturb Olivia’s concentration.
I mentioned in an earlier post that the teacher who lived with me for six months or so had commented immensely helpfully on watching me do the washing up one afternoon; the key phrase was “kissing off part of your life”.
This morning, because I was thinking about how I was going to phrase part of my response to my colleague, I suddenly became aware as I was drying myself with my pyjama bottoms that, in fact, I was not present in my body at all. Ha ha hah!
In days gone by, I would’ve got annoyed with myself on becoming aware of this loss of presence. How futile is that? Today I just laughed out loud and brought my attention back to my body and the wonderful sensation of the soft pyjama material drying the water from the surface of my body. I breathed in, feeling all the sensations, and breathed out, and experienced a moment of gratitude for my tiny, trivial life.
This is one of my favourite Rumi quotes. It is particularly apposite at present, because the structure of my mind divides the universe into right and wrong or should and shouldn’t. One of my teachers mentioned that the mind automatically, reflexively, divides the universe into the half that you want and a half that you don’t want.
The great mathematician and logician G Spencer Brown once observed (in a footnote in his great book, The Laws of Form): “A universe comes into being the instant a distinction is made. Distinctions are made on the basis of the content of the thing being divided being seen to differ in value.”
Speaking most generally, the first pre-conceptual movement of the mind when faced with anything new is a distinction of this kind: like or dislike, good or bad, and so on. And from a Buddhist perspective this is aversion (dosa) and attraction (tanha; usu. translated as ‘craving’, but literally means ‘thirst’).
So when we find ourselves in a situation where we are reacting strongly to the reality that is unfolding in front of us, ask yourself a question that my dear friend Linda asked me some time ago:
How’s that workin’ for ya?