"The transformation is in letting go and beginning again. And what an amazing thing that is. We can always, always begin again. The healing is in the return, not in never having wandered to begin with. So no matter how many times you might have to let go and begin again, it's fine. Its why it doesn't matter even if it's just one moment of awareness. It's enough." - Sharon Salzberg
After a sleepless night surfing the low grade anxiety that’s rolling in the collective unconscious (in other words, ALL of us on the planet) right now, I got up early and decided to try to take advantage of what I was sure would be an empty laundry room to get a load done, go to CVS and see if I could score some goodies, aka currently known as Lysol or Chlorox wipes (the shelves are lined with lonely green wipes, sorry Method) and hand sanitizer or alcohol (I already have toilet paper, can I get a hallelujah?!).
As I walked in, confident there would be no one there, not only was there someone loading one of the three machines, but she had two large baskets and was clearly planning to use the others as well. Annoyance flooded me. My plan was going down the drain here, no pun intended.
Still, I asked “Are you going to use all three?” Expressionless and tired and maybe a little annoyed (I could have been projecting) she lifted her gaze to meet mine and mumbled “yeah”. In turn, I felt my irritability spike and mumbled under my breath, reactively, “fuck. dammit. fuck”
I stormed out of the laundry room and out into the cool Spring air, when I felt Awareness run up from behind me and tap me on the shoulder. She cleared her throat to further get my attention, as I was walking faster trying to get away from her, and she asked “What happened there, kiddo?”
Suddenly, Judgement came at me sideways and hard, “Hey…YOU…what DID happen there? We’re in a global pandemic, people are sick, dying, scared, stuck…and you’re mad because you couldn’t get a machine in the laundry room when all you have right now is TIME?? WTF is WRONG with you? And you call yourself a yoga teacher, a yogi, an empath, a good person? You probably really made that woman’s day so much worse with your tantrum. You’re such a phony.”
Shame and Guilt gave me side eye. That’s all they have to do before I feel their heaviness drag me down.
And then I looked up as a figure appeared in the clear blue sky- was it a bird? was it a plane!? - no, it was Compassion flying down to me, like the Superhero she is, and landing square in front of me, soft eyes, soft voice: “You could have handled that better, but we are in a pandemic, and you’re anxiety has been knocking you off course from time to time despite all your good intentions and daily yoga and meditation and writing…you slept poorly, you hadn’t had coffee, and you’re not a morning person remember? Plus, you fell into the illusion that while you can’t control a pandemic, you can control some things in your life, except you forgot that the only thing you can control is your reaction to things, not anything external like pandemics or on a much smaller scale, where the delusion of control can really get out of hand, if someone beats you to the laundry room. And it’s ok. We forget, and we remember. You’ll go back, and you’ll likely catch your neighbor unloading her laundry, and you’ll apologize and offer reparations of kindness.”
Judgement rolled his eyes but turned around and walked away, street swag style. Shame and Guilt did a hair toss and checked their nails, but then followed Judgement. Compassion gave me a hug and a smile and then took off into the sky, “till next time” I heard her say as she disappeared into the blue abyss.
Awareness took my hand and walked with me, fingers interlaced to CVS where I was told to come back in an hour as they were unloading the truck with the fresh delivery of the things so many had gathered anxiously to get. There were about 6 or 7 of us, bleary eyed, a little desperate, waiting with me in the cleaning/toilet paper aisle. When they heard this ‘come back in an hour’ business, they grumbled, sucked their teeth, and cursed "fuck. shit fuck" under their breath too…and my heart ached with empathy for them. “I get it. We are all doing the best we can” I heard my True Self say, now able to be heard above the constant chatter from the others, since their voices inside me had been quieted.
I walked back to my building, back inside my laundry room, and lo and behold, my neighbor walked in a couple of minutes after I did. Before I could open my mouth, she exclaimed “Oh I’m SO glad to see you again. I’m SO sorry. I felt SO bad. I only ended up using two machines and I felt so terrible for you. I haven’t had my coffee and I’m not a morning person and I thought I said ‘hi’ but you only asked me about the machines and maybe I didn’t say hello—- ” I interrupted, “It was ME! I was SO rude and I’m SO sorry. The cursing was uncalled for and not directed at you but still, so so rude and I TRULY apologize. I felt SO bad as well and its just that I didn’t sleep well and also haven’t had coffee and I’m not a morning person and well, this thing is tough right now.”
We went on like that for a while. Accepting each others apologies, sharing our current experiences of stress and concern. “I’m Donna”. “I’m Judi”. Donna told me she felt she’d made a new friend through teary eyes. My heart tenderized to a pulp. We “air hugged” from 6 feet away.
Gratitude woke up from her slumber, and morphed into Love, AKA: God, and embraced us both.
I put my laundry in. I remembered, this yoga and meditation practice business works, not because it is perfect, or makes me perfect, or even because it is the only way because Donna is not a yogi and clearly got to the same conclusion I did around our encounter…but it IS one way, MY way of cultivating relationships with myself and others through 1) Awareness, 2)Compassion.
What else do we need to do? To heal? To forgive? To accept? To have faith? To trust? To know God? And in knowing God, know our true nature, which is limitless, essential, always triumphant because it is eternal and free.
This is why I practice.
Sharon Salzberg says that the most important moment in the process of practice is the next one, where we realize we’ve lost awareness and we bring ourselves back.
I practice to “bring myself back” gently, to remember when I forget.
And, I practice right now for the world, for the collective conciousness, to remember it’s humanity, to remember compassion and forgiveness ahead of fear and greed, to remember to respect and honor the planet, because it will defend itself and rightfully so, to remember divinity and faith, and to bring ourselves back gently to the only thing that counts, matters, helps, heals: Love.
(This blog was inspired by the Sharon Salzberg talk linked in the button below.)