Kaspa writes: Human beings are covered in stories. But there is something else as well. It is possible to be connected to the world in a clearer way. A way in which we project less of our own stuff onto the world and see it more as it really is…
Fiona writes: I stepped onto the train platform and felt for the strap of my handbag.
My rucksack was there. The present for my friend Heather was there. My tube ticket was there. Where was my handbag?
My handbag was gone.
I’d travelled early that morning from Malvern to Paddington, and taken the tube to Charing Cross on the way to my psychotherapy supervision training. I was half an hour away from the Tibetan Buddhist centre where the training would take place. Without my handbag.
I went into action mode. I ran after the disappearing tube to see if I’d left it on my seat – nothing. I walked quickly to find a tube employee – who sent me to the mainline station, who sent me to lost luggage, who said I’d have to call Paddington lost luggage. As I walked I racked my brains. Could I remember taking my handbag from the first train? I would rather it had been stolen, to save my embarrassment, but I had a horrible feeling…
As I walked from place to place, I was counting the loss. £160 in cash. My phone & all those numbers. My Kindle. My iPod. My bank cards, driving license, all the cards in my wallet. My £70 train ticket home & travelcards for the weekend. My house keys. My filofax, which contained my entire life – all my client appointments, all my addresses, my schedule for the year. Gone.
I asked the train staff if they could call Paddington for me – I had no money and no phone. My eyes pleaded with them. They said they couldn’t help me. At this point, I realised that I had a choice. I was feeling more and more panicky. I could either burst into tears, schlep back to Paddington, cancel the weekend’s training & go home with my tail between my legs. Or I could take one step at a time and go forwards. I went forwards. I carried on to my destination.
I arrived at my training (late) and announced to the group that I’d had a disaster. They were all wonderful. The centre director looked up numbers for me on his computer (Paddington lost property, my bank to cancel cards…), the course leader leant me money for lunch, my husband got in contact with Heather to warn her I was uncontactable, I hogged the phone during the breaks and during lunch.
It wasn’t a great day. I felt waves of panic, anger, feeling utterly stupid, fear of the unknown, despair. People kept saying I was dealing with it all ultra-calmly, and I wondered if I was in shock.
I guess a Buddhist centre is a good place to practice non-attachment, and here was my big opportunity…
I kept working with the feelings as they arose. I thought ‘one step at a time’ or ‘it’s only money and inconvenience, nobody is ill’ or simply ‘let go’. My gaze kept returning to the huge shrine in the room we were working in, and the three big golden Buddhas. I allowed myself to feel supported by the universe. I’d be looked after, one way or another. I had faith.
By the time I stood under the clock at Waterloo station, waiting for my friend Heather, I felt better than ‘OK’. I felt good. I had truly given up on getting back the contents of my handbag. I thought they might recover my filofax, if I was lucky. I had let go.
As I waited, a man approached me.
“Are you Fiona?”
“I’m Pete. We’ve got your bag.”
They’d travelled from Malvern that morning. They’d seen my bag left behind on my seat, and watched people walk past. They thought, ‘we have to do something’. They took it to lost property, who told them they’d charge for me to collect it. And so they found my text message to Heather on my phone, arranging when and where we were meeting. They’d been trying to get in touch with her all day to let her know that they had my bag. And then they’d COME TO MEET ME.
For the first time that day, I burst into tears. I hugged them both. I’d let go of it all – my Kindle, my filofax, my phone, my iPod, all that much-needed cash. And here it all was. Returned to me – delivered to me on the other side of London – by strangers who wanted to do the right thing. I could hardly believe it.
On my way back from London yesterday, I read this:
“When we are forced to attend to the places where we are most stuck, such as when faced with our anger and fear, we have the perfect opportunity to go to the roots of our attachments. This is why we repeatedly emphasise the need to welcome such experiences, to invite them in, to see them as our path. Normally we may only feel welcoming towards our pleasant experiences, but Buddhist practice asks us to welcome whatever comes up, including the unpleasant and the unwanted, because we understand that only by facing these experiences directly can we become free of their domination. In this way, they no longer dictate who we are.” (Ezra Bayda, from ‘Beyond Happiness‘)
I know this to be true.
‘the tube’ by Matthias Rhomberg
Two weeks ago I gave a Dharma talk during a Buddhist service that was very well received because of the humanity in it. Last night I began a talk by listing some of my flaws (I didn’t have time to mention all of them).
After last night’s talk someone said they weren’t sure if there was something different about me, or if there was something different about how they were listening. I suspect a little of both – it can be easier to connect with someone who accepts their own humanity and vulnerability than with someone who is keeping their messiness under wraps.
Usually I upload recordings of the talks to the website of my Buddhst group: Malvern Sangha. I haven’t put the last two online yet. They are usually uploaded the next day, and it’s been over a week now. The superficial reason for this is that it takes time to convert the filetype, and I’ve been busy (and it’s a boring job). The real reason they are late is because I know that in those two talks I am more exposed than I usually am.
I know and trust everyone that was physically present at the talks. In that situation it’s a little easier to relax than online where I don’t know everyone that might listen – I’m suddenly more vulnerable again.
Once a month our sangha have what is called a stone passing. Essentially we use a stone as a talking stick, and each person gets a chance to speak from the heart, whilst others listen. This is one of the most powerful forums I have experienced. As people sink into trusting the group, and are able to open up, they are able to admit to being human. They can say, “this is what I am struggling with this week”, or “this is why my heart is heavy”, or even, “this is why I’m really excited at the moment”. For those of us listening it’s a relief to hear that we’re not the only one.
Being exposed to vulnerability allows us to be vulnerable, and my experience of being able to be vulnerable is that a weight is lifted. Sometimes, when I’ve been holding onto some grief, or struggle, it’s like a spot bursting. An initial painful pop, as all the emotion spills out and then the lightness and softening that follows.
There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in ~ Leonard Cohen
Okay. Now I’d better upload those talks….