Archive for the 'impatience' Category


June 12, 2013

I don’t see how people who don’t see ourselves as reincarnated beings deal with the fact that some of us appear to “get” spiritual teachings in a fundamental way, and shift their consciousness as a result, while others merely process the information through their intellects and superficial behaviors.  For me the explanation is that some of us have already been through other stages in previous lives and that these stages have made us ready for a next step.

Which brings me to a further point:  some teachings produce damaging results in people who have not yet gone through some of the previous stages.

I don’t think compassion is awakened through learning at the feet of a teacher.  If the teacher’s compassion seemed to be awakened through such an experience, or if the teacher’s compassion seemed to be awakened through the practice of techniques, such as prayer and contemplation, then I suspect the teacher already had had their heart broken open (through difficult experiences?) in a previous lifetime.

I know that what I “know” I myself didn’t learn all during this lifetime.  I am quite sure it is the same for others, whether or not they recognize it.  We create all kinds of unfortunate spiritual knots in people, and in the world, when we encourage them to take steps that are not the next ones for them.  And in doing this, we are also enabling, if not encouraging, people to avoid some of the more difficult stages of spiritual development, I think.  You gotta break a few eggs to make that omelette at some stage of the process.  Nobody can experience that brokenness for us, and if we do try to experience it vicariously, we will not undergo the changes necessary in ourselves for subsequent steps.

It’s my personal belief, no offense intended, that some spiritual and religious teachers and leaders throughout history have been impatient with this aspect of spiritual development and the limits of teaching.  And I think some of this group ended up overwhelmed themselves by their frustration.  We can only do so much.  It’s a group project — a BIG group project — over time and across geography.  We do our piece and then we cede the stage.  The concept of reincarnation I find helpful for understanding and accepting this.  If there are other ways to do this, great, but I am concerned with worldviews that facilitate a sense that it can all be done here and now, through one person, through a set of teachings.



October 5, 2012

I posted sometime recently about working on my impatience, about trying to float in the moment itself instead of pressing down hard, of trying to match my pace to the flow.  These are not my strengths.

But I was thinking that what I’m pretty good at is not imposing my own agenda — I’m pretty good at the willingness and surrender part of spiritual work.

It’s hard to know what lies behind what other people are doing along those axes, and it’s really none of my business.  And what can look to me like following an agenda that has been directed by human intellect may actually not be that at all, or someone may be prospering materially in a way that seems untoward, and that may turn out to serve the greater good — how can I know?

I do admit to getting suspicious sometimes, though, when what other people are doing seems at odds with the principles of spiritual dynamics as I understand them.


September 30, 2012

Richard removed two clogs from the left downspout on the front porch, one in each of the two elbows, yesterday morning.  (This Richard is the guy who cleans out the gutters and oils the wooden one in front.)

He tried to explain the difference between a gooseneck and an elbow — the downspout configuration has both — but I’m not sure I understood it.  We’re talking about the curved pieces, in the downspout configuration, that my carpenters used to track the porch architecture closely, in any event.

Clogs in a drainage system resonates for me strongly, and needing someone to remove one and then, it turns out, two, resonates, too.

I think we have drainage systems for dispelling our emotional burdens.  I think we try not to just pass them off to someone else who can’t handle them either.  When we can’t process them ourselves, sometimes it’s as if there’s a clog.  Bitterness can be a clog, I think.  So also can be self-pity and those mutations of hurt feelings that some of us wrap around ourselves like a cozy blanket.

Somebody recommended Al-Anon to me years ago.  It’s for families and friends of alcoholics.  The first meeting I attended — two blocks away from my house the next morning — brought such relief.  It lifted both my sense of responsibility for the alcoholic’s behavior (and not being able to control or cure it as society seemed to be telling me I should be able to) and a sense of self-pity that was getting in my way.

Clogs can re-form.  I have to work at not closing up, at letting things go, at keeping on moving, at not spinning a web of self-pity or bitterness or blame.  The hardest thing for me at this point is dealing with more loss, with trajectories that don’t seem to change.  Sometimes I can’t make a situation or someone better, and I can make things worse by trying, and my first reaction is “I can’t stand this.”

There’s fear in that reaction, I know that’s part of a clog in there.  I was asking for help on that the other day while I was praying, and I heard help from somewhere or someone about treading more lightly and in the moment, trying to float and not press down so hard on things (the way I do when I write with a pencil or ballpoint pen — I get rough patterns like Braille on the reverse side of the paper) and wait and see.  I don’t like to focus on the concept of “patience” — it helps me to re-frame that as this floating lightly in the moment and keeping in sync with the pace.

Richard said he’d just add the work to the bill he’ll send after he or one of his crew does the gutter cleaning and oiling later next month.  When I reflect on that, while it’s not remarkable, I enjoy his trust that if he does the work first and even forgoes immediate payment after he’s done, I’ll be good for the full amount later.  I’ve been stiffed myself in that situation, and finding an alternative to fulfillment of the promise has proved difficult and challenging, although not without benefits.  I guess, to go back to the theme of this post, I need to experience that pattern without reforming clogs in my emotional drainage system.

I’m going to end with what I see as the humor in the universe.  One of the people I’ve helped spiritually I associate with wearing clogs.  He was Dutch by birth, I don’t actually know if he wore clogs, but I associate him with them at least as a symbol.  (This had led me to thinking about magic shoes, witches’ shoes, red shoes, papal shoes, antique Chinese clogs, etc. as possible points through which I might find conceptual insight into the problem.)  The representation of a concept — difficulty with a drainage system — through the situation with my downspouts makes me want to say, “It was that kind of clog, not something about footwear, that was the problem.”   At some point, the image and focus apparently shifted from the shoe to the downspout, through which the problem could be addressed, and the problem became resolved.

Red Shawl

September 8, 2012

I wrote about red dresses the other day, in light of the recent political conventions, and yesterday I had my own humbling experience with a red garment.

I got an email ad for a sale on a red prayer shawl I liked, so I ordered one, and it got a little complicated, because I didn’t want to be charged sales tax on what could be considered clothing, since clothing below a certain price threshold doesn’t trigger sales tax in Massachusetts.  And then the company’s different departments had trouble communicating with each other, and my order fell into that gap, and they went out of stock before filling my order, and I was frustrated, in part because when I had placed my order by phone (so I could flag the sales tax issue), the rep had gone on about how it was a good thing I was placing my order then because they had very few left but I would get one.

So the company told me, in the course of straightening out the sales tax issue (none charged), that they were getting more stock in, and at some point, someone at the company (which is also in Massachusetts) told me she lives in Cambridge and would drop it off for me at my house yesterday to mitigate the delay.

I was touched and thrilled. Especially in light of the family medical emergency I’ve got going on in another state — it was like a little gesture that made me feel a whole lot better while I’m feeling generally stretched further than I find comfortable.  (The sorting out of my responsibilities under the circumstances is stressful to me, especially since I’ve got responsibilities here, too.)

I thought the customer service rep was going to drop the shawl off on her way to work in the morning.  Turns out, she needed to pick up the stock during the day and then drop it off, but I didn’t know that.  So when the shawl still wasn’t on my porch at almost 4 p.m. and I was concerned and frustrated.  And I was not very successful in reaching anyone at the company, and that concerned me, too.

My better angels told me to chill, it would get worked out, but in the meantime, my (over)reaction precipitated an insight into one of those old pieces of unfinished karmic business, and I could see how a spiritual seeker had been impatient to receive his monk’s prayer shawl and had arranged to get initiated through someone privately who was not qualified to do that work, in order to achieve that sooner.  And the would-be monk was so focused on the article of clothing the shawl.

And I had that flash, which I’ve had before, that it’s not the accoutrements, or even the position in the material world that makes the person with spiritual insight a person with spiritual insight, it’s their inner state and their developed ability to access the universe through their inner self.  The shawl doesn’t confer the ability.  (I’ve heard this idea centered on a story of lost prayer beads, where the person who lost them had already lost his access to insight but blamed the loss of the beads and the person he held responsible for that spiritual loss.)

I had a friend in college who was very involved in gymnastics.  Her family took in gymnasts who were training locally, too, so she really was exposed to a lot of aspects of the sport.  She used to observe that the really talented gymnasts had the most tattered and unassuming warm-up clothing.  (She’d pick them out on opposing teams — whom to watch for — at meets during warm-ups that way, even.)

I think that’s analogous to what I’m saying about the prayer shawl issue.

I need to call the company Monday and tie up a loose end or two, including offering an apology for my misunderstanding and misplaced concern.  Privately I really do have to work on my impatience and the unhelpful concerns it can give rise to.  I’ve been trying to help my relative in the hospital with their impatience about being there — it seems so clear to me how to deal with that manifestation of impatience.  But it’s my own I need to work on.  In my relative let me see myself and learn something.

It’s a humbling experience.