Archive for the 'prayer shawl' Category

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.