Saturday, June 22, 2013

Trusting in the Transformative Process

Change isn’t easy for me. Sure, I understand that change is inevitable, the only constant in life and impossible to stop but still, change is hard. Recently a friend gave me a flat screen monitor of which her mom no longer used. Well, she actually gave it to me over a month ago but as she lives in Calgary, it took a circuitous route to West Van, via Victoria, Salts Spring Island and finally, Anam Cara Farm and Learning Centre in Abbotsford. I picked it up a few days ago, carefully wrapped in layers of cotton within a bright blue IKEA carrying bag. It then sat in my hallway like a tacky beacon calling out to be opened. I am sure it would have sat there for at least a week, possibly more, but my Calgary friend asked how I liked it.  Shame, not industriousness, propelled me to work. This morning I took it out of its bag, unwrapped its shawl and plugged it in. It’s beautiful.  So, why did it take so long? Good old fashioned fear of change.
There are many facets to my fear and several applied to this situation. I was scared I would be disappointed or worse, find that when I unplugged my old one, with the interesting brown lines across it, I would have nothing. That either the new one wouldn’t work or that in somehow rearranging the wiring I would screw the whole thing up; that it would be too large for my desk or too modern for my outdated tower. I knew that in opening the bag there was no going back: fate would be sealed, it was do or die.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic but it is true I don’t like change and fear fuels that dislike. In many ways it’s about staying with the devil you know, at least its familiar. In familiarity there is safety and a practical knowledge that at best you have tools to work through what would give another person grief.  The problem with this, of course, is that without conscious change we stagnate, lose interest in life; get caught in a rut. Life without change is none other than death.
I am currently working on a mosaic made of haphazardly cut tile. It is an image of a tree with a multitude of colours illuminating the roots, the branches, the earth and the sky. I am quite proud of it but alas, it too stood in a stage of stagnation before I finally started gluing it to its final home—an 18” diameter piece of wood. I really didn’t get what was holding me back until I sat in meditation one day. Yes, you guessed it: change. A part of me knew my mosaic wouldn’t stay the same as I transferred my pieces from sketch paper to its final home. A part of me feared it would be ruined, my perfect picture would distort: I would not recover those oh-so-perfect curves and just right angles.  The finished product would hide in the closet to dispose of some inglorious day in the dumpster.  
I came out of the meditation, however, with none of this in mind. In fact, I went in with another seemingly unrelated question but came out with a compulsive need to start gluing. So glue I did. And, of course, the image changed, and does so every day I work on it. And that, I am realizing, is not only okay but quite exciting.
It’s a lesson I seem to need to keep relearing: that whatever the problem, small or large, it is not so much about how I control the issue but how much I trust in the transformative process.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Little Girl and the Drop of Rain

I got on the bus the other day, greeted the driver, grabbed a seat and settled in. It was stormy outside and the mini shuttle bus, the kind that serves the outlying ‘burbs, soon filled up. Being at the terminus station we had to wait a few minutes before starting on our journey. The passengers sat quietly or murmured to one another while drying out from the heavy shower that doused us before loading. I sat and pondered my navel as I am wont to do on buses—they are a good place for inner reflection; silent meditation and journaling. Perhaps it is because you are in the centre of this microcosm of humanity, a haphazard composition of life, all journeying somewhere while images of what could be flash by your window. If you can take yourself out of it—be the observer; the witness of this frenetic whirlwind—there is an absolute stillness that only a bus can provide.
Needless to say, I like riding the busses. I also, for the most part, like bus drivers. They tend to be a congenial sort and, like most of us, when treated with respect, give it back. I’ve had plenty of good laughs and conversation but also quiet camaraderie. It is a tough job and I appreciate them.
Just before leaving the bus driver stood up and addressed us. He told us how “amazing” we were. Seriously. It would have been humorous, even lovely, if he had stopped there but no, he continued. From the pulpit of driver’s domain, he lectured us—that is the only way I can describe it—about how amazing we are in our humanness. He must have used the amazing word ten, maybe twenty times in his monologue. It was over the top. It was like listening to a born again on a sugar high. I wanted to take my amazing fist and hit his amazing self.
The funny thing is, I agree with him, we are amazing: special in our uniqueness but spellbinding as a species. But there on the bus it was like continually being hit over the head with a soft baton: amusing at first and then downright irritating. He soon ended his speech but reinstituted a shortened version at each person’s stop: You are amazing, don’t forget it; have an amazing evening.
After fifteen minutes of this, it was my turn to get off. I respectfully said goodbye and was eternally grateful for his lack of comments on my amazing being-ness. Perhaps he had finally tired of it; more likely he sensed I was not a devotee. Regardless, the silence greeting me as I walked down the street made me almost delirious.
I had a few minutes to spare so I got some tea and sat outside while the newly arrived sun pushed the clouds away. I opened up my still wet umbrella and set it beside me to dry. The soft gentle breeze and the warming rays filled me with joy when a little girl, probably not much more than four, stopped in front of me. She looked at the umbrella and then looked at me. It’s not raining, she said. I know, I replied, it’s wonderfully sunny but my umbrella needs to dry out. She nodded her head sagely and gently brushed away some remnant drops. I will help it, she said. I thanked her. She started to walk away and then bent down to pick up a small branch. It was covered with bits of moss and lichen, probably blown from the trees in the recently passed storm. I want you to have this, she said, but in the summer. Thank you, said I, I will gladly take it … in the summer. Once again she nodded, you promise? I promise, I said, and she skipped away.
Maybe the bus driver’s speech opened my heart, thereby allowing me to have this most lovely encounter.  But of this I am not so sure— I was rather disgruntled when I left his presence. No, I think he was there more to act as a foil.  In his grandiose sermon in praise of humanness he only served to highlight what truly is amazing in our hyperbolic world of slogans, affirmations and promotional rhetoric: the small and the subtle; the skip of a young child; the drop of rain.