My negative reaction to being told what to do on Tuesday continued into my Wednesday therapy appointment. I spent most of those 50 minutes kvetching about people who tell me to do things I’d prefer not to do. Yet even as I smote my breast and berated authority figures, I longed for the therapist to tell me to stop. I was disappointed with both of us. Didn’t she know I was wasting our time.
By the time it was Wednesday again, I arrived at therapy with a useful image in mind, an image that provided a paradigm for the purpose or purposes of meditation teacher Tuesdays and therapist Wednesdays.
I imagined my life as a spider’s web in the making; attaching to different trees, each anchor becomes essential for supporting the ultimate interconnected creation. (See www.haworth-village.org.uk/nature/how/spider-web.asp.) But unlike the spider and her trees, I attach to people. Thus my web symbolizes the life I construct, the life I live in. One anchor is a meditation coach, another is a therapist, a third is a personal trainer, another is my friend and editor, Kate. There is the Kalyana Mitta (dharma friends) group that meets on alternate Thursdays, the sangha in the East Bay, the Civic Center Zen Center, the women’s group I facilitate one morning a week, and the meditation group that meets in the chapel at the San Francisco Unitarian Universalist church on Wednesday nights.
Each point of connection serves a different and valuable purpose. I did not realize just how separately significant to my life each person is until I imagined my constructed life in the shape of that spider’s web. Until I realized that time with a Zen teacher is not a warm and cuddly encounter with a therapist. The role of this teacher is say outright what she sees as blocks to my awakening. And if I have hurt feelings as she asks me to open to understanding, I better not expect her to apologize. And though I have no future as a monk, by taking a teacher, I am learning what it means to trust her, to allow her to be my “dangerous friend” as a teacher is called in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
On the other hand, I need to know my therapist likes me. I want to know it over and over again. And with her, I work with the paradoxical discomfort of needing love and finding it difficult to tolerate being cared about. Apparently in that encounter, what I wanted on Wednesday was what irritated me on Tuesday. Perhaps I need to learn to trust the therapist’s process as much as I am leaning to trust the Zen teacher’s work.
The spider’s web I envisioned brought clarity. It showed me to pursue one goal in one place and the second goal in another place, much like Tuesday is not Wednesday nor vice versa. For if the spider attaches all her anchor strands to one spot, the construction will be pretty lopsided and not too many bugs will land. That would not be a skillful web.
I have connected to my life with other strands such as to communities of like minded people at the War Memorial Opera House, Opera Plaza Theater, Davies Symphony Hall, etc. I often ride strands to Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Aurora Theatre and sometimes to the Marin Theatre in Mill Valley.
Although I didn’t envision a spider in the web of my mind’s eye; nevertheless, a stretch of imagination shows me at the center of such a web. I am okay with this because spiders are considered ancient symbols of mystery, power and growth. “When we see our decisions, choices and actions as far-reaching, effective tools in life - we can see how we weave a web that can either serve us or enslave us. The Spider symbol meaning beckons us to be mindful of our behaviors - be smart about the life we weave for ourselves.”*