spirit flows thru -- Alison Rittger's spiritual reflections on finding the holy in the daily
muni bus/copelaes
Right here, right now, no big deal
It is what it is.

I composed this Haiku last Wednesday morning. Three lines of 17 syllables divided five, seven, five. And literary merit notwithstanding, I like it very much. It suggests a different way to be in the world, letting go of needing things to be other than they are and not going to war with reality. This Haiku ponders the possibility of setting aside the desire for certain outcomes and experiencing what is real.

Renunciation didn’t just spring full-blown from my forehead. It spoke to me from the Ten Perfections I learned about Tuesday night at the East Bay Meditation Center in a dharma talk by Gina Sharpe. She described renunciation as parting with habits that don’t lead to happiness or contentment.

I contemplated the thought, imagining how I could actually live this wisdom. If there was any truth in it, I could apply it anywhere, at any time. So the same afternoon on the day of its creation as I waited at the bus stop on Fillmore and Sutter, I decided to put the Haiku to the test.

What kind of renunciation would be called for? In no time I saw that I would have to let go of expecting the actual arrival of the two buses to be reflected by the flashing schedule at the bus stop. At about six minutes before the first 22 was scheduled to arrive, it became eight minutes, whereas the second bus, which had been 13 minutes behind the first bus had closed the time gap to three minutes.

No doubt in the real world of the 22 line, the first bus encountered multiple wheelchairs ascending and descending whereas the second bus was zipping along. I felt increased tension as the time on my wrist and the promised time of a bus stretched further apart. I had been pinning my hopes for arriving at Chestnut and Fillmore for an appointment on the flashing information in the bus stop. And now I was imagining the walk to the Apple store lugging my computer case, which though not large would become heavier over time.

As for the Haiku, the lines repeated as if in counter-rhythm to my irritation. This is happening right here, right now and it is no big deal. It is what it is. It is neither a tsunami nor 106 degrees in the shade of the bus stop overhang. And the wisdom of my haiku? Let go of expectation, of irritation. Let go of reaction, think of response. The options are: wait, walk, hail a taxi, depend on the kindness of strangers. I waited.

Renunciation, as it applied to the bus stop, meant let go of fuming, dissatisfaction, blaming drivers, public transportation, or myself for relying on it rather than driving to the Marina and paying to park.

Sister Siripannà in a week-end program in England held in 1996,  Renunciation: The Highest Happiness, said if we see our life as an opportunity to understand the way things are, that is renunciation and this letting go is very freeing. “Renunciation can sound like passivity … but actually it is the opposite. True response-ability – the ability to respond wisely and compassionately to life – naturally arises in the non-attached mind. There can be both activity and letting go… there is a joy in being in contact with Truth, whatever its particular flavor.”

As for my Haiku being 17 syllables that would instantly change my life, it was not. But on Wednesday it was an interesting diversion and a reminder of the choices I have habitually made. Irritation and impatience are grooves worn deep, arising as they do so easily. It’s also clear that cutting new grooves will take more than a Haiku, but a poem can be a start.

By Sunday, still under the influence of those potent 17 syllables, I was relaxed and ready to speak at my church gig.  I was to speak on “Writing for the Ones You Love,” a talk I did not rehearse, knowing I would say what was in my heart. My friend, Kate, and I had outlined talking points over coffee Saturday morning at a coffee shop in Glen Park. With an outline Kate wrote out, I felt no anxiety. Renunciation/Right here, right now, no big deal/It is what it is. I had renounced having to be special or wonderful, but focused instead on being alert, open, caring and truthful. I knew how I would conclude; I could get there without memorizing or stressing.

At the start of my talk, the room was not filled, but midway through the talk, which I would finish 30 minutes before Forum talks usually end, the room was filled. Maybe skipping some of the points of my outline, I closed the talk with a wonderful quote by Gil Fronsdal of the Redwood City Insight Meditation sangha: “Sometimes the shortest path into the truth is through a story.” Then I invited others to share stories. Pretty soon, I was facilitating widespread sharing and feeling happy that the community I love was so present and open to each other. I answered some questions, spread a little Buddhist “no shoulds allowed” and rested, content that it was no big deal. It waswhat it was. 

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