spirit flows thru -- Alison Rittger's spiritual reflections on finding the holy in the daily
The Human Condition-Homage to Rene Magritte / [piXo]
Not a week goes by that I don’t wonder if this will be the week I have nothing to write. Sometimes there’s not much to talk about and sometimes a lot happens. My original reason for writing was to encourage myself to search for the holy in the daily. But it wasn’t long before I focused on my own transformative moments. I sense there is risk in all the introspection; not risk like running naked through a flower-show but more of a “ho-hum” risk. What could be worth reading about this ordinary life?

Luckily, I often find someone else’s insights to justify doing a weekly self-disclosure. In his forward to David Shield’s Enough About YOU, Notes Toward the New Autobiography, documentary filmmaker, Ross McElwee writes…each of us plumbed deeply enough and from enough angles contains the entire human condition.” I like that justification for these weekly explorations – “the entire human condition.”

This week was filled with exciting options that included a day at the Zen Center learning about satipatthana, the framework for establishing mindfulness, with Gil Fronsdal; attending Acid Test, a play about Ram Dass, followed by dinner with Corky; a meeting with my meditation practice teacher who told me “no” and I didn’t cry; and being with my darling therapist, practicing asking for an apology. But I choose to spend the remaining paragraphs playing with a moment of truth from early in the week when Corky said something to me that hit home. I trust that this will speak to the entire human condition.

Corky and I needed to talk about what had happened a few nights earlier when we went to hear author Mary Roach at the Jewish Community Center. Before the lights went down my feelings were hurt, and rather than express anger at Corky, I chose to weep silently in the dimness of Kanbar Hall as Ms. Roach burbled on about flatulence and gastrointestinal juices. When Corky asked me on the ride home if something was wrong, I acknowledged feeling disrespected by what felt like her disinterest in what I was saying about myself. We set a time to talk it over. Good idea. Resentment rarely serves relationship.

A few days later we met in the patio of ‘Arlequin, sat in the sun and looked back at the incident at the JCC. In cases of hurt feelings I like to say to myself: “Hurt people hurt people.” So what had hurt Corky?

I will say here only what I understood from what she said. Her complaint was that I seem so self-absorbed that she wonders if there is any room in me for anyone else. She made a valid point. Hers is the same plaint one might make of a fishing enthusiast who chooses to spend most of his waking hours on the water.  Such preoccupation tends to leave little room for anyone but a fellow enthusiast. And it is clearly irrational to expect anyone else to be as caught up in my insights and exhalations as I am. Or as I hope, on occasion, you are, keeping in mind “The Entire Human Condition.”

Anyway, I took to heart her lament. It is true. I do love to examine being me. And yet, I remember reading Pema Chodron about “self-cherishing” which is not so much about loving the self as it is about preoccupation with self, with fixing. I am grateful to Corky for saying my self-absorption made her feel left her out, much as I had, in the past, found her affection for old movies and audiobooks sometimes tiresome and excluding.

And yet what seemed called for on this occasion was less looking back and more thinking forward as to how to create a “we” space and time to be about and for each other. So I proposed a plan whereby no day goes by without kind words for the other, and emails don’t count. Kind words and time together is key, time during which we pay attention to each other. Of course, I have no control over how much attention I get. But that is not a problem. I am notoriously good at being attentive to myself.

Thus with the help of everyone who wants to be in relationship with me, especially Corky, it will be my practice to be at home in self-awareness while holding the door open to others. Welcome to my human condition. 

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