spirit flows thru -- Alison Rittger's spiritual reflections on finding the holy in the daily
PictureBracelet in the Buddha bowl /Alison
I wear a simple bracelet of 19 wooden beads strung loosely on a brown stretchy string not just because my Buddhist meditation teacher gave it to me, but because it serves as a reminder to be mindful and more.  Some people tape messages to their mirrors or post them on the fridge with a magnet so as not to forget lessons worth learning. For me this bead bracelet from my teacher is an especially apt metaphor for a lesson I need to remember.

It was a painful interaction with the teacher who gave me the bracelet that impressed on me that it really is a good idea to pause before reacting. It’s practically sacred! At one of our biweekly practice talks, my teacher mentioned wanting to talk to me about money.

When I heard that word “money,” I jumped into a story about myself that brought up feelings of shame. I hated to feel inadequate. I braced to be criticized. I wanted to grab my shoes and run away from where I sat facing her, but instead I gripped the sides of the chair and grabbed anger in self-defense. I probably tried to point out that any misunderstanding could not have been my fault. Anger armored me against the painful and familiar fear of been wronged as well as against my teacher for the pain I was feeling. Through my tears I probably said that I thought I understood our agreement. That everything between us was good.   

She watched me cry, watched me fume, and sat unmoved, her expression unchanging. In a level unemotional voice, she said she was going to ask me to put the agreed upon amount of dana in an envelope even one that I was recycling.  That’s about what she said.

I got it. Familiar painful feelings had taken me out of the room, taken me out of her presence into self-stories, old stories of unworthiness that brought up shame and suffering. For fear of being caught in a mistake, I had over-reacted. A pause would have left room for her to say what was on her mind.

When I look at the beads on the bracelet with their faint writings, I see reactions based on stories imprinted from childhood. And as with most of what sticks to us, these stories tend to be negative. As for the stretchy string between the beads, I make it represent the space and stillness between these stories – space for other people, for their opinions, needs, and responses. I make the message of the string be: Stop and Ask:  “What else is there” … to say, to do, to understand” “What else is there that wants acceptance and a response?” The flexibility of the string reminds me to hold space for possibilities and mystery, to be still and open to everything and for everyone in our shared universe.


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