If the disc is delivered early, I tell Kate over celebration coffee at 7 a.m. in Glen Park, I will have the day to find a dog, or go to the movies, or see the Modernism exhibit at the De Young, or walk the trail at Lands End. I can do exhaustive research on a Kindle Fire or Google Nexus7 or an iPad. So many options – if Snow Leopard arrives early.
Such a word is “if.” Early delivery did not materialize. By noon my options had narrowed. Facebook messages continued to apprise me of the day’s significance, but waiting for Snow Leopard had become the theme of the day, and the refrains of Happy Birthday, while uplifting, did not undo the waiting.
By employing some of what I have learned from sitting meditation, waiting became an engaging way to spend the day. As time passed, I paid attention to my reactions. This way, waiting for the buzzer at the front door did not become mind-numbing or tiresome.
Even if I ultimately experienced a descent into abject negativity, I could say yes to the experience, no matter how unpleasant and if it became unbearable and I didn’t want to be with it anymore, I could say “yes” to the “no.” Scrambling among my wisdom sources for instruction, I came upon these words of encouragement from Zen teacher, Dogen Zenji: “Enlightenment is intimacy with all things.” And enlightenment is no small accomplishment.
Opening myself to this gift of awareness, I waited for my Snow Leopard, knowing that “all things” means the unpleasant as well as the pleasant.
I was willing to experience my feelings of disappointment and frustration, though I would rather have had a different experience. I didn’t like my impatience, my feeling of time wasted, of an empty birthday. When people enthusiastically query me as to how I spent my birthday, did I want to say I spent it waiting for Snow Leopard? That the day was wasted?
But saying yes to all feelings is the best way to be kind toward my negative self, to explore what is under the need to be somewhere else, doing something else. When I am willing to be present with “what is,” a different quality of attention arises.
In the meantime, all three sons called. One from the Philippines, one from the East Coast and as we spoke he refilled my Starbucks card generously. My son near San Luis Obispo tried to put his daughter on to tell Grandma Alzie “Happy Birthday,” but she balked. My grandson from the Philippines called. My niece, my sister, they called too. But the UPS deliveryman did not.
Waiting for Snow Leopard, I became interested, aware that whatever came up in my experience, to paraphrase Tara Brach, whether I liked it or not, was my path. “The challenge is to be completely present with whatever comes up and see what you discover.” This thinking gave me the option of finding my waiting to be engaging, engrossing, gripping, interesting, and intriguing – antonyms of tedious. What’s not to like?
At 5:30 p.m., the UPS man buzzed me from the street to say he had arrived and would come up. As he handed me the box, he conjectured it contained an iPhone5. I said I wish, but it’s Snow Leopard, and I lunged at him playfully emitting a light-hearted growl.
What had I gained by being present to the roller coaster of emotion as I waited for the delivery man?
By practicing mindfulness, I had paid attention to my experience without judging it. The goal is to be for and against nothing. Mindfulness doesn’t take sides or wish for things to be different from the way they are. The wait for Snow Leopard thus became an experience I could use to further my equanimity, the best birthday gift I could give myself and all beings.