spirit flows thru -- Alison Rittger's spiritual reflections on finding the holy in the daily
Happy Birthday to me / Alison R.
In addition to “Happy Birthdays” on Facebook, which reassured me of my continuing relevance in many people’s lives, my birthday Friday was all about waiting to sign for the UPS delivery of Mac OSX Snow Leopard. The disc would let me upgrade all the way to Mountain Lion and download Face Time and “be two places at once.” Like with my granddaughter and anyone else who so desired.

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.

Guy Rittger
9/24/2012 10:59:53 am

Something else to consider is that the wait for Snow Leopard is what also made you available to receive the calls from your family that you might have otherwise been forced to receive on the 38 Geary, or, dare I say it, you might have been at the De Young and arrested by the ringing of your now out-dated iPhone 4, summoning you to celebrate your birthday at a less convenient time and place.

Indeed, there's something quasi-transcendent about the ability to be simultaneously "present" in your cozy domicile, yet so readily available to such a widely distributed group, ringing in from time zones far and near. One might even say that the presence required to wait, in anticipation of your own present to yourself, afforded the rest of us the present of that presence, which was quite prescient of you.

Of course, as we both know, Snow Leopard is, itself, a transient present, soon to be replaced by Mountain Lion. Perhaps your next birthday will find you waiting patiently for Honey Badger to arrive.


Alison Rittger
9/27/2012 03:53:39 am

Such wisdom. Any mother would be thrilled by your wit and whimsy.

9/26/2012 11:36:16 am

Meditating is a powerful tool.

linda posner
10/20/2012 02:08:16 am

Thank you for the laughter, wisdom, beautiful and clever writing, intimate and honest sharing, loving, gifting. Your admiring and devoted fan. lp

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