livin’ in limbo

desktop waitingThis is a decal at the bottom of the staircase on the basement floor of the Eddy Building. (In the house that Jack built. Oh, wait.) It was perfect for today’s Morning Pages, so I stopped, as I often do, and took a picture of the random thing for the day.

I’ve seen these signposts before. They’re on every floor to let you know you’re in the right place, but some lost soul interpreted the sign as I did: Have I?

I mean, how do you know, really?

What I’m learning these days in my deep dive into the literature on meditation is that it’s true no matter what. My mom used to say that I was wishing my life away. And, I admit it, that’s been the case to a large extent, but I don’t think I’m in the minority here. As the Buddhists might say, we’re addicted to clinging (to the past) or grasping (toward the future), and in the process, we miss the right now. This state of mind is especially prevalent among teachers because we are always getting kids ready for the next thing. Standards and curriculum articulation charts demand it. Since I’ve been a teacher and/or a student practically my whole life, I know it’s part of the territory.

But the thing I’m thinking about on a daily basis, and sometimes a momentary one as I space out on what I vaguely since is a beautiful day on my walk across campus, is that I often don’t realize “I’m here” either–no matter how many times I dab essential oils on my wrists, rub them together, and inhale; no matter how many gallon-sized breaths I take; no matter how many times I check in with my body and notice where the tension lies; no matter how many times I look around me to locate 3 things I can notice with my 5 senses.

All of these are good practices. They make you pay attention–at least momentarily…that is, before you forget. Why is this the case?

Well, what I’m learning is that the lure of clinging relates to nostalgia–the yearning for what used to be–while the trap of grasping is wanting for things to be better, however you define “better” to be. That’s always a changing target, of course; nevertheless, it distracts you from the now.

Despite understanding these definitions intellectually, there’s one quandary I can’t quite escape, and that is this: What if you want to get the hell away from the “now”? What if it’s a place you just want to pedal away from as fast as you can (cf Tara Brach in True Refuge) because dwelling there in that really sucky place, objectively speaking, feels intolerable?

Other stuff I’m learning: the bad news is that trauma is real, and there are lots of “life events” that can cause it (43, to be exact, according to the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory, which is a research-based quiz to determine exactly how sucky the present can actually be, especially because stresses have a tendency to pile up). Furthermore, it literally lodges in your body. That’s what PTSD is all about it. The past essentially becomes the present.

The good news is that because our brain is made of plastic, our neural pathways really can be rewired. It’s where the practices I mention above come in, like meditation/contemplation, study, plus support from others like good therapists/family/friends/doggies. From my students in CO301D, I also learned today, that sometimes, when the sensation of waiting is the present state, you might as well enjoy it.

Ergo my happy tights. They’re what’s getting me through this day, and it’s the only day, really, that even exists. I just gotta remember to look down at them every so often and be happy that someone created their awesomeness, to remind myself that I have indeed arrived, and this is the only place I need to be.




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