July 13, 2012

Making Friends with Drought

The title of this post makes me smile. My intention really is to make friends with the terrible drought we're currently experiencing. But it's easy to misread the title as "making friends with doubt," which is certainly a worthy effort. So really, the title could be making friends with drought or doubt or gout--essentially, making friends with difficulty.

I had 6 hours in the car Tuesday. My driving time is typically spent in silence or listening to dharma talks by meditation teachers. Although the teachers focus on different topics, certain themes emerge from all. In particular, I pondered our human nature to always want something different from what is. Usually we have a low-level feeling of uneasiness--that something is not quite right (with ourselves, someone else, or the world). Rather than experiencing this uneasiness--staying with it, being curious, and noticing the underlying feelings--we typically distract ourselves. Or we long for some set of conditions (e.g., destination, completion of a project), and then move immediately to something else once those conditions are met.

Back to my 6-hour car trip... I don't often sit for hours at a time and my body hurts during extended car trips. As I listened to a dharma talk, where the teacher encouraged me to stay in this very moment, I longed to be home--out of the car and in the comfort of my nest. (I fully realized the irony.) I did actually stay with many moments, but I noticed my natural tendency to long for home; long for the end of the trip. Of course, I did arrive home--the place I painfully longed for during most of the trip. Then what? Did I enter my house with gratitude and slowly stretch on my living room floor? Nope. I took a tour of my yard, watered my plants, and was saddened by the toll taken by the hot, dry weather. Then I unloaded the car, unpacked everything, and drove back to the rental-car company. (At this point I was quite hungry, but I told myself I could eat when I got home--I can enjoy life later.)

On my run home from the rental-car drop off, I eventually found my breath and my mindfulness. Per usual, the breath is always there--we just need to notice. So I chuckled and allowed myself to look around and experience the run. I noticed that the brown grass actually looks quite beautiful in the evening light. Perhaps there are lessons in the drought. Perhaps there is beauty in the drought. (In fact, there is.)

Here's a pattern I notice: I rush to get somewhere; I arrive at my destination; my mind starts thinking about the next destination or the next thing I must do that day. Without mindfulness and intention, an entire day zooms past with very few lived moments. Part of this is my discomfort with being with what is--whatever happens. So my practice is to spend more and more mindful moments, which means more lived life--more real, connected experiences. It's a practice because it actually goes against my human nature, so I make mistakes, notice, and being again. (See the story above.) Yet I know firsthand it brings me great peace.

An apropos (and beautiful) poem by Galway Kinnell:

Whatever happens. Whatever
what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that.

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