Monday, October 30, 2006

Boston Walkabout #1

Shifting into an "I will rush no more" mindset calls for some action - to put some "feet under it." What better way than to periodically have a walkabout day. A destination, the briefest of agendas, an openness to melting into the experience and the time to let it all just happen. Sounds just about right.

The destination was Boston. The agenda was to take a day off from work, play hookey in a sense, and walk around the city.

I missed the early commuter train, ok, I felt like sleeping in an extra half-hour, but, hey, what's the big rush. Did my morning meditation and was surprised to feel some anxiety. Some of it was just plain excitement, something new, and some of it was apprehension. Like, how will it work out, will it meet my expectations, what are my expectations, will I lightly freak out without the structure? It was really just a little anxiety, but I think those were the components.

I drove to Riverside Station in Newton and found the last parking spot in the lot. From there I rode the MBTA into Boston. First real problem of the day was when I realized I wanted to tell people that I was on a "walkabout," I actually wanted to braodcast it, but at the same time there was this big social hesitancy. It helped the there weren't too many people on the train.

So instead I asked a question of a man across from me: How do I get to the Back Bay station? (It's not that complicated if you have a basic idea of the Boston train system but don't forget there was that song years ago about how a guy named Charlie got lost on the train and never came back - the refrain was: "no, he never returned, no he never returned and his fate is still unlearned." I can well imagine the same thing might happen if your name was Igor or Pierre and your English was as weak as my Russian or French.) He told me to get off at Copley and walk a bit. He then offered an alternate of transferring from the Red Line to the Orange Line and then rambled about how the Orange Line could "be dangerous" at times. I had the impression that he really wanted to say more but didn't quite know how to get into it. I had the same feeling and also felt that he was on one line and I on another.

I took the opportunity to make a tactical retreat to my seat.

At the next stop there was a rush of people and a woman took the aisle seat next to me. Same situation, I wanted to tell her about the walkabout day but felt she would have "freaked out." So I just looked out the window pondering how to get into a conversation. Oh, it dawned on me again, ask a question. We were passing by a beautiful park-like area so I turned to her and asked what that was.

Oops, her eyes are closed and she’s resting and I apologized but she said that it was ok. She said it was the greenway and that it was designed by a man called Olmsted, the same man, she thought, who designed Central Park in New York. A man behind us jumped in and said something about how it was the hospital area and I said it was good that "they" had the forethought to put aside park area in the city.

I had a sense that people were curiously listening to us but maintaining their own personal spaces of isolation.

I couldn't quite get it out that I was "doing a walkabout" but I managed to say that I took the day off and that I wanted to explore Boston. That seemed to work and I figured that people could relate to that and it wouldn't seem too odd and might increase the chances of conversation. One thing led easily to another and before long we were both gabbing; me about how I made a decision - how I will rush no more - and she talking wistfully about how fast it all goes and how her son owns a jewelry shop on Newbury Street and that she helps him out three afternoons a week. It flowed easily after that.

At her stop she offered me her hand. That hello and goodbye moved both of us.

I got off at the next stop. As I was leaving the original man made a point of wishing me well. I sensed the same pent-upness with him but enjoyed that he had extended himself. Two conversations, both real, one easy one less so, two moments.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Use it as a mantra

I have taken it on as one takes on any new practice or set of ideas. I repeat it often - "I will rush no more!" "I will rush no more!" "I will rush no more!" It has to be repeated in order to let it filter into my mind and then my body and finally to my actions.

Easier said than done as we all know. But I'm not sure that it's all that hard either as long as I remember to say it / do it. The hard part is that it goes against the whole cultural conditioning training of decades, of practically my whole life. The old adage that we don't break habits, we replace them, is helpful here. To try and extricate myself from the whole hurry system is a little like trying to get some fresh paint off your hand. The more you touch it the more it spreads. Better to let it dry and drop off as a solid blotch. Ok I know it's not the greatest analogy but you get the point.

One of the laws of physics states that for every action in the universe there is an equal and opposite reaction. That forms one of the core tenets of the Taoist approach to living also. It's taken me a long time to appreciate that and to apply it in my life.

So how do I, you, we change? By doing it. By remembering to do it, regularly. By doing it in a stealth manner - quiet and easy. Nike has it right -"just do it." The stealthy part helps to keep it under the radar so there isn't a major counterattack from the already established and overlearned pattern of behavior, i.e., hurrying, rushing, fitting more in, holding on till the next vacation, etc., etc.

I walk more slowly, except during my dawn walk. I pick and choose between the flood of ideas. I don't buy as much.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

It begins - the short version

It started about a month ago when the phrase "I will rush no more!" popped into my head. It came somewhat out of the blue, but not really since I have been thinking about quality of life and pace of life for some time now.

But the phrase caught and summarized a significant part of my thinking and it was easy to remember - that's a big plus. I started to put more energy into it by sharing it with some others and the response was very positive. They listened. They "attended" and became receptive and seemed to be trying it on for size for themselves, and wondering how that would manifest for them.

A few weeks ago I read an article in the Boston Globe about the trauma unit at Boston Medical Center. A senior nurse, Patty Harrison, was quoted as saying: "You're always so close to death here, I walk out of here with an appreciation of life." It reminds me of Don Juan of Carlos Castenada fame, who suggested that a person of intent, of power, chooses to make "death his ally."

I believe he was talking about cultivating a sense of immediacy, a sense of presence, a kind of fear and trembling and awe and mindfulness all rolled into one. A willingness to be, to do, and to move, at times fast, but not to rush.

Then last night I had a dream in which I was on the shore. I saw a "buoy" off shore a bit. Then I was on a wooden deck jutting out into the ocean with an old friend. The "buoy" was just about to hit against one of the pilings and I knew that could create problems but it was just bumping up to the structure. The water then was much closer to the deck and in the dream, I was looking at a very large wave which was coming right towards me. I took a breath and found myself saying "make yourself into a compact ball and see if you can ride it out."

I guess this was me connecting with an original part - the "boy" - in a context of a sea-change moment.

Let's just see how all this rolls and bounces.