By Dana Gornall
Scaling the pale, gold-flecked linoleum covered steps to my basement, I walk partially on tiptoe. The floor is cold against my bare feet, and I tend to walk on tiptoe anyway—a habit I’ve retained from my ballet days, eons ago.
I’m rushing, as I tend to often do on weekday mornings, and my clothes are in the dryer. I flip on the light switch, hoping to avoid a cobweb or whatever creepy crawly that may be lurking in the dark, damp basement. Pulling open the dryer door I fish through the clothes and pull out a shirt for work. Running back up the steps (because you always run up the basement steps, don’t you?) I slide the shirt over my head and as I pull it down to my hips, feel my finger poke through the fabric.
Damn, it’s a hole.
This is probably the fifth or sixth thing our clothes dryer has ruined as of late. For some reason it has been hooking pieces of clothing, drawstrings that are threaded through hoodies or sweat pants, bra straps, or even just corners of where the seams had been neatly sewn together, and ripping them into shreds. Fuck, I say out loud. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
Finally on the highway with my foot pressing the gas pedal slightly harder than I should, driving slightly faster than I am supposed to, I glance at the clock, then the road, then the clock again, willing it to slow down, willing time to pause just for me. Eyes focused back up on the road, my cell phone in my lap, I hear the ding! of a message popping up on my phone. Habitually, I glance down, then back up only to see the car in front of me has slowed down to an almost stop. Fuck, I think, why is everyone driving so slowly? The angel on my shoulder admonishes me for glancing at my phone (even though I didn’t actually read the text) and admonishes me for rushing and not getting out of bed a little earlier or moving a little faster this morning. It scolds me for saying fuck and for not being very mindful, compassionate, present or bodhisattva-like.
Just then, as I am waiting behind a car at the toll booth, I see that there is some sort of a hold up and the driver is passing a credit card to the toll worker, and back again, and now again another card.
Fuck, I think. What is wrong with people? Why do I have to get stuck behind the guy that has a card that doesn’t work? My eyes dart to the car radio clock once again, and then a quick glance at my phone to see who it was that texted.
HOONNKK, the woman in the car behind me lays on her horn and I look up to see the driver in front of me has already passed through the gate. I only looked down for a second. What the fuck is her problem, I think. Holy hell, what is her problem? Feeling the frustration rising from my belly to my chest, I pull forward, hands gripping the wheel a little tighter.
I’m losing my namaste, I think, this isn’t good,
Isn’t this what everyone always preaches about—bringing your practice off the mat or the cushion to everyday life? It’s one thing to encompass all of the serenity in the world as we OM before yoga, or sit calmly on our beds in meditation before we go to sleep. It’s one thing to read Pema Chodron or Jack Kornfield or to quote Thich Nhat Hanh on our Facebook feed, but to continue that presence of mind when the dryer is eating our clothes and we are running late for work can be a whole new side of the coin.
The entity on the other side of my shoulder pipes up just then, making the point that I am a busy mom, I have a lot on my plate and a little bit of working mom rage should slide. You’re keeping a lot of balls in the air, she chides, and no one is perfect. The angel on my shoulder sits down and just shakes her head silently in disapproval.
So what do I do, I ask out loud.
How do the spiritual gurus do it? How do they manage to hold things together for every situation, every challenge that is faced? But do they really hold it together?
It seems the world is full of false gods and leaders, those that seem to have it all understood and dangle the world by the string. They walk a thin line that many of us pave in front of them, as we look for some sort of guidance, some sort of answer. Perhaps we look outward toward them because we can’t seem to find the answer in ourselves so maybe they have it.
There is an old zen koan that reads: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” While this koan is doubtfully advocating the murder of Buddha, it’s been said it means that the road is the path to enlightenment, or even just life in general and that meeting of the Buddha can be a teacher, a spiritual avenue, a church or sangha, a mentor or even yourself. While many people have interpreted this koan in many different ways, there seems to be a common theme. If you think someone has the key, if you think you know the way, if you think you’ve got the million dollar lottery ticket being held in an idea, a person or a path, let that go now. Anytime we put anyone or anything on a pedestal, we will surely be disappointed at some point or another.
Kill the Buddha and start over.
Where does the average Jane or Joe fall into this spectrum? Where do I? At what point are we being too hard on ourselves and at what point are simply excusing wrong action/thought/speech? Where does the middle way lie and how far have I drifted from that point?
Deep breath in and deep breath out I send my busy self a little love—both the angel and the devil parts of my self. Deep breath in and deep breath out I send the toll worker a little bit of love for her patience as she stands in that booth, rain or shine, dealing with hundreds of thousands of people rushing to work or rushing toward home. Deep breath in and deep breath out I send the woman honking her horn at me as I sat, inattentive in line at the toll gate a little love.
I’ve lost my namaste, I think, but maybe it’s not too far out of reach. Time to kill the Buddha and start again.