Sitting in the cauldron that is spiritual training gives rise to a panorama of experiences. Some are accompanied by awe and a belief that learning is happening. Some are accompanied by heart-crushing despair that anything could grow on such hard ground. But the depth of penetration of Dharma rain is imperceptible to the ordinary eye. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.
In an ironic twist, what would become the recurring theme of this training began on my drive home from out-of-town work last Thursday, the day before I was to leave for Upaya and the Chaplaincy Program. I was racing to get home in time to unpack so I could pack again; a comforting ritual before every trip I take. I drafted in behind a tanker hauling flammable material and tried to keep a good distance as we wound along the two lane highway. The back of the tanker was a round, silver mirror and my car was reflected dead center of the steel plate. Stretching out on either side of the reflected car were the dividing line of the highway and the white line along the shoulder of the road, making the scene a parallax in a mirror enso.
Viewed from the car I was driving, I realized I was seeing where I had been at the same time as where I was going. Past in present; present in future. This theme of convergence played out over and over the following days in training as my biography and biology converged to give different perspectives of each moment, each relationship. What I believed was my self-story, or biography, often diverted events along lines of loss and lack. Listening to my body and quietly calming the ramping up of anger, fear or confusion corrected the story arc (there’s always a story arc). Be careful when it’s appropriate to be careful. Speak up when likely to be heard. Offer but don’t take offense at the response and yet notice the heart turning away.
Over the week, ancient themes of connection and loss, protection and wounding, were compiled and re-organized in this anthology I call The Story of Me. It’s not done. It will never be done because every moment is an occasion for a different perspective on what is unfolding. We can’t erase events that make up our history; we can’t reconfigure the past. But we can take the opportunity to view them from a different angle and in that way know how to understand and adjust our position in the present.