Si continuam seria, cu partea 2 din 3.
As my friend Deborah the psychologist explains it: “Desire is the design flaw.”
Then the monk quoted to me from the Bhagavad Gita, the most sacred ancient text of Yoga: “Oh Krishna, the mind is restless, turbulent, strong and unyielding. I consider it as difficult to subdue as the wind.”
Like most humanoids, I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the “monkey mind”—the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl. From the distant past to the unknowable future, my mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined. This in itself is not necessarily a problem; the problem is the emotional attachment that goes along with the thinking. Happy thoughts make me happy, but—whoop!—how quickly I swing again into obsessive worry, blowing the mood; and then it’s the remembrance of an angry moment and I start to get hot and pissed off all over again; and then my mind decides it might be a good time to start feeling sorry for itself, and loneliness follows promptly. You are, after all, what you think. Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.
She looks at her watch. “Ten seconds have passed, Liz. Bored already, are we?”
So now Richard is always cautious with his prayers, he tells me. “Whenever I pray for anything these days, I always wrap it up by saying, ‘Oh, and God? Please be gentle with me, OK?’ ”
“You wanna see pretty colors? Or you wanna know the truth about yourself? What’s your intention?”
“All I seem to do is argue with myself when I try to meditate.”
“That’s just your ego, trying to make sure it stays in charge. This is what your ego does. It keeps you feeling separate, keeps you with a sense of duality, tries to convince you that you’re flawed and broken and alone instead of whole.”
“But how does that serve me?”
“It doesn’t serve you. Your ego’s job isn’t to serve you. Its only job is to keep itself in power. And right now, your ego’s scared to death cuz it’s about to get downsized. You keep up this spiritual path, baby, and that bad boy’s days are numbered. Pretty soon your ego will be out of work, and your heart’ll be making all the decisions. So your ego’s fighting for its life, playing with your mind, trying to assert its authority, trying to keep you cornered off in a holding pen away from the rest of the universe. Don’t listen to it.”
“How do you not listen to it?”
“Ever try to take a toy away from a toddler? They don’t like that, do they? They start kicking and screaming. Best way to take a toy away from a toddler is distract the kid, give him something else to play with. Divert his attention. Instead of trying to forcefully take thoughts out of your mind, give your mind something better to play with. Something healthier.”
“Tell me, dear one,” he said, and he pointed out toward the colossal, powerful, endless, rocking ocean. “Tell me, if you would be so kind—how exactly wereyou planning on stopping that?”
“What’s got you all wadded up?” he drawls, toothpick in mouth, as usual.
“Don’t ask,” I say, but then I start talking and tell him every bit of it, concluding with, “And worst of all, I can’t stop obsessing over David. I thought I was over him, but it’s all coming up again.” He says, “Give it another six months, you’ll feel better.” “I’ve already given it twelve months, Richard.” “Then give it six more. Just keep throwin’ six months at it till it goes away. Stuff like this takes time.” I exhale hotly through my nose, bull-like. “Groceries,” Richard says, “listen to me. Someday you’re gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You’ll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing and you were in the best possible place in the world for it—in a beautiful place of worship, surrounded by grace. Take this time, every minute of it. Let things work themselves out here in India.”
“But I really loved him.”
“Big deal. So you fell in love with someone. Don’t you see what happened? This guy touched a place in your heart deeper than you thought you were capable of reaching, I mean you got zapped, kiddo. But that love you felt, that’s just the beginning. You just got a taste of love. That’s just limited little rinky-dink mortal love. Wait till you see how much more deeply you can love than that. Heck, Groceries—you have the capacity to someday love the whole world. It’s your destiny. Don’t laugh.”
“I’m not laughing.” I was actually crying. “And please don’t laugh at me now, but I think the reason it’s so hard for me to get over this guy is because I seriously believed David was my soul mate.”
“He probably was. Your problem is you don’t understand what that word means. People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it. Your problem is, you just can’t let this one go. It’s over, Groceries. David’s purpose was to shake you up, drive you out of that marriage that you needed to leave, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light could get in, make you so desperate and out of control that youhad to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master and beat it. That was his job, and he did great, but now it’s over. Problem is, you can’t accept that this relationship had a real short shelf life. You’re like a dog at the dump, baby—you’re just lickin’ at an empty tin can, trying to get more nutrition out of it. And if you’re not careful, that can’s gonna get stuck on your snout forever and make your life miserable. So drop it.”
“But I love him.”
“So love him.”
“But I miss him.”
“So miss him. Send him some love and light every time you think about him, and then drop it. You’re just afraid to let go of the last bits of David because then you’ll really be alone, and Liz Gilbert is scared to death of what will happen if she’s really alone. But here’s what you gotta understand, Groceries. If you clear out all that space in your mind that you’re using right now to obsess about this guy, you’ll have a vacuum there, an open spot—adoor-way. And guess what the universe will do with that doorway? It will rush in—God will rush in—and fill you with more love than you ever dreamed. So stop using David to block that door. Let it go.”
“But I wish me and David could—”
He cuts me off. “See, now that’s your problem. You’re wishin’ too much, baby. You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be.”
This line gives me the first laugh of the day.
Then I ask Richard, “So how long will it be before all this grieving passes?”
“You want an exact date?”
“Somethin’ you can circle on your calendar?”
“Lemme tell you something, Groceries—you got some serious control issues.”
My rage at this statement consumes me like fire.Control issues? ME? I actually consider slapping Richard for this insult. And then, from right down inside the intensity of my offended outrage comes the truth. The immediate, obvious, laughable truth.
He’s totally right.
The fire passes out of me, fast as it came.
“You’re totally right,” I say.
“I know I’m right, baby. Listen, you’re a powerful woman and you’re used to getting what you want out of life, and you didn’t get what you wanted in your last few relationships and it’s got you all jammed up. Your husband didn’t behave the way you wanted him to and David didn’t either. Life didn’t go your way for once. And nothing pisses off a control freak more than life not goin’ her way.”
“Don’t call me a control freak, please.”
“You have got control issues, Groceries. Come on. Nobody ever told you this before?”
(Well . . .yeah. But the thing about divorcing someone is that you kind of stop listening to all the mean stuff they say about you after a while.)
So I buck up and admit it. “OK, I think you’re probably right. Maybe I do have a problem with control. It’s just weird that you noticed. Because I don’t think it’s that obvious on the surface. I mean—I bet most people can’t see my control issues when they first look at me.”
Richard from Texas laughs so hard he almost loses his toothpick.
“They can’t? Honey—Ray Charles could see your control issues!”
“OK, I think I’m done with this conversation now, thank you.”
“You gotta learn how to let go, Groceries. Otherwise you’re gonna make yourself sick. Never gonna have a good night’s sleep again. You’ll just toss and turn forever, beatin’ on yourself for being such a fiasco in life.What’s wrong with me? How come I screw up all my relationships? Why am I such a failure? Lemme guess—that’s probably what you were up at all hours doin’ to yourself again last night.”
“All right, Richard, that’s enough,” I say. “I don’t want you walking around inside my head anymore.”
“Shut the door, then,” says my big Texas Yogi.
Life, if you keep chasing it so hard, will drive you to death. Time—when pursued like a bandit—will behave like one; always remaining one county or one room ahead of you, changing its name and hair color to elude you, slipping out the back door of the motel just as you’re banging through the lobby with your newest search warrant, leaving only a burning cigarette in the ashtray to taunt you. At some point you have to stop becauseit won’t. You have to admit that you can’t catch it. That you’re not supposed to catch it. At some point, as Richard keeps telling me, you gotta let go and sit still and allow contentment to come toyou.
Letting go, of course, is a scary enterprise for those of us who believe that the world revolves only because it has a handle on the top of it which we personally turn, and that if we were to drop this handle for even a moment, well—that would be the end of the universe. But try dropping it, Groceries. This is the message I’m getting. Sit quietly for now and cease your relentless participation. Watch what happens. The birds do not crash dead out of the sky in mid-flight, after all. The trees do not wither and die, the rivers do not run red with blood. Life continues to go on. Even the Italian post office will keep limping along, doing its own thing without you—why are you so sure that your micromanagement of every moment in this whole world is so essential? Why don’t you let it be?
When this energy rides through me, it rumbles like a diesel engine in low gear, and all it asks of me is this one simple request—Would you kindly turn yourself inside out, so that your lungs and heart and offal will be on the outside and the whole universe will be on the inside? And emotionally, will you do the same?
We gallop through our lives like circus performers balancing on two speeding side-by-side horses—one foot is on the horse called “fate,” the other on the horse called “free will.” And the question you have to ask every day is—which horse is which? Which horse do I need to stop worrying about because it’s not under my control, and which do I need to steer with concentrated effort?
There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under my jurisdiction. There are certain lottery tickets I can buy, thereby increasing my odds of finding contentment. I can decide how I spend my time, whom I interact with, whom I share my body and life and money and energy with. I can select what I eat and read and study. I can choose how I’m going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life—whether I will see them as curses or opportunities (and on the occasions when I can’t rise to the most optimistic viewpoint, because I’m feeling too damn sorry for myself, I can choose to keep trying to change my outlook). I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts.
This last concept is a radically new idea for me. Richard from Texas brought it to my attention recently, when I was complaining about my inability to stop brooding. He said, “Groceries, you need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select what clothes you’re gonna wear every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control. Drop everything else but that. Because if you can’t learn to master your thinking, you’re in deep trouble forever.”
So, during lunch one day, we were all having this conversation together about marriage, and the plumber/poet from New Zealand said, “I see marriage as an operation that sews two people together, and divorce is a kind of amputation that can take a long time to heal. The longer you were married, or the rougher the amputation, the harder it is to recover.”
The former Catholic nun (who oughtta know about guilt, after all) wouldn’t hear of it. “Guilt’s just your ego’s way of tricking you into thinking that you’re making moral progress. Don’t fall for it, my dear.”
God isn’t interested in watching you enact some performance of personality in order to comply with some crackpot notion you have about how a spiritual person looks or behaves. We all seem to get this idea that, in order to be sacred, we have to make some massive, dramatic change of character, that we have to renounce our individuality. This is a classic example of what they call in the East “wrong-thinking.” Swamiji used to say that every day renunciants find something new to renounce, but it is usually depression, not peace, that they attain. Constantly he was teaching that austerity and renunciation—just for their own sake—are not what you need. To know God, you need only to renounce one thing—your sense of division from God. Otherwise, just stay as you were made, within your natural character.
Or, as Sextus, the ancient Pythagorian philospher, said, “The wise man is always similar to himself.”
I’m just a slippery antevasin— betwixt and between—a student on the ever-shifting border near the wonderful, scary forest of the new.
That’s me in the corner, in other words. That’s me in the spotlight. Choosing my religion.
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