Cleaning, Chaos and Attachment: Adventures in Meditation

When life seems out of control I do the only reasonable thing.  I clean and organize my apartment. And when I say clean and organize, I mean it. Knick-knacks and clothes are bagged for donation to Goodwill.  Books are boxed for re-sale at Book Buyers in Mountain View.  Every surface is scrubbed and dusted and then furniture is moved in the hope of creating the perfect Feng Shui flow.  This last time I went so far as to cancel my cable and donate my television to charity.  It seems the only way I can reclaim control is to pare down my life to little more than the bare necessities.

When there’s nothing left to clean and if I remain desperate for more control, I update my calendars. I have three calendars – the calendar on my laptop, the hardcopy I keep in the event of a computer meltdown and the calendar on my iPhone (which of course is supposed to sync with my laptop but I haven’t sorted that out yet). I’m embarrassed to admit that all three calendars are color-coded.

If I continue to feel unsettled I start with the lists.  I write shopping lists, goals for the immediate and the far away future and a list of day-to-day chores.

I keep at it until I’ve lulled myself into believing that I’ve created order from chaos.  Of course, instead of feeding my compulsive nature by focusing all my energies on the external environment I could be creating the control and calm I crave by – wait for it (smacks palm of hand on forehead)meditating.

And while I’m preparing for meditation by hanging out in Adho Mukha Savasana I could ask myself the right question – what is the turmoil I’m experiencing within all about?

The sense of impending calamity I feel from time to time boils down to my talent for creating unreasonable attachments to events out of my control.  The more I sense the loss of control, the more I attempt to cling to the story I have in my mind of how my life should be. But clinging to a story is like trying to grab vapor.  You can’t, can you?

The truth is, I can clean and clean until my knuckles are raw but that will bring me no closer to the control I crave.  If I truly want control, then I have to relinquish my desire for it and instead embrace the gift of clarity that a growing meditation practice offers.  I need to understand that we can only control our response to the events around us – not the events themselves.

Fate, Faith & Free Will Part I: Or Maybe I’ll Just Keep My Nose to the Grindstone

Tarot from Piedmont, n° 0 (Ël fòl / The fool]

Image via Wikipedia

On Thursday afternoon I stepped out of character for an hour and had my Tarot cards read by Susan Levitt.  Susan has written several books on the Tarot, astrology and Feng Shui. In the early 1980’s I attended her workshops at the now defunct Two Sisters Bookshop, across from Stanford Park Hotel. In fact, for a time I dabbled in card reading myself.  But I could never get past thinking, “Seriously.  You’re telling me that the card I pull from the deck is my destiny?”

The answer to that, of course, is, “No.”  Maybe a card reading can offer some counsel, or maybe act as a guide.  Maybe it can gently usher someone toward the right path.  But rather than predicting the future, perhaps a card reading simply offers an interesting look at current conditions and how conditions might change based on the choices we make.

I chose to talk to Susan because I wanted confirmation.  Reassurance.  Proof.  Oh, let’s face it.  I wanted answers.  In the end, I did not hear what I wanted to hear.  But I was given plenty to think about.

So today I’m asking myself:  what is the difference between believing in the power of a deck of cards and the power of what most folks call God?  Because I don’t know that I believe in cards, but I do believe that there is an Energy in the Universe that is bigger than me.  I have Faith.  I believe in pre-determined Fate. And I know there’s a strong chance I’ve screwed up what was meant to be my Fate with a little bit of errant Free Will.

Quite often I find myself wondering what life would have been like had I not gone to Ireland.  In 1994, the year I left for my decade long Odyssey, I was a sullen woman consumed by envy.  I wanted what everyone around me seemed to have:  Love and connection.  Success.  Family.  A home.  I believed if I moved away from what fed my envy, I would find the life I craved.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

Part Two:  Hanged Men, Magicians and Learning to Yield to the Situation (no, not THAT Situation!)