Control

A visit the other day with some old friends from out of town who loosely follow the Dalai Lama. We talked about how it is that some of us are always smiling, responsive to others, and possess an understanding of life that gives them balance and self-control. A lesson I need to re-learn perhaps a thousand times in my own life.

An unusually cloudy and cool day yesterday, brought into town by forceful blasts of wind. I went to the edge of the bay in the early morning to get a better look at what might be happening out on the broad horizon. I hadn’t expected this kind of weather. These large, rainy-looking clouds floated in from the north behind me, over the tops of the mountains, while the outer waters of the bay were churned up from the wind in a dull, jade green. Transitions in weather always fill me with wonder. Between what was and what is going to be–that’s where I need to do all of my living!

The coolness inspired me to get out and do some yard work. I thought perhaps I can get something to grow in one of my little garden spaces that has not been upset by the building project that dominates my yard. What I see when I look out into the yard is piles of lumber, tables and benches overflowing with hand and power tools, extension cords intertwined with power cords, mounds of dirt mixed with jack-hammered concrete and asphalt. Just this Friday a large truck brought in several cubic yards of concrete for a new kitchen foundation. I normally grow tomatoes, herbs, and a few vegetables, in special waist-high raised beds, but even that space–my center for moments of quiet focus–has a mountain of furniture and household items stuffed under plastic tarps.

Some areas of the yard are still somewhat under my control. I found that getting out in the garden and pruning, sweeping, cultivating the boxes of soil–all worked to stir me from this attitude of helplessness and self pity that I seem to have indulged in since the building project began a couple of months ago. The change in weather yesterday helped me understand that a new perspective is not far away. When the building project had begun, I was so excited, imagining how wonderful it would be once done.

Over the weeks of slow progress, and having to deal with the county planning department for permits, because of my neighbors complaining about my project, my day-to-day perspective on life had soured. I had locked myself into a frame of mind that saw life as pain and drudgery. I had descended into a gloominess without noticing how it was crippling me. I’m not exactly a master at controlling my inner life–moods, emotions, thoughts, feelings–but can usually sense when I am getting out of kilter with myself. I knew I held a lingering bitterness toward my neighbors, for example, but had fallen into unresolved self pity and helplessness, which added extra weight to my day.

The gardening work yesterday helped me pull together and find a better internal harmony. I realized that I need to live in the moment and work out the suppressed animosity toward my neighbors by making an effort to understand them, rather than allow their thoughtlessness to slowly burn inside me. It seems that about the time I think I have life all figured out and under control, the unexpected pops up to challenge me.

presence

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