Listening to a jam band play Katy Perry’s “Pendulum” was never how I pictured my Sundays. Which is why it astounds me every week how serendipitous Sunday services at a UU church are.
Balance. The supposed key to everything I’m supposed to be doing right now. Yoga, meditation, Buddhism…the key to it all is bringing your world into balance.
Just yesterday I was sitting in my regular Saturday group at the local Shambhala center and we were supposed to be talking about the chapter for the week in The Lost Art of Good Conversation by Sakyong Mipham which was about topics of conversation. Immediately the discussion was on a tangent about Oscar movies and the award show, a fact I shouldn’t have been surprised about given that someone often starts talking politics or current events. A woman who used to live in L.A. who could have been all in the Oscar A-list crowd but purposefully chose to stay out, used that tidbit to transition into her distress about what to do for her teenage daughter who was recently diagnosed with autism. Before coming to the center that morning she had seen a Facebook friend’s blog, some very successful local man, who shared an interview where apparently every time the interviewer asked for the story behind his success by bringing up difficult turning points, the man avoided the question and said he was blessed. It sounded like a guy who was burying feelings and struggle with success if you ask me, but for her it was inspiring. “How can I take advantage of opportunities better?” she posited to the group, which led to tense cross talk with a man who grumbled that Buddhism doesn’t give a hoot about financial opportunities, that’s what business school is for. From there several others jumped in to give advice (which we aren’t supposed to be doing) but finally…we made it around to a man who suggested that maybe instead of doing more for her daughter, the woman needed to “do less”. There were knowing sighs and head nods. Do. Less.
A woman I’d never seen before choked up will telling about one of her do-less moments. An “awe” moment she called it, where everything in the universe just lined up perfectly at the perfect time. In the middle of a trip in the Cascades, she sat down for a moment of quiet to read a book by her favorite Beatnik author and there it was, a quote that said exactly what she needed it to. And the entry, dated July 9. The same day she was reading it. Head nods, head nods, head nods.
What are these awe moments and why do some people have awe moments they can easily call up? Why don’t I? It’s because of what that man said. Some people do less. They created the space and were aware enough to recognize those moments when they come up.
What does this have to do with Katy Perry and a sermon at a Unitarian church? In the quest to live the life we think we must with all of our obligations and aspirations, what about living the life we want? How do we balance future with present? How do we let go with this idea that there is one right way to get to the one best place we are trying to go so we can slow down and live this moment of the journey fully? The truth is, there are a thousand ways the future could turn out, and none are objectively better than the others. The very best we can do is the best in this present moment.
What is the balm we need to soothe us in this very moment, she asked? I immediately thought of something someone said to me recently. She’d heard a mother say to her screaming child “do you need a hug, a nap, or a cookie?” How profound she’d thought, and then I thought. Even now, about 98% of life’s distress could be fixed with a little tenderness from someone we care about, some rest, or something comforting to eat. Magic.
So, as I move into the second week of the luteal phase in the seventh month we’re “trying” I have so many questions in my head. Did switching to Gwyneth Paltrow’s natural make up and natural soap make up for that trip my husband took in the middle of our fertile week? Does the fact that his 8 month old niece screams every time I try to play with her mean I don’t have good motherly instincts? Should I have insisted on seeing my acupuncturist before AND after that vacation she took? Do I really want the life I’m watching in (Amazon Prime’s) Catastrophe? I ask myself, what is the balm I need in this moment? I am on the couch with belly full of hot chocolate and meatballs, snuggled close to my flannel-shirted sleeping husband. Because sometimes you need a hug, a nap, AND a goddamn cookie.