Nov 27


Subway Station

The very nature of journeying involves making transitions and they are always challenging.  Transitions impose a discontinuity in our experiencing.  Something gets disrupted in order to allow for something else to happen.  And in such a disconnection we become vulnerable.  This was brought home to me recently.


I was visiting NYC and spending time connecting with some friends visiting a museum.  At some point I had to depart their company in order to keep an appointment down town.  I felt the need to move quickly and remember throwing my stuff together and bundling up before stepping out into the cold of the evening.   Once launched on to the streets there was this rush to get to the subway and make my connections so that I could keep my appointment.  It was a great relief to have gotten to where I was going on time.  Much later, when I got to where I was staying I discovered I lost my camera!


This upset me greatly.  I like to pride myself in keeping my wits about me.  In all the travels I have done I have never lost anything like this.  Yes, this is perhaps a trivial thing especially when looked at in the greater scheme of things.  And yet it really upset me.


What disturbed me about this was how I was unconscious to what I was doing.  Retracing my steps in my mind I realized that I had in my haste slipped the camera into what I thought was one of my zippered pockets and only later realized it was the zippered vent to the jacket I was wearing.  Well darn all those extra zippers!  But the point that was brought home to me was how in my haste I disconnected from my sense of presence and wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing.  As a result the camera probably slipped to the ground and not into the safety of my pocket!


Reflection on this highlights the challenge of any transition we make.  As mentioned earlier, there is this inherent nature of all journeys.  For a journey to even occur, there needs to be a break: we leave something to arrive somewhere else.  I think most of us give little consideration for this in view of the desired destination to be reached whether it be some new country or just a walk to get to the post office to mail a letter (snail mail for some you).


The process is the same.  We are mainly absorbed in the goal and only out of necessity attuned to what needs to be attended to, to get to this goal.  But without enough awareness to how I make my transit I open myself to a whole host of problems such as loosing something of value like a camera.  I would contend that we loose something more fundamental than what is material.  We loose a sense of relationship both to our self and to the environment we are in.  If I am really dissociated in the moment I can even get injured or killed.


Seriously, look at what is occurring these days with so many of us engrossed in our electronic devices while crossing the streets.  I’m recalling the recent event of some one getting shoot on a subway in San Francisco.  No one even noticed the gunman had pulled out a gun since they were all focused on their smartphones and such.


So this idea of being present to our life in each moment is really a survival skill.  Our primordial ancestors depended on this way of functioning.  The need to be alert to potential threats in the environment was critical to staying alive.


However, I don’t believe they were living in a state of constant fear.  Rather the ability to respond to threats was grounded in a wider sensibility that extended to an overall sense of feeling part of a place and not separated from it. 


There is this way of being that includes how everything is together.  There is a certain unity of feeling that includes the quivering of the leaves on the trees, the nudging of the breath of the wind, the reassuring support of the ground beneath our feet and so on.  There is an overall quality of feeling that is orchestrated together.  It is much like being a spider in the center of her web.  From such a position anything that is at the edge of the web is felt and can be responded to.  It is not that the spider is looking as much as she is staying centered in herself and just being, resting, allowing for what may happen.


Like this spider we can be attuned to our surroundings, remaining awake to a sense of it all and still go about our business.  The idea is not to be so exclusively focused on what I want to accomplish.  What this requires is a capacity to split our attention: to be aware of what needs to be accomplished while retaining another sense of where and how I am.


Had I remembered myself more in that moment of making my transition to getting to my appointment I may not have lost my camera.  More significantly, I would have remained awake to that ongoing sense of feeling alive; an experience that transcends any specific outcome I am seeking.  It is from this sensing of my presence that the gates of heaven really open and it is always now.


When you next consider embarking on a trip, small or large, remember to bring yourself along for the ride and not just look forward to the arrival.

1 comment

  1. Iris Stanfield

    Jeff, That was a neat analogy of the spider being centered in her web. Too bad you lost your camera, but the thought process you brought your blog readers was very valuable. Somehow it put me in mind of the optimist’s prayer: To be so strong that nothing disturbs my peace of mind. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

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