If I knew slightly more about Buddhism, I might call myself a Buddhist. As it currently stands, however, I’m pretty much a meditator who hangs on every word of a dharma talk, feeling like the teacher is reading my mind and saying exactly what I needed to hear. I find it so consoling and reassuring that I think of Tuesday night Mission Dharma with Howie as my church in the sense of being the spiritual place where I go regularly, other than the woods. (Also, it literally does take place in a church. 🙂 )
There’s a teaching that talks about how people who are perfectionists sometimes go to the extreme even with their meditation, thinking “I’ll be the best meditator of all, and eventually people will revere me and I’ll become a teacher and then I’ll be the best teacher in the nation, and then I’ll become the best teacher in the world, and then I’ll be invited to speak at international Buddhist conferences.” And the dharma teacher’s response is, “There is nothing more sorrowful than international Buddhist conferences. Just be the earthworm who knows two words: ‘Let go.'”
I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of letting go, since the infamous two-week-wait is a perfect example of a situation where I want something very, very much (big-time attachment), and yet I have essentially zero control over the outcome. Could you think of a more perfect opportunity to practice letting go? I really can’t. In this moment, I am not pregnant but I am also not not pregnant. I am squarely in a gray area and practicing not veering off into one outcome or the other but just being with both even though they’re mutually exclusive… It’s not a problem. It’s an opportunity! (See–my super-spiritual Beez has taught me a few things!)
I’ve recently been reminded of how much more dire the potential outcomes can be. A dear friend with a long history of health issues causing nailbiter waiting periods went in to the hospital today to have a biopsy for possible breast cancer. In her case, she’s spent the last several weeks living with the possibility of grave outcomes. She is the quintessential zen master–I am so inspired by her superhuman ability to remain basically OK and positive and, as she put it to me last night, “just living in the gray area.”
I’m beyond thrilled to report that when she called me at 9:30 this morning, she was laughing. The biopsy was basically cancelled because after reviewing all her latest data, they said there was nothing to warrant a biopsy at all. She can go back for a checkup in 6 months. We laughed and laughed on the phone because this is so much like other scares she’s had and yet things always seem to turn out OK. I also sensed that she didn’t swing all the way over into an ecstatic flood of relief state either–she was relieved, certainly, but she was still centered. She knows that life goes on with its ups and downs and who knows what. But we really cracked up because it’s just so wonderful.
I once read about a Buddhist teacher who was asked, “How do you handle fear?” And he said, “I agree. I agree.”
With this incredible example of equanimity in my hip pocket, I feel calm. It simply would not be tragic to not get pregnant on the second month of trying. (In fact, it would be darned normal.) However, I have license to feel how I feel, and boy will you hear about it. I started reading a book my mom sent me and I love it so far: “Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World” by Mark Williams. I meditate 10 minutes a day, and I practice gratitude as many other minutes of the day as I can remember to do so.
Today, I’m just so grateful that my friend is OK.
3 thoughts on “the gray area”
Oh, Wig, I am so *bad* at living in the gray area (though I feel really skilled at analyzing gray areas intellectually, and so respect that they exist). And what’s more challenging than a gray area, is multiple gray areas in a row and gearing up for heading into a new one with a more peaceful attitude than the last time. You seem to be heading into this one pretty smoothly!
Wonderful it is— all of it. You, my dear, are an amazing friend. Thinking of you today… Xo
Maybe gray hairs represent our growing ability to exist peacefully within gray areas? (Not that you have any of those, though…and of course, I don’t either. Right?) Sending you a big hug…like a soft, gray, woolly sweater.