Archive for April, 2009
Talent. Drama. Competition. Judgment.
New York Sports Club was full of people vying for a treadmill with a working video screen. Yes, Obama was holding a televised ‘First 100 Days In Office’ press conference (Fox kept it’s regular programming, thank you very much), but more importantly, American Idol was about to begin. Wednesday night. The Final Five.
I do most of my TV viewing at the gym these days. I hadn’t seen American Idol in a long time, but I’ve somehow managed to follow it (and other shows) via on-line news, friends on Facebook, chatter on the subway, and the occasional Twitter update. Come to think of it, I’ve never actually sat through an entire episode of American Idol. In the past I’ve been too horrified by Simon’s comments to keep watching. This time Simon impressed me with his positive statements about the previous night’s performances and some of my past judgments melted away. I watched for a few minutes as I finished on the elliptical. Then I had to go and work my abs.
Walking away from the television screen I thought about what it might be like for those Final Five contestants. One of them would be eliminated by show’s end. Who would it be? The girl with the dyed hair? The guy with the dyed hair? Why did I care?
I’ve seen my share of reality TV. I was hooked on Shear Genius for a while and would schedule my cardio workouts so that I’d be on the treadmill or bike in time to watch it (BTW: How old is Jaclyn Smith? She looks great.) There was an interior design show that intrigued me as well. All the shows are pretty much the same. Contestants perform. They are judged. Someone goes home sad but determined to succeed anyway. Hmm… Sounds like an average weeknight at a New York City fitness club.
Let’s face it, we judge people. We’re just like Simon, Paula, Randy and that other woman. We’re judges. Judging others makes us feel better about ourselves – temporarily. We judge ourselves and we feel crappy. But, please, don’t judge me. That’s not right.
As I examined my legs in the mirror and decided that they were OK, but that a few sets of leg extensions and hamstring curls couldn’t hurt, I remembered my two years in television and how we used to judge the on-air talent. “What is she wearing?” “Did you hear how he flubbed that intro?” “What’s with that voice?” I happily added to the critiques. A few months ago a former colleague posted some pictures and videos from that era on Facebook. Seeing them after 20 years I thought, “Wow, those people were really talented. Oh, god, look at those clothes!” Same judgments, different year.
My workout finished, I headed to the locker room. I grabbed a clean towel and nearly bumped into a guy whose body I had admired earlier. I smiled. He smiled back. I made my way to the showers a bit self-consciously. Was he looking at my legs?
Talent? Drama? Competition? Judgment!
(American Idol update: According to a post on the web’s People TV Watch, “Matt Giraud was the week’s loser — he’s been on the verge of being voted off virtually week-to-week. When Ryan called his name at the start of the cruel yet elating game of elimination Wednesday, poor Matt started to tear up. He must have seen that long, dark cloud coming down.”)
Thanks and peace.
“In each moment there is an opportunity for you to understand that everything is meant to be just as it is. Perfection abounds!”
It arrived! Just what I’ve been waiting for: a sunny weekend in New York City with temperatures in the 80’s. Yesterday (Sunday) I decided to take advantage of the weather and a day off so I cleaned up my bike and took a ride down to Central Park. As I approached 110th St. and Central Park North I saw people biking, running, lying in the grass, playing Frisbee, kicking soccer balls, throwing baseballs, and generally looking like that were having a good time. If you’ve never experienced Central Park on a day when the weather is as marvelous as yesterday then you’ve missed out on the phenomenon of thousands of people vying for a patch of green. Forget about solitude. Nature draws a crowd.
I smiled as I made my way to the east side. I entered the park and hopped off my bike. After a quick peek at the Conservatory Gardens where a wedding was taking place, I made my way through the throng of bodies and found a semi-shady spot under a tree. I kicked off my shoes, spread my blanket, and made myself comfortable.
Everywhere I looked there were people. A certain panic set in. “I don’t think I can do this when summer comes,” I said to myself. Images of peaceful walks on the beach and laughing with friends over the past few summers on Fire Island ran through my head. A sense of dread overtook me. “Shit. This summer could suck without a beach house.”
“Oh, really?” came the response. “How do you know that? It’s April 26th. Summer is two months away. Why not enjoy this moment? Look around. There are birds, trees, a pond, the sun is shining, wisps of clouds are floating by, and people are smiling and laughing. A few minutes ago you were reveling in the beauty of what is and now you are projecting thoughts of fear into the future. Does that feel good?”
Nailed again! I leaned back against the tree. A young girl on a pink bike rode past with a luminous smile on her face. A couple walked slowly, hand-in-hand, then stopped and kissed. A robin pecked at the ground. The sun warmed my face and I closed my eyes.
“This doesn’t suck,” I said to myself.
Thanks and peace!
I shop at Fairway Market on 74th St. and Broadway in Manhattan. I’ve shopped there for several years because I like the selection of foods, the prices suit me, and the location is convenient. I hop off the #3 train at W. 72nd St. on my way uptown, grab my groceries, and head back to the #3. Easy.
Lately the Fairway has become something more than just my favorite market for groceries. It has become a place for enlightenment. Yes, it’s true, I’ve been having mystical experiences in a grocery store. Last night, for example, I went to Fairway to get my favorite Sabra hummus with roasted pine nuts and found myself wandering around the aisles in a state of bliss.
I was on my way home after a workout at the McBurney YMCA and decided that I must have that hummus. I sat on the subway reading Byron Katie’s (there she is again!) Question Your Thinking, Change The World, and was letting the following passage sink in as the train reached my stop:
‘The advice you’ve been giving your family and friends turns out to be advice for you to live, not us. You become the wise teacher as you become a student of yourself. It stops mattering if anyone else hears you, because you’re listening. You are the wisdom you offer us, breathing and walking and effortlessly moving on, as you make your business deal, buy your groceries, or do the dishes.’
Waiting for the light to change at 73rd St. so I could cross Broadway, I called a friend. We chatted briefly as I approached the rows of flowers, fruits and vegetables that line the street outside the market. I said goodbye to Lynn, grabbed a few apples and pears, and headed for the entrance. As I walked into the store I noticed how vibrant the colors of the oranges, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and Odwalla juice bottles seemed. Then I thought of my dear friend Lynn and how much I love her. A warmth filled my chest. I strolled down the aisles looking at the abundant variety of food and felt so grateful. I filled my small basket with a dozen eggs, chocolate, coconut water, several cans of cat food, rice pasta, grilled artichoke hearts, and two containers of hummus. Every time I placed something in the basket I smiled. I looked people in the eye and smiled. I thought of Lynn again, and Fred, Leslie, Eduardo, Holly, Mary Anne and Lou. Such amazing people! Such sweet souls! How blessed I am to have them in my life. I thought of my family and how good it is to finally let them be who they are. I felt lighter and lighter with every step as love poured over me, into me.
By the time I reached the checkout I was utterly peaceful. “Everything is perfect,” I thought. “I have all that I need. That’s the way it’s always been.”
Thanks and peace!
If I had a prayer, it would be this: “God, spare me from the desire for love, approval, or appreciation. Amen.” ~ Byron Katie from Loving What Is
I watched a movie last night on DVD. Although I was fascinated by the technical style of the film, the story was a yawner. The plot focused on a 23-year-old woman who’s life in rural Mexico was haunted by memories of a father who abandoned her as a child, a ‘controlling’ mother who wanted her to marry and be taken care of, an unhappy brother who worked at a factory job but dreamed of being an artist, and romantic dreams of a paramour who was confused by his feelings. What really struck me about this movie was the constant suffering of the main character. She couldn’t seem to find joy. Her best friend was a video camera. Everything was a struggle. The movie was filled with crying scenes. Please! Why did I rent that, you may ask? Well, sometimes the description of the movie is better than the actual film.
As my own thoughts about love and happiness expand, I find myself quite amused by portrayals of the hardships one must endure in order to find the ‘perfect’ love. Yes, many of us know what it’s like to suffer for love, but what does that prove? That love hurts? We seem to be very attached to the pain of the process, as if that’s what has to happen. No pain, no gain – in love and exercise. When I’m really feeling love, there is no pain, no suffering. I’m just in the flow of love. My thoughts about not having love, wanting love, or needing love cause me discomfort, take me out of the reality that love is all ways there and available to us, and create lot’s of drama – just like that movie. I’m over that (and am willing to find out where, when and how to be over that even more). Love is love and I can’t change it. It never goes anywhere unless I push it away with my mind, so I might as well embrace it.
My experience with my DVD rental makes me want to find films that have a uniquely positive twist on love. For some reason Fierce Grace, a movie about Ram Dass, comes to mind. Any suggestions?
The heart surrenders everything to the moment. The mind judges and holds back. – Ram Dass
Thanks and peace!
On Wednesday morning I was talking with my wonderful teacher, Rosa. I have known Rosa for almost 16 years. She helped get me started on my spiritual path.
At the beginning of our conversation Rosa asked me about my experience with Byron Katie two weeks ago. For several moments I could not speak. “Breathe, Joe,” Rosa advised.
“It was like meeting you for the first time,” I whispered as tears of gratitude rolled down my face. “I feel like a different person. Now I know deep inside what you have been trying to tell me for so long. What was I doing for all of those years?”
Rosa and I laughed. “Well, you know,” she said, “the door was open and you kept shutting it.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “I guess I just wasn’t ready or able to take it in this way.”
In truth I have been getting closer and closer to this moment of clarity for a very long time. It’s the next step on a fantastic voyage. Fishing for Soul never ends, and that’s a humbling and beautiful thing for me to know.
Here’s what I’ve taken away from watching Byron Katie’s video clips, reading her books, spending a weekend in her presence, and from years of study with Rosa, Lorna Roberts, John Beaulieu, Sandra Ingerman, Mallku, Victor Estrada, Val Lordi, my family, friends, lovers, students, clients, neighbors, coworkers (all and more have been my teacher and I am so grateful):
– I’ve tried in vain to suppress ‘negative’ thoughts. When I do that I get exhausted and experience pain.
– If I don’t love all of my thoughts then I am rejecting a part of myself and have less love to offer others.
– I’m at war with myself when I try to suppress anything I think should not be thought.
– It is easy, with practice, to just have a thought, notice it, and allow the next one to come with love.
– An attachment to a thought is a belief and can lead to suffering.
– I am what I believe I am.
– The world is perfect.
Rosa and I talked some more about our journey together. As our session came to a close my throat tightened, my chest became heavy, and my eyes once again filled with tears.
“You saved my life 16 years ago,” I told her.
“Joe,” Rosa said in her softest voice, “you saved your own life. I just offered you a light and you took it.”
Thanks and peace.