Friday, May 13, 2011

Savor the Flavor and Take Step One


Demo the old

A few days ago I attended a meditation group that I hadn’t been to for a few months.  In this circle there is a round of updating and sharing around topics where we are facing an edge, a aspect of challenge or growth.  I spoke about my relationship to living in L.A. and where I stand right now with that and other areas of my life.  A couple days later it was reported to me that I seemed clear, calm, and grounded.  At the time, I did not feel unusual but that reflection highlighted shift that has been brewing for awhile.  The shift is about my relationship with myself and my circumstances.  It seems to be a sweet spot that is infused with a sense of acceptance of my life as it is and at the same time, and a clarity about the trajectory of my plans.  Taking the time to imbibe the sweet nectar of this time since retiring from the school district has yielded an unintended result; patience and acceptance.  My job pattern for twenty seven years was to learn the skills of a particular job and within a few years move on to a new one.  Never one to rest on my laurels, there was an undercurrent of nervous energy that kept me moving, looking for fresh career opportunities, the grass was always greener.  Exhausting that venue, I retired.  I was in a hurry to get on with my long nurtured dreams of living on a tropical island.  But I discovered that renewing my life meant rebuilding from scratch.  The thirty year old dream had major issues that needed rehabbing, reconstructing, and reviving.  And that doesn’t happen overnight.  Retiring is one of life’s most significant transitions and as such is a process that can take years.

Momentum is a-building
My backyard has turned out to be a metaphor for this major reconstruction.  I looked at an old, rotted deck that needed replacing and estimated about a month to get the job done.  The project turned out to have its own timetable and it is now about a year and a half in.  The job had its own schedule and has taught me to slow down.  Each phase of the project has evolved after calm reflection.  When the place and materials were ready, I stared at the empty yard for a several months.  Not confident in my abilities, I was afraid to tackle the tough part—installation.  Finally I did begin and momentum and confidence grew.  I experienced the gratification of successful learning and productivity.  Not looking back, I am satisfied.

For us Boomers, we have a large back log of experiences to draw on for encouragement or discouragement.  Part of the fun of life is trying and succeeding at new experiences and as we age oftentimes there is a default position that says, ‘been there or can’t do that.’  Especially when it is something new, like my back yard.  I projected my difficulties in other home improvements to the new one and created a mental block.  The trick was to just begin.  How does this relate to herky jerky efforts at our goals?  In the back yard, I avoided the task and it stalled because of the anxiety it provoked.  I had to calm down and take the time to let the situation settle and then act from a solid place.

When this happens a lot we end up with a back log of undone, half completed, maybe plans cluttering up our emotional AND physical space.  In my fourth year at Berkeley, I was in a hurry to graduate and get on with my life.  It seemed like every day was a year and time was wasting.  Although I did not have a plan for when I finished, I just wanted to get it done.  I finished a quarter early and returned to my hometown and then got busy spinning my wheels since I had not slowed down to prepare emotionally for the big change.  This incident was a watershed and set a direction for much of my life.  In the clarity of maturity and hindsight, that decision is still infused with regret.  Regret for not embracing and savoring that place and time of my life.  Now, in another transitional time (retirement), I have mostly allowed big changes to move at their own, organic pace. Leaning into the questions and not grabbing for the ephemeral answers.  As one of my meditation teachers, RajneeshOsho, once said, ‘Don’t just do something, sit there.’  From the calm of the settling waters, the life then bubbles up naturally, without the maelstrom of second thoughts, fears, choices, and the unknown.  So, savor the flavor of the moment and take the first step.

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