Sunday, March 9, 2014

Stations of the (Double) Cross

After a week of rain, a glorious sunshiny day. Perfect for the promised bike ride with wife, daughter and long-time family friend, a chance to pump ourselves to bliss through the beauties of Marin County. Yet just the day before, I fell a victim to the next volley of slings and arrows of outrageous action. So while the sky was bright outside, it was storm clouds all the way in my mind. By the end of the trip, I was restored to a healed heart, but fascinating to see the steps along the way. We all have our cross to bear and our own way to pass through the stations. Here was mine.

Station One: From my house to the Golden Gate Bridge, my mind whirred in its whiny mode. This was the “Why has thou forsaken me?” stage. The way I’m put together, I go into lawyer for my own defense role and list one by one all the transgressions. Survival is the brain's first concern and when putting up shields or pulling out arrows, it's incapable of noticing the eucalyptus trees swaying in the breeze.

Station Two: Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, five police cars were stopped on the other side and policemen were gathered at the rail. I looked across and thought I could see a person crouched on the other side of the rail and indeed, found out later that there was a jumper they were trying to talk down. Strong stuff. And a reminder to self to get out of my own complaint about world and shift the conversation. And so I moved inside from lawyer to philosopher, analyzing the larger issues inside the smaller ones and trying to articulate what was really at the center of the conflict separate from personality.

Station Three: Flying downhill to Sausalito, that devious mind kept falling back to whine mode and needed to be de-railed. So I checked back into my poem memorization project from a couple of months ago to see how much of Shakespeare, Yeats, Frost, Wordsworth, Hopkins and others I could still conjure up. Not all, it turns out, but the trick worked, got the neurons firing in another neighborhood of the brain and one that was helping restore me to the day before me.

Station Four: From Sausalito to Mill Valley, rode side-by-side with my daughter and was finally enough out of my head to engage in conversation. As an adult, she’s one of my favorite people to be around and always interesting to talk to. I was emerging out of my self-enclosed cocoon and starting to butterfly myself into the day.

Station Five: From Mill Valley up to Four Corners was a long steep uphill and now the body took over from the brain, energy shifted to muscles and breath. Then down to Muir Beach, attention on the downward swoop in company with cars— no room for thought and blessedly so.

Station Six: Lunch at the Pelican Inn. Now I was wholly available to enjoy the conversation at the table and savor the tasty (but overpriced) lunch. Afterward, all the fellow bikers gathered on the lawn in the sunshine with their large mugs of beer. That shared pleasure of well-exercised bodies enjoying a moment of rest stretched out in the sunshine on a day that was singing back, “Enjoy! Savor! Partake of the beauties before and around and above and within you!” We were tempted to sit a bit and digest in their company, but the clock was nudging us with its reminder “Two and half hours still to get back. Get a move on!”

Station Seven: More uphill and a narrow-shouldered road above Green Gulch Zen Center and now for the first time, I could attend to World. Notice the morning glories, Indian paintbrush and California poppy wildflowers, the upward swooping purple agapanthus flowers, the green on the hills from the recent rains, the hawks soaring overhead. Out of my chattering head into my attentive mind and opening heart and active body and what a pleasure that was. Resurrection.

P.S. And yet that engine of problem-solving was still chugging beneath it all and I finally got the whole show condensed to one or two simple points that will need addressing. I’m sure you’ll hear about it in a future blog! But for now, my upstairs neighbors are away and a rare chance for me to play piano far into the evening. From Shakespeare and Yeats to Morning Glories and Hawks to Mozart and Monk. It’s a glorious world.

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