Sunday, August 11, 2013

Rage on the Stairs

I've been feeling like I need to get back to Buddhism and sitting. I sometimes can't believe how idle my practice has become -- and to think I used to sit every day! It definitely helps me feel less hardened, less hurried, more open, more gentle. Sometimes nowadays I feel downright flinty, without any apparent cause, except my own manufactured sense of urgency. Why, for example, do I feel a need to pull the dog away from sniffing a spot on the sidewalk, so that we can "keep walking." Why not just let her sniff? Why am I in such a hurry?

Why brush past people on the escalator, roll my eyes in annoyance at people wrestling with strollers and suitcases on the sidewalk? The other day I was climbing the stairs out of the tube with Dave, and we were blocked by a young woman looking down at a mobile device, climbing each step at a snail's pace as she texted. "Oh, she's texting," I said quite loudly to Dave as we went around her. "She's oblivious."

I got ridiculously angry. I could taste it. It was like every bit of anger I ever had at the world surged through me -- a feeling akin to road rage. The woman gave no sign that she heard me.

Later, after I'd cooled down, I thought, OK, she shouldn't be texting on the stairs -- but did she deserve to be attacked, albeit indirectly? And would I have said anything out loud if she were a man, more imposing and potentially threatening? I hate to admit it, but I doubt it.

The whole incident made me feel small. It's just one example of the occasional manifestation of my human "beginningless anger," as the Zen Buddhists put it.

Returning to sitting, breathing and focusing, at least occasionally, sounds like a good idea. There's a mindfulness group for staff and faculty at school -- maybe I'll join that. Meanwhile, I am going to go sit right now. Well, as soon as I finish my coffee.

Dave and I watched "Five Easy Pieces" last night, in memory of Karen Black. Only about half an hour into the movie did I realize I'd already seen it. I think I got it from Netflix when I lived in New York. I remembered a couple of the scenes, and one of Rayette's lines, when she's talking about the fate of a favorite cat she left with a friend: "He was squashed flat as a tortilla in front of their mobile home." But I'd forgotten the overall plot, and Dave hadn't seen it, so watching it again was worthwhile.

(Photo: I came across these two women while walking Olga yesterday. On their way to a wedding, perhaps?)


  1. Oh Steve! I loved reading this. Yes, we humans are in such a rush and why? Where are we going and why do we always need to get there so quickly?
    Those two women, yes, probably on their way to a wedding- their journey there captured by you, given to us.
    Let us all slow down. Let us all look around. Let us all try to be more kind and patient with each other. Isn't that the very heart of do unto others?

  2. I loved this post. I am asking the same questions this week, trying so hard to keep things in perspective, to be as ms moon says, more patient and kind. And yes, mindful. Thank you.

  3. Beginningless anger - oh yeah. We see a lot of that in DC.

    You know, you're allowed to be impatient now and again. But it can be exhausting.

    I sit every day. Every day. Every. And I resist sitting every day. My morning mantra is: You must meditate, you must so do not argue." I need to remind myself every day how much it helps.

    You'll get back to it when you need to. You are a very healthy minded man.

  4. good post..I do a little meditating while lying flat on the floor to stretch out my back...does that count? multitasking ...ha!

  5. I've never been able to develop a meditation practice, or yoga for that matter, which I love to do as long as it's in a class setting. By myself, I guess, I have to come up with my own routine. but though I don't meditate, I am rarely in a hurry and small obstructions don't bother me. mostly. now that we have moved out to the country and life is even more laid back...friendly people, no traffic, no impatience and simmering anger from someone standing in line behind you because you are chatting with the cashier for a few moments, most stores not open on Sunday (imagine that!)...being in the city is so jangly. it amazes me how many people think the quality of their lives is going to be forever changed because they had to wait five minutes for something.

  6. Living in the city, jobs, trains on time, crowds, all of that - trying- testing- exercise in "how are you doing? Really?" So easy to be mellow here, even more so with Dexter - like walking a rock at this point in his little life. I allow him to set the pace. A 30 minute walk now takes about an hour and a half, he enforces slow down, chill out, priorities- when I go to Seattle, I do not take Dexter- he would get eaten alive! everything changes- it's "get offa my lawn" mode. I think that you are doing brilliantly, to even notice that your own thoughts and good nature have been rattled is pretty impressive, Sir. Living in the city challenges everyone's temperament. Walking meditation , breathing might be good especially with Olga so that she can sniff the sidewalk until her sniffer is willing to move on.I can not sit- makes me crazy, I admire anyone who can do that everyday, stilling the monkey chatter. Even for three minutes. I guess that is why it is called "practice". I love this post so much, such a great re-mind-er!

  7. Thank you for this reminder. My own sitting practice has also gone by the wayside of late. I make excuses, lie on my back in the morning when I wake and pretend to myself that a few breaths right then or there can take the place of real practice.

    As for Five Easy Pieces -- one of my favorite Nicholson movies. I love when Karen Black offers dinner to Nicholson -- Hungry Man dinner, large or small.

  8. Patience & tolerance. .. it should be a life style.

  9. Ms Moon: Amen! I don't want to abandon my sense of urgency entirely, because I think it helps me stay on track and get things done. I just don't want it to rule my life. I want to be able to turn it down a notch from time to time!

    Angella: They're good questions for all of us, I suppose!

    Reya: Isn't that a great phrase? I love that you resist each day. I give in too easily to my resistance.

    Ain't: Every little bit helps, right?! :)

    Ellen: Exactly! What are five minutes? Good grief. I have always loved urban living, but maybe I'm getting too old for it!

    Linda Sue: Good old Dexter! Ernie and Ruby used to frustrate me because they walked so slow. I think you are practicing, in a way, allowing Dexter to set the pace and getting comfortable with that. Letting circumstances dictate rather than insisting on your own control. You know?

    Elizabeth: It's easy to slip out of the practice habit -- disconcertingly easy! Karen Black was really great in that movie, wasn't she? So unfortunate that everyone remembers her mostly for "Airport '75"!

    Ink: Indeed it should be. Easier said than done, but we all gotta make the effort, right?