Thursday, December 17, 2015

Interruptions

"Surprise"
- Sunrise at the Desert Retreat House -


Yesterday afternoon the entire power grid went down throughout the entire region where we live – no lights, no TV or radio, no computer, no internet, no emails. I had hoped that the interruption would be momentary but instead it lasted for hours,  and the longer the power was off the more agitated I became. After all, I had the entire afternoon planned and most of my plans involved using my computer and being on the internet.

As I sat in a chair in my house “stewing” over my sudden misfortune, I was struck with the realization that maybe I should try to “practice what I preach.” I’m always talking about paying attention to every moment and yet yesterday I did all I possibly could to resist what was happening to me and treated it as an unwelcome interruption in my carefully planned schedule for the day. 

Eckhart Tolle once said:

Always say yes to the present moment.
What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance
to what already is?
Say yes to life
and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.

Yesterday as I angrily sat in my chair I realized how futile and even insane it was for me to resist the fact that the power went off in my house-it’s not as if I could have pressed some button on a grid and turned it all back on. And so instead of resisting what was happening, I said “yes” to it and instead of thinking of it as an interruption, I embraced what was happening as an unexpected surprise, and the second I did that, everything started to change for me.

I suddenly noticed that my dog was sitting next to me eagerly waiting to be petted. I also started to pay attention to the ornaments hanging on the Christmas tree in our house, so many beautiful family mementos collected over the years. When I went outdoors to collect the mail I noticed how crisp and fresh everything looked on that early-winter day in the desert, and when I got to my mailbox I met my neighbors who were gathered there and we all stood around and had an unexpected friendly chat with each other.

I think about something Buddhist teacher and author Susan Murphy, once wrote:

Don’t miss anything.
Everything counts, everyone counts.
Find out what it all means and do what it wants of you.

Were it not for what I first thought to be an interruption to my plans I would have missed everything yesterday. I would have sat at my desk all afternoon with my emails and pecked away at a computer and I would have missed my dog and missed the ornaments, I would have missed the bright day and missed a conversation with neighbors.

It all makes me realize that in a very real sense every single moment of every day is an interruption to my expectations, an interruption in my own carefully planned agenda for life.  The more I am able to treat all these interruptions as surprises, the more I am able to say yes to life as it comes to me, then life does indeed start working for me rather than against me.

The poet Emily Dickinson wrote:

Life is so astonishing.,
it leaves little time for anything else.

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