On the Ground

Do you think it’s because I introduced my new peace symbol this week that I suddenly greet the challenge in the proverbial you?

On the ground is where ‘Heaven’ meets the road or in my case, the tracks. Today in the fabulous New York subway system I got crowded between two guys arguing over space. A guy in the station was yelling at the guy behind me to make space for him on the train where there there was none. By the time the one who was on the train right behind me got off the train to let the other guy on I felt very defensive of the poor guy left behind and mad at the “idiot” standing over me with his arm leaning on my shoulder. He was grumbling that the other guy was an “idiot”. That’s why I referred  to him that way. I felt like I was in the middle of it all; I swallowed the drama into my being, took it on, kind of revelled in it. Not because I wanted to, or because it was mine but probably because I am a creature of habit like all of us; eager to salivate over that sour deliciousness of drama, conflict, and self-righteousness. It is dangerous territory that we all know so well and that we fail to navigate with grace too many times, witness the conflict world wide that escalates to global scale. Will we ever tire of it?

When we know how these encounters affect us why is it that we still trample through our heaven kicking up dust and insulting each other? I was so riled up I was ready to defend the abandoned commuter but the “i…”, excuse me, I am sorry but I don’t know his name, was just too close to me; it was a bad idea.  Suddenly I thought, “wait this has nothing to do with me” even if it did I don’t need to relish the ugliness of it all. So I breathed, I relaxed, I offered all the fury back to the man standing next to me who perpetrated the flurry to begin with and basically washed my hands of the whole thing. Afterall the abandoned commuter chose to step out of the train rather than continue to engage with mister “I”.

Then I remembered a story about the Buddha who was asked by a woman what to do about a conflict that troubled her. I may not have the story exact but this is what I took from it. He asked her what would happen if she made a feast and asked her opponent over to eat but he refused to eat, she said I would have to eat the food myself. The Buddha said exactly so don’t engage with him and he will have to consume the trouble he makes himself. Or something like that. When I relaxed and breathed I disengaged from the drama, what a delicious relief that was. It was not my misadventure, so why get involved. Ordinarily, I would have carried that energetic shift through my whole system for hours after the encounter but the exercise of conscious relief restored my equanimity instantly. This is Heaven – awareness, choosing and practicing. It worked so well that a very short time later when another guy got really irritated with me because I happened to be walking in his way, that kind of thing happens in New York, I didn’t even get phazed by it. Let him have his annoyance, it has nothing to do with me.

I had a sense when I released that tension in the subway that some profound shift had happened that energy was returned to it’s rightful place.  I think that’s why I remembered the Buddha’s story. We are beings of vast complexity, intricately connected. We are capable of infecting each other with delight through a song, or fury through a harsh word. I would have to say that knowing this I admit that my interactions in this world with most people are clumsy. Do I listened enough? I wish. Do I appreciate enough? Probably not. Do I get annoyed too many times? Definitely. I suspect that in order for us all to become fully aware of the Heaven we cohabitate a far greater awareness of our affect on each other must be cultivated. So that’s what that peace symbol is about. It represents a contract to practice this kind of interaction.  To walk the talk. Are you with me?