Friday, September 13, 2013

everyone is my teacher

This first week leading The Gift of Practice has been an intense one for me.  In a good way ... in a "Beam me down/beam me in Scotty" sort of way.

I confess to feeling fraudulent as each participant is showing up with so much trust and bravery and willingness to dig in.  It is a big thing,  because deep in my heart I know what I am holding is the space for each to find her way more fully into trusting herself.  But I am the one holding the door open, smiling and saying "yes, yes ... come on in ... it will be fine!"

Of course, I cannot predict how things will unfold and I know that space of not-knowingness (!) is where the magic and gifts reside.  Still. I like to know.  I am a planner but this process - any process embarked upon for discovery and growth - requires me to trust myself and believe if I fully commit to taking just one step and arrive in that place, the next step will present itself to me.  It's like feeling one's way in the dark: touching with fingertips what is before me and shuffling slowly along, guided only by that touch.

I guess I must project some sense of having a handle on these things and really, I don't.  I am willing to admit such is the case and that perhaps qualifies me to share with others my process.  All week I've been thinking about a rich teaching experience courtesy of that great laboratory of human experience: the retail environment.  (Have I never mentioned my 12+ years working in retail?  Oh my ... stories to tell!

I was working the cash/wrap at a major bookstore and it was during a typical lunchtime rush. I fell into a brief conversation with a woman dressed in the robes of a zen monk. I think she was a trainee of some sort.  There is a zen center in my town that I have always been curious about, but fearful to explore.  While she was waiting for the next clerk and I was finishing up a transaction for my customer, we chatted. I asked her about programs for newcomers and she enthusiastically encouraged me to check out one of the open house events. 

The sales clerk next to me became available (I remember him as a was a very gentle, sweet, young man) and the woman moved on to her transaction while I turned to my next customer.

The next thing I knew, zen woman was screaming and yelling at my co-worker.  It had something to do with a discount she believed she was entitled to, but wasn't receiving.  The clerk was trying to calmly explained to her why she wasn't getting the discount but she wasn't listening.  In a phrase - she lost her shit.  Big time.  Before we could call a manager, she stormed out of the store.  I swear, everyone stood stock still, mouths hanging open.

Not that we didn't encounter angry, irate customers on a regular basis; it was the incongruity of a person dressed in the garb of a spiritual aspirant going ape-shit wild.  My response to the stunned customer before me was "I guess I won't be visiting the zen center."

What I didn't understand then, but what I've come to learn, is that the  deeper we go, the messier we become.  Or rather, we become more willing to own and explore the messy, ugly and inconvenient parts of ourselves.  Practice doesn't erase the discomfort of being me - in fact, it brings me repeatedly into my most tight, sticky, painful places - but it does offer me an understanding that who I am is more than just the ugly bits.  I've got to work with what I've got.  And if I am willing to show up and do the work, it is there (so I've been told) the shit gets cleared away and what I will discover is precious treasure waits within.

Yesterday I was surprised to see a picture of our neighborhood pizza shop owner on the front page of the morning paper.  The photo captures his spirit and energy. Then I read the story line: Little time left, but he isn't crying in his pizza.

Well, I am crying.  Repeatedly and unexpectedly, I find myself slipping into moments of mouth-wide-open, snot-running-down-my-face convulsive sobbing.  I am tearing up right now as I think about this man - who we know as Mr. Pudgy - and the fact that he is dying from terminal cancer.  And my heart breaks wide open thinking about him shouting out to Cowgirl How's it going Chicken Leg! because when she was 3 that was what she told him she wanted to be called.  

Yes, life is messy and so it shouldn't come as a surprise that more often than not, I feel myself to be a mess.  

It is painful because it is it so joy-full. It is challenging because anything worthwhile requires all of me - mind, body, heart and soul - to be in the game.  I choose to show up because I cannot imagine accepting anything less even though I know I am going to endure some pretty intense moments. 

I guess if a pizzaman named Pudgy can crack open my heart, making tangible the fragility and immensity of love and connection, and an impatient zen practioner reassure me we all are works in progress (she returned to the store to apologize), then I too can step into the space of teacher. 

Look around, teachers abound.  

a juvenile cardinal who shows me a glimpse of myself ... awkward but with red plumage beginning to peek through ...


  1. What a wonderful shot of the juvie cardinal - we see them here as adults but I have never seen one at this stage. Thank you for that. I would love to be in your class but already feel so stretched between Soulodge and The River I knew I couldn't be present - maybe next go around....

    As for Mr. Pudgy and living in surprise moments, yes, let yourself weep and there is another example of living from the heart, as you do and as you are teaching your daughter to do. It is all good, all nourishing and all encompassing. Love you, Lis. xo

  2. The deeper we go, the messier we become... yes, so true. And, if we are willing to explore these dark places - the real transmutation is allowed to occur. Turning poison into nectar. Catching ourselves when we engage in spiritual bypassing - when our dogma runs over our dharma as it were. I'm glad to know the impatient zen practitioner came back to apologize. Being able to say I'm sorry after going ape-shit is no easy business. And yes, joyful/painful, together. My favorite quote right now: "Our greatest joys and sorrows ripen on the same vine..." ~ Kay Redfield Jamison

    also - I think having a handle on things is similar to the idea that balance means the scales are equal, in balance... when you and I both know it is the shifting and rearranging that is true balance. I'm happy to be shuffling along in the dark with seekers like yourself by my side - it feels so damn good when we stumble into the light. xx

  3. Oh Lisa, I love you! Every word here grabs my heart (and I'm tearing up - often lately, and specifically right now reading this) and I thank you for being so open, so vulnerable, so real and DEEP!

    I want this tattooed on my arms "...the deeper we go, the messier we become. Or rather, we become more willing to own and explore the messy, ugly and inconvenient parts of ourselves." Hmmm, maybe I should just memorize it since I'm not up for needle pain AND besides I might need three arms for all that.

    This also would make a great tattoo: "Practice doesn't erase the discomfort..." I used to believe that practicing properly (i.e. right) *would* mean no discomfort (what a goofy thought!). Thank you for all of this - and ohmyword, for the great class and the way that you are showing up in it as co-explorer, not the-expert-please-bow-now. xox

  4. okay, i'm absolutely gutted re: the pizzaman. that sort of thing just rips my heart out...then kicks me heartily in the arse and prods me to show up, to show up *better* - which is to say, more openly, more willingly, more vulnerably...and forget, as Karen says, about doing it "right"...


    i've never seen a young cardinal...that's so amazing!

    you are my (s) co-adventurer...the wind beneath my wings...

    love! xo

  5. oh my...i feel a little choked up after reading all of this.
    especially the bit about things being painful because it is all so joy-full. i feel this, know this...

    you are leading a magical circle, i just know it.