Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"It's All About Me"

In my mother's house there's a framed photograph that was taken during a rafting trip about 12 years ago. In the photo is me, orange hair, orange life-vest, yellow sunglasses and an open mouth, it appears as though I'm asking for something, or perhaps, complaining. The frame the photo has around it is silver with orange writing on it, that says, "It's all about me."  The photo might be amusing on its own but in that frame, it's funny and my mom loves it. My mom likes to make fun of me sometimes, when I want something or don't like a particular restaurant, in her pretending-she's-me voice, she'll say, "It's all about me." Which of course, sometimes, it is.

I had many "it's all about me" moments on my meditation retreat a few weeks ago. At the time, I was having some digestive difficulties and the cook, Derek, caught on somehow that I wasn't eating much. He took me aside (fun fact: on silent retreats, there is talking, not often, but sometimes) and asked me if I was getting enough to eat. I thanked him so much for his concern and told him I was fine, just some digestive troubles, not to worry about me, and I was sorry I didn't feel like eating more of his cooking. He informed me what I needed was miso soup, lots of it. At the next six or seven meals, there was miso soup, it was delicious and didn't particularity heal my physical complaint. Sometimes I ate it, sometimes I didn't. No one else ever seemed to touch it.

Another fun fact about the meditation retreat is everybody had a yogi job. MY GOD was that fun, it felt so good to be able to DO something. My job was to help clean up after breakfast, I loved every minute of it. My companion in breakfast put-away was a lovely woman who I knew nothing about. On the third or fourth day of putting away vast amounts of leftover miso, she broke her silence to say, "Someone should tell Derek to stop making miso. Nobody's eating it." "OH THANK GOD," I thought, "I can TALK to someone about it." The miso situation had really started to stress me out. "I know," I whispered, "maybe I should write him a note, (at silent retreats, you can also, if you really need to, write notes) he's making it for me. He said it would help with some digestive issues I've been having, but it's not helping, so I'm not eating it. I wish he would stop making it. I hope he's not mad I'm not eating it." "Oh that's sweet," she said, and our conversation ended. I hadn't meant to blather on, and suddenly I was anxious about having talked too much. The next day, Derek found me in the kitchen and asked how I was feeling. That day I was feeling better and I told him. I said he could also stop making the miso, if he wanted. He then told me miso's kind of his thing, that it's at every meal, and it always has been. Oh for the love of everything! That whole time, it wasn't all about me! This guy's been making miso probably since before I was born! "My mom's really onto something with that picture frame," was my next thought but I was deeply relieved.

Anam Thubten says, "The Buddhist message is very clear: it's to come to this radical realization that your life is not about you. Instead, it's about others, it's about your relatives, your friends, your enemies, it's about humanity." I love this because I can feel it. My teacher Peter would say in the "It's all about me" paradigm, the question is, "How am I doing?" which is often stressful: "I have digestive issues," "I have credit card debt," or "I didn't get enough sleep last night," "My heart is broken." In the "My life is about others" paradigm, the question is, "How can I help?" Incidentally, the answer to "How can I help?" is an action. As I mentioned, one thing sitting still for a week taught me is how good it feels to be able to DO something.


Braden LuBell said...

Smash, I would really love to read your thoughts on the relationship between THIS way of thinking and the secure-your-own-lifevest paradigm. Like, if you feel like it. Whatever you need.

Ashleigh Beyer said...

BRADEN LUBELL! I am SO into you right now! Thank you for being awesome. Thank you for being my friend. I am SO grateful you read my blog and know me well enough to ask a great question like this one. And then that you have the moxie to actually do it: THANK YOU! I have taken my time to answer it because it's such a great question and I want it to be it's own blog post and maybe it still will be its own blog post. But to put it simply for now, like everything, it's a balance. I think this road of "live you life for others" is a wonderful way to combat neuroticism and vanity. I also believe if you take very good care of yourself, God will take care of the rest. I have been practicing taking very good care of myself for a few years now. AND I believe it is ONLY when I take very good care of myself that I have the spunk to take care of others.

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