This morning, I was getting dressed for a walk in the cold winter air. I found a bunch of scarves all smushed together in a mess on one shelf. As I pawed through them, searching for the right one, it sank in how much of my 'stuff' I ignore, neglect, or out-and-out abuse. Then I remembered the adage, "How you do anything is how you do everything." If that's true, how far does it go?
I tried it on with the scarf situation. Sometimes a careful look at a tiny detail can wake us up to the vast world we carry with us.
How I treat my stuff is how I treat everything.
Does it fit? Um...yeah.
For one, most of the time I'm in a pointless hurry, just like I was with the scarves. My work can be slipshod. Mistakes get made. When that happens, the shame hurtles me into the next task. (Quick. Let's get away from this feeling.) Because it's the same hurry propelling me forward, I end up with the same results that caused the problem behind me. Missed appointments, duplicate payments, lost glasses, overlooked opportunities.
This would be depressing if it weren't for the fact that when we can see our problems clearly, we can work with them. But before tackling this one, I took the exercise a little deeper:
How I treat my stuff is how I treat myself.
Do I come at my own life impatiently? Am I in a hurry to get where I'm going--in my heart, in my car? Absolutely. And this sense of hurry breeds unconsciousness. I noticed it in a poignant moment, reading Start Where You Are, by Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrö. I knew it held important wisdom for me, so I bought it. I sat down to read it but I was in such a hurry, I could barely take it in.
And then I mistook my failure to 'get' the book as 'overwhelm' and I put it away. Then, the half-thought, "I'll read this later."
Stop. Turn around. Is this really how I want to be? How I want to do everything?
So I make the effort. I try to notice where this shows up in my life, this hurry, this impatience, this half-minded ransacking of the present moment for something I don't know I'm looking for. I don't like the way it feels, and I don't like the way I feel either.
Something guides me back to the Pema Chödrön book.
I read slowly. And there it is: "There are whole parts of ourselves that are so unwanted that whenever they begin to come up we run away. Because we escape, we keep...missing the moment we're in. But if we can experience the moment we're in, we discover that it is unique, precious, and completely fresh. It never happens twice...there's nothing more sacred."
Elsewhere, Chödrön says, "These practices show us how to accept ourselves...how to stop running away...how to work openheartedly with life just as it is."
So here's to accepting my shelf of shoved-together scarves. My missed trains, late arrivals, incorrect math. Here's to not running away but turning around, smiling with a soft neck, and sitting down face to face with all my foibles, appreciating their contours, listening for what they have to say, letting myself befriend these messengers of compassion and wisdom.
Here's to working openheartedly with how I do anything, so I can bring a tender compassion to myself and how I do everything.
And may that lead me to real compassion for everyone in my world, no matter how they do whatever they do.