Sunday, October 23, 2011
Third Excerpt from my Stay at Incarnation Monastery
Sunday, October 18.
Missed the morning service with the Monks. ...Took the short cut from the Monastery again. (Paced myself better going back up; but that last block was a female dog!) Decided I would find the restaurant that posted their menu on a chalkboard out front advertising a fried trout dinner with mango salsa for $14.95. Thought I found it; but instead something great found me. It turns out that during the day the restaurant donates space to CharityFocus, which runs the Karma Kitchen. This group takes over the restaurant on Sunday afternoons and serves Indian food on a pay-it-forward basis. Once you’ve eaten, you receive a bill for $0 and an envelope in which you can place any amount of money or no money, depending on your ability to pay or not. The idea is that your meal has already been paid for by the previous patron(s), and any money you place in your envelope helps pay for the next person’s meal. Great idea! And the food was great. I had a little bit of everything on the menu—it was limited, but good. And limited is relative when you think of half the children around the world who subsist on a grain of rice or come one step closer to starving to death. The mango lassi was the best I had tasted in a long while.
Because I was dining alone, I sat at what became a community table. What happened next proved providential. Within a few minutes one of the volunteers asked if I minded if a young lady joined me. I looked up and there stood a young African American woman, Amber, in about her early 30s. None of us (the volunteer, Amber, and myself) were California natives. The volunteer had only left England a week earlier; Amber, my table mate, was only three years out of New Orleans having survive hurricane Katrina. Amber said a therapist told her she had post-traumatic distress disorder as a result of Katrina. But the good news was she could also experience post-traumatic stress recovery. She was majoring in neurology and music. We talked about meditation, among other things; how we must be comfortable with letting the mind wander, not yielding to the temptation to reign in our thoughts before we can fully identify what our mind is thinking. Made perfect sense to me. What made my encounter and conversation with Amber so providential was the conversation I had with my friend Sheila the day before. Sheila and I had discussed meditation. How did she understand meditation? How do we control our minds that are so proned to wander...?
Tuesday, October 21, 2009
I can’t seem to stay out of the book stores. I’m drawn to them like ants to bread crumbs. As I browsed the clearance section of [name’s] book store, an African American man came in to sell some books to the store. This book store buys and sells books and keeps no inventory of what books are on its shelves—I know, because I asked. The man selling his books wore light pink soiled pants and talked very loudly, but not obnoxiously so. He was very gregarious and had no inhibitions about speaking to anyone in the store—even me. He provoked my first laugh of the day—don’t even remember what he said now—but I remember how good it felt to laugh. The man also shared that a store nearby had a special of two bottles of wine for one and he was going there to take advantage of it. As he left he shouted something else at me, don’t remember it either; just know it made me laugh. This man was obviously not as well off, financially, as others in the store at that moment—but his soul was happy and that happiness spilled over—no, it oozed out upon those he encountered. I think he said something like life is too short to be sad about anything. Yet, many of us are mad about any and everything and that madness spills over into the lives of those we meet.
While I was in the store I purchased three more books—two were clearance books that I got for $1.00 each and one was $6.98. One of the clearance books is about meditation. The first few pages have already been helpful. Meditation is about “being.” Being present in the moment.
I am learning to pace myself better as I return up the mountainside. I am so accustomed to walking quickly that it is difficult to slow down. Today I achieved a slower more rhythmic pace. Upon reflection, I tend to operate on the premise, consciously and unconsciously, in everything I do, that it is better to tackle unpleasant tasks quickly and get them out of the way. This modus operandi does not work when climbing steep mountains; it just makes you more afraid they might kill you! lol
Still taking the “short cut” back up the mountain—the last leg before reaching the cement stair case is the worst. So I called my friend and colleague Sheila again, thinking this would be a good time to discuss a theological issue concerning women and beauty that was asked of me earlier via email. Although the conversation took my mind off the climb making it less painful—I even walked part of it backwards—the effect on my sweat glands was the same—I was drenched again. I wonder when will my body stop reacting in this way.
At sunset today, about 6:30, I witnessed, in a matter of seconds, the San Francisco fog slithering across the Berkeley sky like an opaque monster; covered everything; detroyed my view of the bay from my room. Things change quickly, but God has so wonderfully constructed us that our bodies, our minds, our spirits and souls can adjust, if we so desire and choose.
On thing that never changes in every city and college town, whether it is Harvard square in Cambridge, Mass or Berkeley, CA the home of the UnivCal Berkeley campus, people are homeless. With some their homeless status is evidenced by the overloaded carts that prop them up and store all their earthly possessions—their mobile homes without walls or floors or ceiling. ...As Christians or ethical people who believe in God or a higher power, we should adjust to meet the needs of our fellow human beings—should we not?