Thursday, July 10, 2008

I was lucky enough to spend the 4th of July weekend at the beach with very generous and very good friends. One early morning on the deck with the smell of a recent brush fire still strong in the air, M. and I had a very interesting conversation about the Buddhist concepts of wisdom and knowledge (and this, friends, is why I love the beach -- other conversations over the course of the weekend included whether you could live with someone who had a "hair sweater").

I think of M. as one of my more zen friends anyway, but one of her clients at a stroke recovery center in Virginia gave her a book to read, written by a monk in the format of a lecture including the Q and A that followed, to explain his views on things. She was just getting into it and as a lifelong Catholic who thinks of her religion more as a set of practices and hoops to jump through it was fascinating to listen to her twirl these ideas around in her head and apply them to her own patterns of behavior.

She likes to be on the go, watches very little tv, and loves to be in constant conversation. Her husband literally watches 6 tv shows at once and grew up in a house where no one ate dinner together so the idea of conversation for the sake of conversation is a strange one. She likes everyone, and, as he says, he likes no one.

She was trying to use her new Buddhist ideas to do a root cause analysis of why she responded to things as she did -- why she would get frustrated, or irked, or tired when things weren't matching up right. She was chewing on the idea that knowing yourself reduced the arguments about taking out the trash that are never really about taking out the trash, but are about feeling neglected or put upon, and was thinking that maybe this was really the path to God.

It's a scary thing to try to get to know yourself, I suppose, and figure out why you react the way that you do to a given situation. I know that I get angry when I don't understand something and that I avoid a of a lot of things out of fear of doing something stupid, though I don't really know where that comes from. Professional help has suggested that I don't have an internal cheerleader and need it from other people to feel valued. All good to know, but I don't know what to do with it.

I'm all for not arguing with people over what seems like little stuff because you can't recognize/verbalize what the real problem is, and I am trying to learn to take John Mayer's redundant advise and say what I need to say. I'm not sure what exactly the path to God is but I'm thinking it has something to do with trying to bring about heaven on earth. Maybe adding this introspective ability to predict your own responses and even modify them before they come to into actuality is another way to try to do this.

I'm looking forward to having some time to think more about this in the next couple of months as my work life and spiritual life link up in a tactile way -- I think I'm going to get to go to Israel in September for a few days of telerehabilitation work and a few days of travel. While it will be more than weird to be touring Jerusalem with the guy that works across the hall from me (for both of us, I'm sure), I'm excited to see what if any impact this visit will have on thinking big thoughts as well as thinking meaningful little ones.

Any recommended pre-trip reading tips are appreciated.

The picture is from here: Easy to see how it inspires both brainless and powerful conversation.

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