Alligators on Parade…

walk the alligator 2014

I had forgotten my hat, so I held the handle of E’s giant 2-tiered, shade umbrella between pinched knees.  The umbrella itself took up half the bench, making me feel anti-social.  A great calm had come over me since last night when my thoughts swooshed in spin cycle around and around my mind.  I’d had wild horses in my veins, tossing and turning in my hot bed until dawn, when I finally fell asleep for a couple hours.  How long will it take me to learn that I can’t think myself out of a mental tangle?  The thing to do, instead, is to get quiet inside and try to create a space to receive something from Beyond.  
Knitting on the bench in solitude today, that gift of clarity came to me–announcing that all my vexations were simply distractions, and the best thing is to ignore them.  They were not the ferocious, romping monsters they wanted me to believe, and they couldn’t hold me back from my destiny unless I let them.   The way forward is to say, “Phooey on you!”  (Recently, I’ve added a toddler’s nice juicy raspberry blown through pursed lips just for emphasis.)  “Phooey on you!” was given to me by Fr. Maurice in confession one day.  Fr. Maurice is a living link to Thomas Merton who was his novice master at Gethsemane Monastery.  When I told Maurice all the terrible things I was thinking in my head (and believe me, these thoughts were amplified by the silence of the monastery), he just laughed and said he struggled with the same things all the time.  He told me I would probably be struggling with exactly the same things when I was 80, and not to let them bog me down.  (At first, I was depressed by this news, but it has since become a huge relief!)  When things get really bad, he told me to just say “Help!” or “Mercy!” and imagine a life vest falling out of the sky.  

This was one of the greatest gifts of the monastery—baby steps toward the mastery of the mind.
These monastics had struggled with their demons for 20, 40, 60 years, and in return, had learned compassion, freedom, and humor.  One elder shared that she used to worry so much about perfection, but now she has put that aside to “go out to meet the other” with a smile or a kind word.  When we stop hyperfocusing on our flaws and negativity, we let our good qualities come out and shine.
C. is a wonderful example of someone who is living out of this freedom on a daily basis.  Today, she popped down to the bench to say hello.  She hasn’t visited me for at least 3 weeks, and I’ve missed her so–even starting to take it personally though I didn’t want to!  She said that between her son’s upcoming neck surgery and her best friend’s stem cell transplant, she has been preoccupied to say the least.  “Tell me what you want to drink and I’ll get it to you in a jiffy,” she said.  She brought me out a wasabi-green cup of ice water with a pink straw and a slice of lemon.  She said goodbye and, “D’s up there doing the housework, so I better go back in and give him some moral support.”

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