Wednesday, March 2, 2011

to vancouver and back

When the doorbell rings, more often than not, I flee to some unseen corner of the house. It's become an automatic response. Pavlov's dogs drooled. I disappear. But I am working on it. Nowadays, I'm consciously deciding to stay put - and sometimes to even greet the visitor at the door if I can stand it. It's so clear to me that whatever discomfort I imagine is going to take place is really just a bunch of mental bullshit, reality proven over and over again to be smoother and more enjoyable than what I anticipate.

The point is: living in such a small way in such sheltered surroundings, it's always unsettling when you leave them for wider, freer spaces - say, when flying across the country, for example. While it is unsettling, it's also extremely liberating. I used my sojourn to Vancouver last week as an experiment in how I'd get on by myself in the "big, scary world." And I have to say that this time was like the time before it and the time before that: perfectly fine. And fun. Yes, I had moments of nervousness, I won't even lie. Yeah, I did kind of look forward to getting back to my hotel room after being away from it for periods of time. But the conclusion I'm fast arriving at is that I'm nowhere near as maladaptive as I've thought I am. That's all just a mind-trip. I made my way from Dallas to Phoenix, Phoenix to Portland, 15 minutes from Portland to Vancouver, and again in reverse two days later. I did it beautifully. And purposely.

I sat crammed in with total strangers on each flight, replying as thoughtfully and as capably as I could in each unsolicited instance of small talk. I made my way through the terminal, midst hundreds of people waiting in chairs, milling about or standing still, all eyes on me, each of them watching as I passed by (not really, obvi - but that was the fear). And I just went on my way. I talked to the driver of the shuttle, the hotel front desk personnel, the staff at the eye clinic. On my last day, I even walked a block over to the mall to pick up some See's Candies for someone back home, and just for the hell of it, I walked around the mall. Around and around it. Just to pass the strangers. Just because I could. And I could! I did!

Part of my spiritual practice, as a way of beholding/dis-identifying from the ego, is to stay as grounded in Presence as I can. That is to remain as the Witness, noticing the flow of mind and matter as it comes and goes, with a loving detachment. And as I had this little three-day adventure, I watched the swing of my attitudes as they came and went. It was an interesting show, watching how the mind responded to things. At times I was chill, others I was stressed. And through it all, Awareness shone and everything really was just fine. A couple of times as I was walking through the airport, I remember seeing all of the people and not feeling any kind of anxiety really, but more of an envy at the way they all seemed to be going about their travels effortlessly and with friends and loved ones. It made me feel kind of lonely, and it pointed out to me how much smaller my life is than what it could be.

It was a good trip and I came home with a lot of food for thought. My time away reaffirmed for me what I am capable of and inspired me to consider what else I could possibly do.


  1. This is such a good story, Jeff. Isn't it amazing how travel gets you so far outside your comfort zone it's like you leave your "mind garbage" behind with your address? It's one of the reasons to make myself go places close by that are weird or out of any known part of my life. You've inspired me to do that. Thank you!

  2. Hi Tracy, yeah, it really is amazing what it can do. It's like we're so used to being a certain way in our normal environment, that just going off somewhere different leaves those neuropathways, or whatever they are, deactivated or at a loss. It's awesome. Such a good thing to know!

  3. I just came back to tell you thank you again and ask if I could reference this post in one of my own because it was the solution to a disconnect for me.

  4. Of course.
    I'm so glad you got something from it!

  5. wow, Jeff! I got lost in my work for what seemed like just a few days, and emerge to find small miracles documented on your blog! what a wonderful, uplifting and inspiring story this is. thanks for sharing, and congratulations for busting through some mental barriers with the help of your beloved Awareness!

  6. And I loved the candy!! Thanks so much for making the effort.

  7. @Karen: Thank you so much! Awareness is where It's at. Keeping mindful of it is the trick. Or is it mind-less...?

    @Anonymous: You are welcome. I'm glad you liked it! =)