God, it’s said, works in mysterious ways. So I’m willing to believe that the siren on the side of our house that blared for ten minutes across our neighborhood yesterday evening was a divine message directed to me.
My wife, too. And all of us, really. The message is universal: Be aware. Look. See.
We were running late, per usual, for our weekly Tango class. There was going to be a guest instructor so I wanted us to be on time. I was ready a few minutes before Laurel, per usual.
“We should leave the dog in,” she said, hurrying to the door. “She had to go to the vet today and deserves some home-time.” I glanced at the dog lying on the living room carpet. Walked into the entryway. Armed our security system. Went out the front door. Locked it.
About seventy-five minutes into our two-hour class Laurel freezes. “The thought just came to me: did you press the ‘away’ button on the security system? We left the dog in, and she would have set off the motion detector.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I remember arming the system, but not whether I pressed that button.” The more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t remember. When I phoned home for messages, the answer was evident.
A neighbor had called. Wanted to let us know that the alarm had gone off for ten minutes. He’d walked over and checked on things. Nothing looked amiss (not a surprise). The security company also had phoned. Wanted to let us know the sheriff’s office had been alerted to a possible burglary.
Laurel said we should go home right away. We did, missing the last part of the class. She was worried that our loud-noise phobic dog had been driven crazy by the siren going off.
“Maybe Serena tried to run through a glass door in order to get away from it,” Laurel fretted. Briefly I had the notion that our dog could have tried to chew her ears off, but the anatomical impossibility of this reassured me that we’d find Serena in one piece after we sped home.
Which was indeed what we found. After taking down a note from a sheriff’s deputy that was stuck on our front door, we encountered the family dog peacefully lying on the living room rug right where we’d left her. I phoned our neighbor and thanked him for coming over.
“I’m an idiot,” I told him. “Five seconds after I walked past our dog, lying on the floor in a room where we have a motion detector, I press the button that arms the detector.” “Hey, don’t be too hard on yourself,” he told me, “we all can be idiots.”
True. But I still want to look upon this embarrassing episode as a loud wake-up call. Too often I go through life half-aware. I do things semi-consciously. I’m partly here in the present moment, and partly there in an intended future that hasn’t happened yet.
Yesterday my fingers were arming the security system while my mind was thinking about whether we’d be late for the Tango class. End result: we weren’t late, but we missed 45 minutes of the class because of my absent-mindedness.
Increasingly I’m coming to believe that spirituality, or whatever you want to call the “More” side of life, starts (and maybe ends) with being fully aware. Of what’s right in front of us. Not of a future heaven, paradise, satori, enlightenment, awakening, revelation, or second coming.
What’s here. Now. Only when we’re fully in touch with the apparent here and now, I suspect, will we be capable of perceiving whatever More may exist on a subtler sphere of reality.
Interestingly Wayne, the guest Tango instructor, focused on getting his eight beginning students to do just that. He had us practice some basic (yet challenging) leading and following drills. The man shifts the woman’s weight to one side or the other, then takes a step. And she follows.
After a while Wayne interrupted the drill. “Leaders, I can see that all of you are getting ahead of yourselves. While you’re taking a step you’re looking toward the next planned movements. One thing at a time. Lead. See what happens. How does she follow? Be aware. Of that single step.”
He demonstrated with the other instructor, Jodi. One step, fully led, fully followed. Pause. Done. Completed. Then…another step. Fully led, fully followed.
Nothing half-assed about it. Not partly here and now, partly there and then.
This morning I went for a walk with the dog. It’s a walk I’ve taken most days for many years. But not usually fully present. Today, I tried to be more aware.
A pool on non-yet-flowing Spring Creek
An old tree friend who I don’t look up often enough
Ducks skimming Spring Lake, startled by a man and his dog
A stump that's grown a green head of moss
Reuters’ tag line used to be “Know. Now.”
Excellent advice. I'm making a vow to follow it more assiduously.
Be aware that you have characterized the spiritual world as "More." More is just another dimension of "future." A little thing, but you won't be present if you think you are missing something, anything.
Posted by: Edward | October 26, 2006 at 04:36 AM
Enjoyed your alarm system story. Likewise, enjoyed your pics of the outdoors. Keep sending the outdoor pics, I love them.
However, the Utopia, that my mind is creating, of your area, makes me wonder why the need for an alarm system. Is there an abundance of burgalars in Utopia?
Finally, I'm still puzzled, me the newbie. Why the problem with characterizing the Spiritual world as More or any other word?
Who made the decision that one would not be present, if one does such a thing? The Awareness, that is mentioned so often, is it purely an Intellectual Awareness?
I have my membership in the "I don't Know" club. Sure would be nice to see others making the same statement.
Posted by: Roger | October 26, 2006 at 06:36 AM
I enjoyed this post today, Brian. I'm constantly aware of the value of ...awareness. For me, having kids brought that focus to my life. It really is much better savored, moment by moment, huh?
I'm also hard on myself. 'Thoughtless' 'aimless' and 'absent-minded' are labels I give myself often. I'm practicing the art of noticing what my conscious mind opines, but working at suspending agreement for the time being.
As a healer, I often look at synchronous events in context. Your focus on preventing a future "mistake" resulted in an alarm going off, literally, around your STUFF. Not bodily injury or harm. Just a greater awareness that others really have your back, and perhaps a newfound appreciation for the casual way of living that dogs seem to possess. Of course, I tend to approach the "usual stuff" that happens in my life as very profound.
I can see the conclusion you came to, and it makes good sense to me. I can also see that you've had your safety and a great deal of emotional support affirmed.
How wonderful that your dog had to stay in so that the Universe could deliver such an important message.
Posted by: benandante | October 26, 2006 at 09:39 AM
gah - no "decision". Brian points out that his experience was: by being present but also being in the future led to making a small mistake. In space/time, "future" can be identified as "more." His language, his experience, his mirror. He won't be present if he is in the future as well. He says that.
Posted by: Edward | October 26, 2006 at 10:21 AM
Edward, good observation: "More" = "Future"
Neither is now.
Found that I almost said, "I'll have to ponder this some more." (oops, guess I did it anyway)
Roger, we do indeed live in a generally crime-free area. But caution is still called for.
Until recently, Oregon had a notoriously high number of meth labs. Situation has improved some. Still, there are too many hopped-up people looking to steal stuff so they can stay hopped-up.
Posted by: Brian | October 26, 2006 at 09:51 PM
So here's the wonderful thing about having a dance partner: you can live in the same dream.
When you are present and future, Laurel "knows" it, feels it as a sense of an entity. "Seventy-five minutes later," the very slice of time you were split with, is when the thought occurs to her.
So maybe this is not a wake up call for you to be stricter with your focus, but a reminder that you and your partner dance whether you are at the dance hall or in the driveway or sleeping in different states.
This time the siren was loud enough to grab your attention in more than one conscious state. More than one brain, more than one Brian/Laurel, more than one "more".
Posted by: Edward | October 27, 2006 at 04:02 AM
Say, benandante, could you tell some about 'synchronous events in context'? That sounds really interesting; you seem to see, or suspect something quit deep in Brian's daily event. I can imagine a little but , mmh, cant grap it...Such stuff makes me eager to learn about.
Posted by: spooky | October 27, 2006 at 09:06 AM
Synchronicity is a concept most mystical-minded people embrace. I view conscious "events" the way I view "dream events". If we are spiritual beings, given consciousness for a reason, then all things conspire for our greater good. My unconscious participates fully in my conscious life. Or, as above, so below.
Put differently, I am a pronoiac.
Posted by: benandante | October 29, 2006 at 01:29 PM
Good blog. I sometimes visit it regularly, sometimes I don't for months and when I do I browse through the archive. Sometimes I enjoy it and relate myself to the comments whereas sometimes I find it..obnoxious. As my moods change so are my preferences. Most importantly though I try not to judge.
Which I guess, brings me to my point which I think you expounded in your story.And i apologise if I am overly reflexive and if I over generalise.
I think we are not consistent in our behavior. We read numerous texts that tell us to be in the moment; we enter the 'moment' for some-time and then we slip away to the 'past' or 'future'. The former state being a kind of remeniscing, valuing and de-valuing past decisions and states whereas the latter is fantasy driven mental abstraction for what may or of what we want to happen. All these processes happening in our minds, en situ. Our mood changes as the weather. Sometimes we feel zen like, sometimes christian like, sometimes we may exhibit high immoralism or high moralism. Sometimes we feel confident about life, sometimes we are just scared little animals. During phases, we may say that we dont give a s*** about philosophy or mysticism anymore and say a blunt " it is what it is". Sometimes we zoom back 'in' and start studying and preocupying our mental faculty with the Q. "what is it?".
I dont know man, its all so mentally frustrating. If someone else did the same mistake with the alarm, he/she would had said an "oups" smile stupidly and move on. You knew the mistake...you were not in the moment..and you did not take your mistake as lightly as someone else would cause it signifies a pattern of behavior which is reflected in many other spectrums of life.
I think the problem for some is over-reading too many philosophies that more or less tell us to be in the moment. But the problem is that each philosopher/ mystic approached the matter in corelation to the culture he/she was at the time. Plotinus, Eikhart, Jesus, Plato,Rumi, kabir,Hui-neng etc were all influenced culturarly. We can and cannott follow everyone practically. Why?
Cause , for instance, Zen is very impersonal in its approach. Says a Zen master : " Here I am drinking my tea, looking at the mountains, the river floath not, the bridge does floath" . He invites you to be in the moment. Rumi on the other hand screams about the lover and Beloved: "The Beloved is all in all the lover just a veil". He invites you to the moment. Plato used his Greek logic, Kabir attacks your ego directly and Jesus wants you to pick up a sword.
But all these are different paterns of behavior. I think, if want to be consistent, and by saying consistent I dont mean dull and unexciting, we have to choose one Way and stick with. If we identify ourself with Zen, then Choose and practise Zen, but dont try at the same time to become Rumi and attemt to write his ecstatic poetry. Keep lets say a "technique" and stick with it. Its like a university freshman that has to pick a major to follow. He may like two different majors...but he can only choose one. And that one will be his career. Fine art or Theoretical Physics. Whichever he/she chooses he can, I believe, zoom into the momment following either route.
Destructive behavior comes when we are wobbling, when we are undecided and unfocused.
"Learn everything of something and something of everything"
And another thing that I noticed with myself. If i read Zen today -Intensevely, I feel its impact 4-5 months after. It will sink in immediately but it will manifest much later much later when I am unsuspected, leaving me scratching my head.
I apologise for being too long.
Peace from England
Posted by: ander | October 29, 2006 at 04:11 PM
Sounds like you are a bit intellectually confused about the spectrum of the great spiritual tradition... and especially in relation to Zen and the abiding in instant presence.
Posted by: tao | October 29, 2006 at 04:50 PM
my friend, i could have given u a sharp answer to that but i wont,cause it seems u missed the point. To get on the internet and write on a blog regarding spirituality then assume that you are a confused. If we knew the instance presence in its fullest, neither you nor I would have written here.
When u unfuse then I wont interact with you again...and vica verca.
Posted by: ander | October 29, 2006 at 06:42 PM
I did't "miss the point" at all. You expressed intellectual confusion.
You then wrote: "If we knew the instance presence in its fullest, neither you nor I would have written here."
That is merely your presumption. It has nothing to do with with reality, nor what I am able to do, to have or have not "written here". There is no such limitation, except in your mind.
And oh, by the way, it is referred to as the instant presence, not the "instance" presence.
Posted by: tao | October 29, 2006 at 11:10 PM
I thought I was the angry one here ... ha ha.
Synchronicity...It might be the key word here if you catch me drift.
Posted by: spooky | October 31, 2006 at 02:32 PM