Silent Retreat Day. I’m sitting on a bolster in a roomful of people. Somewhere in front of me and off to the left there is a tapping noise. Or maybe it’s dripping? The heating system? Perhaps.
Taptaptaptap tap taptap. Or is it dripdripdrip dripdrip? There is no rhyme or reason to the rhythm. No recurring pattern. Believe me, there’s not. I’ve been trying to figure one out for the past ten minutes.
A woman behind me and to my left coughcoughcoughs then coughcoughs. A man in front of me, to my right and above me, because he is in a chair, shifts in his seat. I hear the swishing of his sweatpants.
And then Buzzzzzzz. His cell phone must be in his pocket. My reaction is Pavlovian. I tense up. My jaw clenches. My stress level instantly rises. I’m disturbed. I let out a sigh. Did everyone hear that?
Focus. Focus. Turn inward not outward. Follow the breath. Be in the moment. Soften, and breathe.
Taptaptaptap coughcough Dripdrip. Buzzzzz. Again?!
Tension. Aggravation. Distraction. Big sigh. Do they hear me? They must. Focus. Soften and breathe.
Taptap taptaptap. Buzzzz. Are you kidding me? Big heavy sigh. They must hear me. Are my sighs disturbing them? Do they realize I’m sighing every time his phone buzzes? I have realized it.
I’m disturbed, aggravated, exasperated. But why? Why am I tensing up? It buzzes. So what? This is nothing to stress about. It’s out of my control. Let it go.
Focus, breathe, soften. Get to the center of it. Soften your heart. Soften at the center.
I’m like a Tootsie Roll Pop, hard and crunchy on the outside, but soft in the center. I think we all have a hard crunchy outer shell. Mine is raspberry flavored. Or maybe chocolate. No, it’s definitely raspberry. It protects my soft center. It’s tough. It can take a lickin’. It’s made of all of my defensive reactions, and a little bit of sugar.
What is the soft tootsie center made of? Is it patience? understanding? compassion? loving-kindness? It’s probably tolerance or acceptance or equanimity. No! It’s vulnerability. Definitely vulnerability.
A chewy gooey center of vulnerability surrounded by a hard raspberry shell. That’s what I am!
And my meditation practice is like the owl in the old commercial. He made it to the soft center in just three licks. Someday, I’ll get there in three breaths!
Or better yet, if I keep meditating I might just lose the hard shell entirely, and turn into a regular tootsie roll. Mmm, maybe a vanilla one! I love those. I can be soft all the time. Patient, kind and vulnerable all the time. With just a thin wrapper. But not a plastic wrapper. A recyclable one.
Taptaptaptap. Coughcough. Buzz. Sigh.
Focus… breathe… soften.
Only 6 more hours to go.