My Path to Equanimity – Denial, Victim, Humour and Surrender

June 24, 2016

“You carry all the ingredients to turn your life into a nightmare, don’t mix them”

Hafiz interpreted by Daniel Ladinsky.

How do we avoid reacting to situations that seem designed to press every button. This is a story of what I came to describe as “the hotel room from hell” that had all the makings of a nightmare.

However it led to an insight into one of the effective coping mechanisms I have created to help me deal with life’s obstacles – I seek meaning in the experience. I am still uncertain about whether this is pure delusion on my part however perhaps that doesn’t matter as much as the fact that it helps me avoid the “nightmare” and to shift from anxiety and discomfort into some equanimity.

When I checked in to the Puerto Allegra Hotel; despite my confirmed reservation they had no rooms left and moved me to an adjacent hotel. It was a spartan but clean facility with  a cute balcony.  I enjoyed my stay and the best news was that it waste no charge.

The next day I checked back and they allocated me room 210. It was not the king room I had reserved. It had two queen beds squeezed into a tight space, it was dark with a window out onto what appeared to be a narrow chimney of light between rooms. The diagram behind the door suggested it was by far the smallest room on the floor. However it was nicely appointed and I had already enjoyed an excellent free breakfast so I went to the beach with no inkling of what the night would bring.

The chimney in fact contained all the air conditioning units. It also possessed the quality of an echo chamber so at night I was treated to a symphony of AC units, each chiming in as though they formed an unholy orchestra with a malevolent conductor arranging a score to minimize my sleep.

I began to recognize them – there were the quieter ones that I associated with the strings, the deeper more full throated ones that were the woodwind section and finally the “tuba”. This monstrous instrument was out of tune, a harsh raucous sound that insinuated itself into my nervous system. If I was asleep it would wake me. If I was awake I lay their in awful suspense of its next interruption.

The next morning I tried to get my room changed. Victor at the front desk gazed helplessly at me, scanned his computer screen more out of desperation than hope then pulled out a huge stack of forms and began to tell me how he had no rooms for any of them.

Now normally I would have gone to find an alternative but I was attending a workshop for the next four days so it was not possible. It seemed as though I would just have to suffer.

I went through four stages of adjustment. In some ways it became my own workshop of dealing with attachment. It began with denial – this can’t really be happening, surely it will diminish as the night goes on? This cannot possibly be normal.” Then I moved into victim. “Why did it have to be me. What had I done to deserve this? This is so unfair.” It was a short step to judgment. “Why do these selfish people need their AC on. How on earth can a hotel dare rent out a room where you can’t sleep?”

By now I was trying ear plugs but they could not blog out Tony the Tuba as I began to refer to him. The third stage was ironic amusement. I was in this hotel because I had decided the place I originally selected at half the price was too small and spartan so I had decided to treat myself to a little comfort. There was obviously a lesson in here for me somewhere as my original was beginning to look like nirvana.The cosmos seemed to be demonstrating its sense of humour at my expense.

Finally I moved into acceptance and surrender and somehow, after three sleepless nights,  slept seven hours without a break. This was obviously due to extreme fatigue because my final night was a repeat of the first except now I was sanguine, calm and relaxed despite being awake and perhaps the thought of my own bed helped.

Regardless I had found meaning – each stages of acceptance helped me move through the one that followed: from denial to victim, then amusement and finally surrender. I worked through each fully allowing full license for expression.

Frankly it was a lesson I would rather not have learned yet the journey into meaning made it palatable. I can see no way I could have avoided it but perhaps next time I may resist the temptation of luxury for my normal spartan accommodations.

Hafiz’s lovely poem finishes with the words, “you have all the ingredients to turn your life into joy, mix them, mix them.” Somehow mixing denial, victim, humour and surrender had just that effect.

There was one final gift. The workshop was being held a half hour walk from the hotel. On the second morning I found a route that took me along the Rio Cuale for about twenty-five minutes. The natural beauty combined with the soothing babble of the creek over rocks completely restored me. Despite sleepless nights I was raring to go.


The Soul Journey 3 – Getting Stuck

June 2, 2016

“Midway on Life’s journey I found myself in a dark wood where the right way was wholly lost and gone.”

So begins Dante’s descent into hell. Recently I was considering what subject to select in my series of evenings on the Soul Journey and the idea of getting stuck popped into my mind. We all get stuck at times but often we don’t even realize that we are mired in a slough.

So what are the symptoms that can accompany stuckness? They include:

1) Withdrawal of energy or life force.

2) Ennui – a sense of boredom, listlessness and dissatisfaction.

3) A lack of focus and motivation.

4) Lethargy and inertia.

5) Life becomes dominated by distractions e.g. TV, mindless behaviours, computer games.

Recently I was exploring with a friend her sense of frustration at her life due to a change in her financial circumstances.

I suggested there were three possibilities:

  • “Shit Happens” – sometimes there is no evident rhyme nor reason to our changing circumstances. We just have to accept and move on.
  • We are being asked to live a new state of surrender to the situation, letting go of the old and accepting the new.
  • There is a deeper meaning we are being asked to explore. The circumstances have developed to help us open to something new to which we may be in resistance.

I believe we should always make an attempt to check and explore whether there is meaning as the other two strategies are doomed to failure if we are actually in resistance to our own good.

As I am reflecting on the subject I realize to my chagrin and some amusement that I too am stuck. Recently I had a bladder infection. It was painful, accompanied by fever and blood in my urine, which of course caused me to rush off to the doctor who prescribed a dose of heavy-duty antibiotics.

The next week I was listless, unable to focus, I was lethargic and watched a lot of comfort TV. (In my case hours of British mysteries on Knowledge network)

It never entered my head that there may be more to it. I had assumed it was a small taste of what getting older would feel like when the health one has taken for granted is compromised.

However I notice I am still struggling with some of the symptoms of being stuck even though I have completed the antibiotics. I decide to read my I Ching. (The I Ching is an ancient Chinese divining system that involves throwing three coins six times to form a hexagram that is then interpreted in a guide.)

I draw “Taming of the Power of the Great” The theme is that in the face of rising tension; keep still. Spiritual understanding not practiced under fire is without value. We must apply our knowledge in trying situations.

It is immediately clear to me that I had failed to do draw on my “Soul Rescue Kit”. This kit is a compendium of what feeds me when I am stuck? It includes music, contemplation, beauty, poetry, chanting, contemplation, and a review of my Soul Book. (A journal that contains inspiring stories, quotes and poems.) However once again I had resisted that which would benefit my inner journey by substituting activity. It is a source of constant bewilderment that I fall into the same old patterns.

I suggested a practice to create a specific Soul Rescue Kit. We used the active imagination and working with creating images around the theme “What Feeds Me?” The result was pertinent for each of the group. “Light. Love, Beauty, and Music were the common themes.

We cannot avoid getting stuck at times, what we can do is bring consciousness and practice to the situation as opposed to slipping into old patterns. As Rumi once said, “The real truth of existence is sealed until after many twists and turns of the road. The seeker says had I know the real way it was I would have stopped looking around. But that way of knowing depends on the time spent looking.”