I start with the premise that life is a journey, or a meal, or a really good book because these are the things in life I love most and therefore understand best. I love to travel; short distances, long distances, foot, bike, car, plane the mode is moot and the distance relative because I love the going, the looking about on the way, the arriving, and the familiar comfort of coming home. I love to cook and feed people even more than I love to eat, and I LOOOOOVE to eat. I also love devouring written words, especially well written words. These three activities have much more in common than just me.
A trip requires a destination, a route or map, the method of achieving the distance in the time allotted and actual movement. A meal requires a menu, recipes, ingredients, a method of heating and combining the ingredients to create the desired outcome, and the effort and time to transform the raw materials into the delicious dishes craved. A book may be an internal feast or journey but its birth begins with a story line and requires an understandable language, word, sentence and plot structure to carry the reader from the dark and stormy night to the ultimate triumph of love*. Life like journeys, meals and books must first have a goal, a destination, menu, plot.
My goals are true compassion and peace. Living this ethic is the journey I want to be on in all my moments awake and asleep, the meal I want to prepare for others and to feast my soul upon when I am alone, the book I want to write. This is comparable to saying I want to go live a month in Antartica, make a vegan party feast for all my friends and family to enjoy, or read all the works of Alexandre Dumas (or maybe better yet, write as many, LOL). The goal is large, intimidating and easy to dismiss as impossible.
That door is closed. Antartica is only for scientists and I cannot walk or drive there on my own; my son and many of my friends are dedicated carnivores and would never enjoy the foods I love to eat and make; Dumas has 277 books according to Library-Trivia.com many more than 1000 pages and others never translated to English. The world is too hard, selfish and chaotic and I am a product of this world and am therefore to full of needs and neurosis to be able to live peace and compassion. I am just an degree-less LPN; even my roommate avoids my healthier foods, everybody I know likes salty, sweet and animal fat too much to be happy with a vegan feast; most of Dumas’ works are probably out of print; sure people like the Dalai Lama or Pema Chodron can manifest peace and compassion in all their actions but they live a monastery life, I don’t have the luxury of leaving life behind, I have to work in the real world. My son and DIL call this portion of thinking “spinning the excuse wheel,” I must say I have a talent for it, maybe you do too.
Except I truly believe every door, even the locked and sticky ones, can be opened. I also believe that acceptance of exactly where I am, how life is, and what I have to work with is the key to opening any door.
The first step in getting or giving directions is to know where one is.
The first step in cooking is to assess the available ingredients and equipment and the tastes of the desired consumer.
The first step in reading an authors collected works is knowing how well one actually reads the languages in which the works are available.
The first step in developing compassion and peace as a way of life is knowing and accepting the clutter, lack of discipline, attachment and greed that currently pervade my life.
Without knowing where I am, the best directions are useless.
A shopping list of ingredients made without assessing what I have will inevitably (as all cooks know) lead to a missing key ingredient 30 minutes before the guests arrive.
A thick book of only words without the skill to understand them is just a boring, jumble of marks in a very large doorstop. (My book club’s assessment I think of my attempt to bring my love of another French authors romanticism to our reading list.)
Accepting that suffering, attachment and selfishness (mine and others) are a part of life, and then blessing and embracing them for the lessons are how I begin to be grateful, compassionate and acceptance, in and of itself, grants me inner peace.
But Acceptance is the key that opened the closed doors.
I must first accept where I am and exactly what I have, but then once the key is in the door I must push it open…
To get to Antartica will require me to improve my physical condition, achieve financial independence, acquire the skills needed to be part of an expedition…make a plan and stick to it.
The feast begins today with assessing what I have in my home, finding a recipe and practicing my cooking.
To read all of Dumas, I must begin with a book with the books on my shelf in English, keep a list and notes as I read them, and practice my reading of french on smaller things like children’s books, pick up a few french movies again, start watching the movies I know and love with the french subtitles on, so that when I get to the tomes that are untranslated I will have developed the comprehension skills to hear his words meaning.
To live compassion and peace, I must meditate and read works that inspire this behavior, but mostly what I must do is one dirty dish at a time, one aggressive speeding vehicle endangering me, one angry bitter thought by me, one harsh word by another, one chance to consume what I don’t need, cling to something as “Mine!”, or run away from responsibility or pain; one choice at a time I must place the ethic of compassion first and embrace with gratitude what is, even when “what is” is not my mess, or worse yet is my mess. Accepting that this messy, sometimes selfish, sometimes lazy and incredibly imperfect person is who I am, and that this harsh, materialistic and power hungry culture is my home environment but not neither of these realities are necessarily where I live or who I have to be.
*refers to the book “A Wrinkle in Time* which I am currently reading to my patients and personally think everyone will love and should read aloud to someone or someone’s at least once in their life.