I cannot control the Metro Bus. I know this, but sometimes I forget, particularly on a blustery morning when it is raining sideways. I usually use this time to blow bubbles, or wake up, or watch the universe unfold around me. On sideways rain days, however, I sometimes try to puppeteer the bus by chanting inside my head. Come now. Okay, now. You will come around the corner, and the heat will be on. Now! This minute! I mean it!
It doesn’t work. I just don’t have the power. I know this deep inside my bones, and so I only try this when I am very distracted. How do I know?
You’ve heard of trial and error? Trial by fire? I used the trial by cushion method. I’m a Zen girl, and I’ve spent a lot of time at silent meditation retreats. The schedule of these sesshins is fairly predictable—you sit still for 35 minutes, you get up and do a little walking meditation, and then you sit back down. Up down, up down, all day long. It can be intense, particularly when you are new to it. During these silent times you are supposed to be focused inward, not thinking about not thinking. One person monitors the time, and she gets up and strikes a bell when the sitting is over.
At my first retreat I spent every single sitting period thinking about the girl who was going to ring the bell. Get up, Suzy! Get up! Get up! Now! Go! Go! When I would hear her start to stretch and walk towards the wall, it would start again: Move faster. Hurry. Hurry! I spent three whole days in focused meditative silence trying to puppeteer that other Zen girl and it never worked once. What chance do I have out in the real world when I’m not so focused? None.
Why am I telling you this in a blog about joy? Isn’t a lack of control a cause for sorrow? Au contraire. When you know you cannot do something, you don’t have to waste your time trying. I find it a relief. I delegate control of the bus to Metro now. Then I sit back and I enjoy the ride.
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
10. Sit quietly for a while, and try to control someone using your thoughts. When you get tired of that, delegate control back to the universe.