“If we can’t be where we are, we can’t feel. If we can’t feel, we are unable to appreciate and care, and our most human trait—the yearning to connect —-is confined. We are like a river that is meant to flow but has now been dammed.” Sakyong Mipham in The Shambhala Principle.
Caring for old people is not rocket science. The resistance to it is great. But resistance can drop quickly.
Once when I was young, in my late 20’s, living in Santa Barbara, CA, I was resisting life. My agenda was to play it safe. Everyday was gray. I lived in a small apartment at the end of a long driveway. Each day I would plod down the walkway, go to work, plod back home like a cow heading to the pasture and heading back at dusk, head down following the backside of the cow in front. Then one day my foot crunched on the gravel, and it woke me up. I remember lifting my head and looking gradually up from gravel, to lilac bush bare of flowers, through the space between the neighborhood houses where I glimpsed the ocean. There was this humming aliveness: a barge on the horiz0n, blue sky, white clouds, the sound of birds, the whole world flowing, tweeting, smelling like roses and feeling good. Such curiosity arose, how could it be? With one foot crunch on rock, resistance dropped away and I longed for, I wanted to know how it could be? The question remains, How could it be?
I’ve had plenty of practice with resistance. My work, my life, my practice. I’m grateful for it, like how good it feels when the jack hammer stops. For instance when I visited Lane, who was small and walked with a big walker, she would want me to walk with her to the bathroom. She would pick up the big walker, move it up a few inches, then walk the smallest fraction of an inch. Bored and impatient, I knew I could walk this hall in 5 seconds. Lane would take 10 minutes.
Then a ray of light struck the metal walker. Startled from my low mood, I looked around, a spider web dangling over the door, paint peeling in an intricate pattern, the smell of the oil on the dark wood of the floor, the hiss of the big green oxygen tank standing in the corner, the clink of the walker and a sudden joy. Not rocket science, but the freshest moment now.