Central Park. A baseball game. A rooftop view. A beach. Some dudes at a bar. Dude at the beach. A girl posing in her underwear. *delete*
A thumb blocking the view. Dude with another girl. *zoom in*
Sunsets. Videos on a boat. The underwear girl again.*delete*
And again. *delete* *delete* *delete*
I almost miss my stop and have to run out of the train, but I spied enough of this dude’s phone to know what he was up to. As I come above ground, I go back to my stream of consciousness about unemployment, being broke and running out of couches to surf, three of the hottest numbers on my current mental Top 40.
It takes about two blocks for me to get out of my head and notice the looping rant behind me. Confusing at first, I start to recognize some kind of pattern:
“Well MAYBE, when someone holds the door for you, you should say thank you. RIGHT? well OF COURSE NOT, you ASSHOLE! you just walk out and don’t say thank you. YOU DON’T SAY THANK YOU! but maybe, when someone holds the door for you, you’d say thanks. RIGHT?”
It went on and on and on, and got louder by the second. Poor guy, I think. NYC subways raise your level of insensitivity to homeless nutjobs to the inhumane, but this one was particularly touching. As I make the turn towards my place the voice keeps rising and gets even angrier, like those kids that know their crying blackmail is not getting them what they want. I turn around to look at him: he wasn’t homeless and he wasn’t talking to himself. The guy in the very decent suit was yelling at ME.
As I sip on my tea and hear the bell ring, an amazing sense of gratitude keeps my chest warm. Having found this group in NYC feels like an oasis – the place where I’m most likely to feel at home if only for a couple hours every week.
It comes, of course, with all the characters you would expect to see at a meditation gathering: dudes in monk robes chat with girls that change their names to ethnically ambiguous concoctions, but there’s also social workers, stay at home moms, Russian plumbers, and just about anything else.
There is also Jason. He seems like your garden variety of unassuming American dude, but unlike most, he’s deeply into this stuff. He sits, meditates, and reads those Thich Nhat Hanh books like there’s no tomorrow. Ask him about how his practice has changed his life, and he’s likely to shed a tear or two.
Jason, just so happens, is also a republican.
When he said this for the first time, it felt like a sip of a coffee where I had accidentally poured salt instead of sugar. After hearing him defend non-violence and Bush’s foreign policy back to back, I was convinced he was just an undercover monk putting us through a particularly hard meditation practice on acceptance.
I noticed something else, too: the laundry list of assumptions I casted upon him the moment the words came out of his mouth. It’s like a drop down menu of things I can criticize him for, none of them based on what I know of him so far but on what his words are supposed to imply.
It is not the Freedoms, Moons and Gaias that I want to decipher. It is Jason who I’m puzzled by the most.
Mindfulness and rambling subway dudes have one thing in common: they help me realize how often I contradict the stuff I choose to believe in. They also help me understand the contradictions in the people I admire and the greatness of the people I’m supposed to despise. Sometimes it feels like fitting a triangle in a square, but for the most part it’s very liberating.
Thanks to this, I’ve taken on a funny practice of never saying the word should again. “You should do this to…”, “I should have already…”, “It should be…” Man, that shit creates way too many expectations. It gets in the way of empathy and acceptance. So I’ve decided to drop it entirely and It’s been working great so far – you should try it!
I wonder what we’d think of the people that came up with the stuff we believe in if we had had a chance to know them. I wonder what philosophers, messiahs and martyrs would look like in times like ours, where their teachings would be shared on Instagram and Twitter instead of filtered by decades and decades of disciples. I wonder if we’d judge less had we seen some pics of Jesus at a strip club or the Buddha at a steak house.
I wonder if we’d be more understanding.