It was about four years ago when I decided to start turning the rudder on the slowly plodding freight boat that is my life. I’ve been changing in ways big and small, transitioning to what many would call retirement. I see it not as retirement but as the final phase of my life, where my work is what I want to do to find fulfillment rather than what someone else wants me to do so that I can make a living.
Most of my work is here in this blog, Melting-Pot Dharma, but it’s also in continuing my spiritual development, teaching meditation, writing and delivering sermons in Unitarian Universalist churches, and helping others as best as I can to heal spiritually.
I’ve written about some of the big changes. But slowly plodding freight boats can’t make sharp turns. They need a series of small course corrections, so today I’ll talk about small changes that have made a difference.
Maybe it started with my first tattoo, at age 66, in August of 2012. The tattoo honored my sister’s memory and proclaimed my desire to live with the love that Christians call agape. It also was a first step toward living out my beliefs, being the person I want to be. I added a second, more visible, tattoo early this year after returning from a life-altering Dzogchen Buddhist retreat.
Another small thing was wearing a symbol of my spiritual life. At first it was a chain around my neck with a Buddha, a Unitarian Univesalist Chalice, and the Hebrew Chai, representing my Jewish heritage. After the death of my son Thomas last June 1, I began wearing around my neck the mala beads that he had worn on his left wrist. They became a great conversation-starter.
As a cultural as well as a religious contrarian, I like adapt to the current trends that some older folks resist. So after selling my business and moving into a smaller home, I stopped wearing a watch. And that has proved to be one of the small changes that’s hardest to adapt to. I keep glancing at my wrist. How can I make it through the day without always knowing exactly what time it is? My iPhone’s available for when I really need to know the time, but what about the rest of the day?
Hmm. So what started as a cultural adaptation became a spiritual one. We Buddhists like to live in the present moment — the here and the now — without fixation on past and future. But time is relative: 10:13 only matters because it’s not 10:12 or 10:14. As long as we have no pressing appointments, knowing the time is just another attachment.
I’ve been startled by how disorienting it is for me to be without a watch, which is of course a great lesson for me. Perhaps every temporal invention since the sundial has been the work of Mara, that demon who distracts us from Buddha-hood.
Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?
— Mel Pine (Urgyen Jigme)
Copyright 2016 © Mel Harkrader Pine
5 Comments Add yours
I remember my first meeting with a Zen teacher. I told him I’d been going through some stuff, something like this – “I seem disgusted with the outer world, like I want to shake it off… I can’t even stand wearing a watch.” Funny you should mention this!
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Interesting. A lot of symbolism in that watch.
So interesting … what comes up for me Mel is that people rely on me to show up at certain times. It would be an interesting exploration to see if I would still be there for them without a watch… and if my mind would not be taken up with wondering what time it is!
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I used to work in a job for a boss who didn’t wear a watch and made it other people’s business to keep track of time for her. She managed to live in the moment, but it was very stressful for other people. She was also chronically late for things and missed deadlines. She got extensions that I would have never thought to ask for. I like the idea of being her, of not wearing a watch, of not having to care what time it is, but I learned in that job that when other people are involved, it’s the respectful thing to do to keep track of your own time for yourself and be responsible with it. It probably can be done without a watch, but I still find a watch easier than having to look at my phone. Sometimes I just want to leave the phone in ky purse–or at home!
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I’s like to be both people — one who is not always conscious of the exact time and one who lives up to his time commitments. I hope to be mindful enough of the day around me and my appointments that I’ll know when to pay closer attention to the time. Maybe that’s a skill learned in timed meditation. I usually know when the meditation should end.