A remarkable thing happened to me on Friday. One of those graced moments when the light bulb goes on, when the click clicks.
I had a solitary week. I had aimed to clear a lot of time for writing, but I cleared too much.
Around 4pm on Friday, I started to crave people, bigtime. Social connection. Community. Belonging. Friends. Interaction.
We had no real weekend plans. Often we don’t. I’m not sure what I’ll be in the mood for so I plan nothing, and then I get stuck in a kind of resentful loneliness.
As I wrapped up my work, I started to worry. What would we do tonight? Many of our friends were out of town. Others were already booked.
We live in a big city. There’s no Cheers-type bar we can walk into where everybody knows our names. We don’t go to a church, or synagogue, or roller rink. There’s no way we can access insta-community.
I was walking home, full of longing for connection, frustrated and worried about our lack of plans. This is usually the moment where my train of thought launches way out into space, like a rocket ship, visiting pseudo-relevant subjects like these: Why don’t we belong to a spiritual community of some sort? What will we do about that? Why didn’t I make plans earlier? Why don’t I know more people? What will we ever do about the fact that my husband is an introvert and I’m an extrovert? Those are the kind of helpful places my mind goes.
Today, something different happened. Just like a split hair, as one train of thought started to go into that painful litany of questions and complaints, another train went somewhere else. It said, “Oh well, this (craving to see people) is just a feeling. It will pass. Maybe it will be satisfied tonight or maybe not, but it will pass. And you’ve lived through many a feeling not being satisfied before.”
Just a feeling? I had read that phrase in Zen books here and there, but I had never spontaneously thought the thought before. Certainly not in a moment of emotional difficulty. This “just a feeling” consciousness was relaxing, it came from somewhere in my spine, not from my head. It was felt, not abstract.
I was free, I realized. I could work to address the feeling or not, but I wasn’t all caught up in it. I wasn’t identified with it. I didn’t think it was anything bigger than a feeling. I could see it was temporary, unpredictable, rather arbitrary and, get this– kind of unimportant – not because it was about weekend plans, but because it was just a feeling. One more like or dislike, one more desire or aversion, in the grand, life-long parade.
As I walked home, exploring my new discovery, I thought, this is why I read the spiritual books. The ideas go into us, in their own way and in their own time, and they make a difference. They really do.
It’s just a feeling. You are so much bigger, more still, more vast than that. There is the wind, and there is sail, and there is the ocean floor.