I lost my mother's wedding ring this week.
I used to wear it on my right thumb, the only finger on which it would fit. I missed it, I pretty soon after losing it, but who knows how these things go. One of the other practicioners at the Shambhala center really believes we know everything that has happened to us, that it's all there, all the time. So part of me agrees. And part of me, not even guiltily or hopefully, just conceptually, believes I know when it left my finger. I have seen it every day for so many years, and so one would think I'd noticed it when it left my finger.
Only I was rushing. A great contemplative teacher notes that rushing has nothing to do with speed. It only has to do with the sense of pushing, the sense of force. You can rush and be going "slowly". That was all day Tuesday, when I lost it. I rushed out of bed, to give myself some kind of happy momentum. I rushed through breakfast, through voting, through buying groceries, through cooking, through eating. I rushed through gardening, my mother's favorite all-time activity, and the most likely place I lost the ring. My first thought, standing with no reflections on my finger from the bright, cold spring window, at the kitchen sink, was "I was rushing. That's how I lost it". Scotch's biggest lesson for me always was not to rush. My mother, who never worked a day in her life, this, I think, was her lesson to, though in my need to be needed by the world I have often overlooked this, hoping that if i just do enough, and well enough, I'll be able to stop at some point and chill. Right. Not going to happen. Likely I'll lose bits of myself along the way, as well. And die rushing right into my next life.
I attended a Sukavati at the center this last week - a Shambhala funeral service. It was very powerful and its main purpose is to attend to assisting the departed to slow down their now body-less (ergo light and rushing) spirit from careening into a bad next body choice. Although I had never met the woman, I cried when we burned her photo. No! I thought - you are killing her. As if she weren't already gone.
I finally cried about the ring this morning. Erika, who is such a good sport, drove me out to A to Z rental and we rented a metal detector, tested it on one of her rings, and scanned our front yard. A stranger passing by right away noted the irony (our yard is FILLED with metal sculpture), and that helped lighten it. We joked. It beeped. Mostly we found chunks of crap buried in the mulch. A phone call from a good friend and some hot chocolate later, I bawled, and a week's worth of reasons, of justifications, of feeling like it was ok just melted. It has to be ok. We didn't find the ring and we probably won't. I'll write some good poetry about it and feel bad about it sometimes. But the best thing I can do to honor the whole experience is to slow the fuck down. Erika even noted I was rushing to come to a determination, which likely would have been compromised, that we couldn't find it. This balance, between rushing to get done, and feeling horrible (I call it being in debt) because I rushed is key in my life.
I know what rushing feels like. Usually. Sometimes it takes slowing down even further to realize I was really, really rushing. That was this morning, this week. I can always stand to slow down more. No force, just always gentleness. Slowing is always gentle. I believe it. I've experienced it. It defies all logic, and I love that.
Postscript: a Friend invited me to go see Alan Clements this evening, whom I didn't know of until she asked me. On his website, this "former Buddhist monk cum comedian" describes an awakening moment involving, ironically, a wedding ring. I don't know much of his work, so I don't endorse him, nor am I sure I'll pay the 25$ to go see him today. But I had to share this, which is on his website www.worlddharma.com (excerpted from an interview with him): "In early 1996, driving back to Sarajevo from Srebrenica, the town where 9,000 Bosnian Muslims had been systematically executed over a 48-hour period, Alan and a friend came upon a mass grave being unearthed by workmen. In the middle of this pit of putrefying human flesh, he noticed an exposed hand with what looked like a wedding ring on one of the fingers protruding from the ground. Falling to his knees in what he describes as “existential anguish,” he realized at that moment that no matter what he knew or how free he assumed himself to be, his understanding of life, love and human consciousness was limited indeed."
Yep. Think you've slowed down enough, then a wedding ring comes along to remind you to slow down more.