As many of you could, if pressed, probably attest to, I’m not the kind of person that spends a lot of time regaling tales of the past with the kind of fervent passion I’ve observed in others. I make a conscious choice of this, choosing instead to exist in the present moment rather than recount aloud the things I’ve done and experienced merely for their own sake. I’ve always wondered what the point of that was. Sure, in high school my group of friends would spend a fair share of time reminiscing; generally about band trips and the loads of fun they were. It was kind of a team building exercise. “Yeah,” we would say symbolically to ourselves, “we did that together, we had shared experiences. Hey, remember when Guen ________!!!” (wow I really was a strange kid). In this way we would cement our bonds, swapping similarities and re-living moments of time.
What about other reasons for sharing stories? I’ve always internally labelled as arrogant those that go on and on about themselves and their past to others it has little relevance to. Yes, I’m working with my judgemental self. I just can’t seem to let go of that two year-old inside of me, the one that continually asks why. Why talk about the past, recounting strangers (or nearly so) with unfamiliar anecdotes lacking all reference to situations at hand. Even if they are somewhat of a tangent from the present moment – what is the gain in sharing them?
I found myself recounting anecdotes that had only slight references to situations at hand this past week. Swami Samayananda has moved into the back office while the regular office manager is taking the three month YDC. She’s here to oversee and to ensure the office and bookstore are running smoothly. She’s an absolute powerhouse of action, confidence, and ability. Breaking apart the human experience into its three parts of spiritual, physical, and mental-emotional, I would consider her as having command over the physical, tangible reality. Of course there are layers upon layers to people and I cannot fathom what decades of spiritual work and practice would bring to an individual so I cannot presume to indicate this is her area of forte, merely that it is an area that I see in her and wish to gain a greater command for, and in, myself. In some ways I feel utterly disconnected from her and, at times, struggle greatly to express myself in a free flowing manner that I so easily maintain with others. In the months I’ve spent reflecting on this conundrum I am really coming to see it as exemplifying the weakness of mine to function solely on the tangible, quantitative plane of reality that rationalists are always claiming (weakly at that if I do say so myself) is the one true reality. How can I only function on this plane when there are so many other parts of me all existing at the same time?
Having been given the opportunity to now interact on a much more frequent basis than previous with Swami Samayananda I am learning heaps about clearly articulating this part of me. One way I’ve been doing this is to recount stories of my past. I see it as a kind of ice-breaker. It’s like we’re getting to know each other. Well, she’s getting to know me at least; Swamis don’t really talk about their pasts very much. There we are, perusing sales reports and catalogues for purchasing summer inventory and I break into a tale I remember from my childhood. Not some deep, soul-opening expression of how I always had to do what my brothers wanted for fear of being left to play alone..and blah blah blah. She’s certainly heard a fair share of those kinds of stories from me over the months in other contexts. No, this was a rather innocuous little thing. Regardless I started to get a little nervous as I began. Remember, she’s very confident this woman, and my admiration of this trait, desiring to cultivate it within my own person, can sometimes make things come out a little stilted. She sat patiently. “Well, go ahead and see if you can,” she responded to my observation I was having difficulty finding the right words. I did. And I could. And little instances like that are how I get practice expressing myself with these feeble things called words with a person I feel little connection with on more subtle levels. Subtle levels that I’ve spent much more time cultivating in myself than I have the simple and practical. Perhaps this whole story-telling business has more merit than I’ve given credit. I shouldn’t be so quick to judge.