He said he'd like to turn a doorknob. Pema (his mentor) was surprised. "Turn a doorknob?"
"I haven't opened or closed a door for more than thirty-five years. I would like to open my own doors and be free in that way."~From The Buddhist On Death Row by David Sheff
I just finished the first book I've read in 2021, The Buddhist On Death Row. I'm off to a slow start with reading. Usually I read a book a week. But the new year began with transitions. I wrote to a fellow blogger, apologizing that I'd not been more engaged with her posts. She graciously responded, "Transitions are hard." They are. I'm still finding the rhythm of this new town. The new library. Where to walk. The flow of my home that echoes with emptiness as we sold a lot of our furniture before moving in. These are not huge issues in the scheme of life, yet I've struggled with the changes. While I'm not Buddhist, I found solace in reading this man's story. His voice rang true in how he transcended his reality--living on death row, convicted and sentenced for a crime he did not commit. He could not turn actual doorknobs, yet he could close and enter doors in his mind. I have this choice too.
I woke one morning last week and looked out my new bedroom window. A white swan floated on the pond. I ran down the stairs and exclaimed to my husband, "Usually there are the brown and black geese swimming in the pond, but today I saw a white swan. Isn't that amazing?" My husband responded, "Well, Priscilla, contain your excitement. I read in the condo newsletter that they've placed fake swans on the ponds to repel the geese. They don't want the waste the geese leave to disrupt the ph balance in the ponds." The knowledge that this plastic swan had faked me out, left me feeling hollow.
The fraudulent swan, though, was a gentle reminder to adjust my expectations regarding change. When I worked as a counselor, I would often remind the clients with whom I collaborated that any change, good or bad, is challenging. Part of finding joy in change is to practice what psychologist, Marsha Linahan, refers to as "radical acceptance"--opening one's palms to "what is." I could practice accepting the changes by turning virtual doorknobs that opened portals of gratefulness, positivity and prayerfulness.
A loved one of mine who lives in Texas said to me in a phone conversation last week, "We lived in the dark and cold for days. When we finally got to a place with power and water, I climbed into bed, my mind racing with all I had to do, my anxiety at an all time high. I cried out to God. What do I do, Lord?" She went on, "I immediately felt peaceful and sensed He responded, 'Just enjoy the warmth. And rest. That's all for now.'"
This morning I awakened with a start, the sunrise glimmering orange and pink through my bedroom window, the fake swan still bobbing on the water. I laughed to see that four live geese fed on the grass near the pond.