Although the overall theme of my European trip was to experience the homelands of my ancestors, another daily focus was embracing this challenge: to view nothing as wrong. That is, to see the rightness in every situation.
Seeing the rightness was tough for me, as, obviously, not everything went perfectly over the course of two weeks—or, I don't know, maybe it did. I no longer think I know what cosmic perfection looks like. :) As a J.M. Barrie character says in one of his plays:
"I am not young enough to know everything."
So I'll just say: not everything on my trip went as planned and it was often tempting to view the things that didn't go as planned as wrong. I.e. to judge the situation.
We live in a judging world. We're trained to judge from birth, educated in the realm of the dualistic mind. The world of opposites, where everything that is positive has its negative waiting for us on the other side of the coin. Good/Evil. Pleasure/Pain. Right/Wrong. Etc.
So, it's tempting to judge events automatically—without even thinking. My new practice had three parts. When something happened I would attempt to:
b.) Not judge or label the situation as wrong
c.) Decide the situation is right as is
Now, I certainly didn't always get to the last step (or even the first), but, just like with meditation, I view this lens-change not as something one "achieves" but, rather, as an ongoing practice. It's a practice I hope to continue now that I'm back home because it helped me move through the world with a little more ease.
Rumi has a lot to say about ongoing practices. In his poem The Sunrise Ruby he writes:
"Work. Keep digging your well.
Don't think about getting off from work.
Water is there somewhere.
Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door.
Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who's there."
In Matthew 7:7, Jesus said, "Knock and the door will be opened unto you."—but sometimes I want the door to open on the first knock, you know? I love how Rumi keeps it real with timing. Keep knocking. Eventually.
[Aside: some Bible translations say: "Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you." but the version above was the one I memorized as a child. Always nice to remember the Bible was not written in English. (Nor were Rumi's poems, for the record.)]
Now I'm going to share some examples of things on my trip which were tempting to label as "wrong." I want to be clear these are not complaints; in fact, the opposite. But not really the opposite because when you commit to seeing the rightness in everything, you essentially commit to transcending the pervasive dualistic worldview. You leave the world of opposites. You stop creating self-made "problems" and take Kierkegaard's advice to heart in real time:
"Life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced."
In short, you stop creating pain in the present. (Tolle has so much to say on this in The Power of Now.) Of course this isn't easy! But it is...simple. I'd argue it's—ultimately—easier than making every damn thing that happens in your life that slightly deviates from your expectations a new problem.
Anyway, I can now see these trip moments as valuable teachers:
In Cologne, it rained one day. In Prague, the famous astronomical clock was under construction and covered by a tarp to be revealed on September 28; I left Prague on September 25. In Berlin, I began menstruating at a quite inconvenient time. In Paris, it turns out the French painters' wing (the Sully) of the Louvre is closed on Monday, my last day in Europe and the day I went to the museum. In hopes of seeing Monet and based on a Louvre worker's recommendation, I walked to the Musée d'Orsay, which, it turns out, is closed on Monday in its entirety.
It is tempting to start each of these sentences with the word "unfortunately." But must everything be judged and labeled? Must everything be categorized as "good" or "bad"? Can some things just be? Can I cultivate a little faith that I am guided and that everything is happening in perfect timing for me? Can I do this in the present moment rather than years later in hindsight? Can I see the rightness? That was my challenge, and still is.
Some of the "rightness" was instantly apparent. The rainy day in Cologne led me to spend time in an emotionally moving museum and then a beautiful church and then a cozy literary cafe where they didn't have English menus but they did have Bob Dylan playing over the speakers.
Some of the rightness is more elusive. I don't yet "know" the silver lining of not being able to see Claude Monet paintings while I was in France, but maybe that's okay. Maybe it's enough in the moment not to judge. Not to torture myself with "woe is me" narratives and just move on. (Hilariously, that day, I also walked to a restaurant that was full for lunch, another small museum that was "exceptionally closed on October 1" as per a sign taped to the door and then a creperie that was closed on Mondays. The Universe was really driving this message home!)
But that's why it's a practice. A polishing of a lens, not flip of a switch. I will continue to knock, continue to dig my well, continue to look for the rightness in each situation. It was beautiful to see new places, and equally beautiful to see the lens through which I view the world with a little more clarity.
My first night in Paris, I stumbled upon the Notre Dame Cathedral as the sun was setting, golden rays magnificently illuminating the beautifully intricate building. There were swarms of people taking photos. Adjusting shirts, sucking in stomachs, seeing the Notre Dame through their phones. Then, there was one girl, seated cross-legged, in the midst of the large square who was still and peaceful, looking at the building. A quote came into my head that I'd first read a year or so ago. Initially, I'd disliked it; it had felt somewhat aggressive and accusatory to me. But it came to me then in Paris, and deeply resonated. It was Wayne Dyer:
"Change the way you see things and the things you see will change."
I sat down in the busy square, put my phone in my pocket. And I looked.
By seeing new parts of the world, I learned to see my own world differently. And I'm starting to believe, with a little faith and patience, we can (eventually) see rightness unfolding in many more places than we initially think.
with Love and with Light,
p.s. I missed writing to you while I was away; I hope your October is unfolding with beauty and with ease.