Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Being here (3) …. Being there, and not

Being here (3) …. Being there, and not
Torrey Orton
June 22, 2010
"Being interested in others' interests…"

I was asked (in that 'you must have been...' way that people often do) by a waitress in my local coffee shop if I was excited about being on vacation in France. I actually couldn't reply for a bit and stumbled around for a few more bits until the barista piped up from his lunch a few tables away to volunteer that I probably wasn't excited about something I'd done often. But, I was stumbling for another reason – something I still can't access or express clearly.

The experience I had just had was of being there on vacation pretty constantly. I wasn't irritated about being there, about not being elsewhere (at work in some sense). The best evidence of that was not feeling anxious about almost anything for 18 days. I didn't even read all of one (Eugen Herrigel's The Way of Zen; I commend it to those getting into being) of the books I'd taken for empty spots. I did, of course, take the machinery of my reflection along and tapped at it regularly, but not obsessively. More like there was a routine I follow which I enjoy, but am not preoccupied with. The result of being there was noticing things, and noting some noticed things in my standard breast pocket note pad for exploration. So, I was exercising awareness development without trying to.

Another evidence that I was there rather than somewhere else: my almost unflappable flexibility about all things travelling. Often I'm quite obsessive about certain aspects, with a tendency to angry irritation when things look a little out of line in the transport division (lateness, delays, etc.). Similarly, I found it pretty much totally easy to be with Jane's interest in visiting here and there. These are not things I would have chosen to do, but doing them was almost totally with unrestrained ease, followed often by interest (as reflected in some of June's blog posts). In a sense, I was accompanying her on her trip and found myself able to be with it all the way. She had done all the detailed trip construction tasks over months last year.

I realise that an insight I had in the Place St George in Toulouse (June 4, '10) applies here. This realisation is what I was heading for when I started this post 5 days ago though I didn't know I was coming here, yet I already knew the end three weeks ago! I wrote in my trusty notepad: "Being interested in others' interests is hard but if I am not (interested in them) I'm disconnected or disconnecting." My interest in her interests opened doors on other interesting things as well.

This being there (in France and Spain), being present to that experience and Jane's interests which drove it, allowed certain perceptions to occur in the open spaces of my unpreoccupied awareness – notably things to do with the mountains and waters, and their sounds in particular. I had another perception of a background sound in the Cafe Iruna (see excellent interior photo here) in Bilbao. On a Sunday afternoon, the day of our arrival from San Sebastian by bus, we got a table for two on family day (perhaps every day is, but this one was certainly so) in a visual marvel, with a nice medium buzz of humanity – animated but not loud. Part way into the consumption of the Menú del día, I became aware of a very light background rhythm, musical genre undistinguishable, but marked by running a little below the pace of breathing and operating almost at the visceral level of hearing.

Further through our meal (three courses and a whole bottle of quite drinkable local red for 37 Euros approx., tout compris!), a baby at one of the larger tables nearby started up the child's plea which touches all adults' hearts, one way or another. It's squally invasion was balanced by a slight rise in the general level of conversational noise in the room. No one I could see was orchestrating, but then maybe I was imagining….

…. being there happens like this. It's little wonder this beginner at being here has trouble being there! How could I have said that in 15 seconds between the waitress's deliveries?


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