Rainy day

I woke up achy, tired, and lazy. I heard rain falling outside my window. I looked at my tablet and noticed I had slept in. It was 5:40am. I usually start my day at 5:00am with meditation and a little yoga. Today wasn’t going to be a swim day at the YMCA, either.

Today feels like a pause day. A day with few expectations. A day to watch the rain and listen to it hitting the leaves on the trees, the roof, and going down the gutter.

After I did a little chanting to calm my mind and be in a place of receptivity, I made myself ready to meditate and invite Sri in for a conversation. I sat cross legged on my yoga mat and pulled out a pen and paper.

A very dear friend and mentor taught me to clear my mind with saying “One” in my mind after I inhaled a long breath, and then saying “One” again in my mind after I exhaled all my breath. After about three long breaths, my mind felt pretty blank.

I then imagined forming a giant soap bubble suspended in the air in front of me. It glistened with all these swirling colors you find in bubble bath bubbles which are beautiful and mesmerizing. Then, I breathed in, imagining the breath coming in through the top of my head. When I breathed out, I imagined it coming out of my heart and expanding the bubble. I continued with this. After about ten breaths, the bubble before me in my imagination was large enough for me to sit in comfortably. I imagined myself moving into this bubble, and leaving my ego behind. There I sat in my God bubble.

I thought about calling in Sri to continue our discussion on competition, power, lack, scarcity, duality, fear, and many other things that churned up in me, but all I was pulled to at the moment was the rain. I wondered if I could talk to the rain instead today.

I said a little phrase I was taught to connect to anything. Here, I am connecting with the rain. “I am you, you are me, we are on eternally. Now I see what God sees.”

I imagined I was the rain, the cloud, falling, blessing, washing away a film of pollen that seemed to coat everything. I imagined as the rain I was blessing the gardens, trees, and lawns. I imagined birds singing and splashing in puddles created by the rain. I felt a calm, nurturing motherly love.

I imagined the rain falling, running in rivulets into a stream a short distance from my house. Then I imagined I was the rain and water that trickled into the stream, then was the water going down the stream over rocks and into the state park near my home. That park used to belong to a coal mining company, and soon after a tragic accident where several miners died, the land was donated to the city to become a park. It has seven trails and sits on over 270 acres. This park then is a ravine, or hollow, as folks back in my Midwest town would call it. The park is perfect for allowing the rain to cascade in dozens of tiny streams down to the main stream below.

I feel the rain is blessing the land, especially after the coal mining events and devastating major floods that happened the past 100+ years in the area. I imagine the rain today is full of love and wet kisses.

Now it’s time to snuggle up with a cat in a big chair and work on a knitting project as I continue to look at on the rain. Rainy days have their place.

The Purpose of Competition

I started my laps at the YMCA and this time envisioned the druidic rune Othala again. With my mind, I drew the diamond with the little tails hanging down at the bottom in front of me and swam through it.

I found myself in a beautiful English garden. I’ve never been in one actually, but I’ve seen pictures with all the varieties of colors and shapes lining a sidewalk, bursting in colors and smells. A brick path meanders and I follow it to a bench underneath a towering oak tree with heavy, outstretched limbs. I glance down at what I am wearing and it appears like a soft cotton shell sundress that falls down just above my knees, so perfect for a walk in an English garden.

I sat down and noticed Sri sunning himself, stretched out on his back in a soft pile of deep green moss. He did a complete body stretch so that his whiskers down to his toes shook as he flexed every muscle in his body in one move. He then stood up, arched his back for yet another body stretch, then came over to me and leapt up to a short wall so he was at eye level with me.

As before, he spoke with his mind to mine. Because he was technically speaking, I will continue with quotation marks. “Today let us talk about the purpose of competition. Just what is competition?”

I started. “Well, I suppose it’s two sides trying to outperform each other. It usually involved moving a ball of some sort around a field or court or boundary of some kind. One team wins, and the other loses.”

“Let’s focus on the winners and losers. Why is that important?”

I thought on that for a moment. It seemed so obvious. Winning was much more important than losing. Everyone knew that. The whole point of competition was winning. I thought this would become a very short conversation. “Well, the winner means they are successful. They are better in some way than the other team.”

“So being better than someone else is the goal of competition?” Why is this so? What does it feel like to win?”

“Why it feels glorious. It is a wonderful high. It is exhilarating. It is the whole point of the competition.”

“So why keep competing over and over again? Isn’t it enough to just say to yourself, ‘I’ve experienced that, so I can experience other things now?’ You could go experience losing, for instance.”

“But no one wants to lose,” I responded. “Losing is painful. Losing is shameful. You just want to crawl under a blanket and sleep if you lose.”

“Hmm,” expressed Sri, which sounded like a stuck purr to me. “Then winning is good and losing is bad. When did you learn that?”

I thought for a moment back to grade school. “Well, in third grade, we started playing dodge ball in gym class once a week.”

“Tell me more about that.”

“Well, half the class was put on one side of the gym and the other side on the other side of the gym.” I remembered we had a very small gym, designed for little people. It could be called a “half court” gym, with the room being about twenty x 40 feet. “Then, a big red rubber ball was tossed to one side to begin the game. They threw the ball at the other side, and if the ball hit someone before it touched the back wall of the gym, that person was out and had to sit along the sides of the court. Then the ball is picked up and thrown back to the other side of the court. The game continues until there is just one person left standing.”

“Very curious game. And what did you learn?”

“That winning was better.”

“Explain what made it better.”

I thought it was obvious. “Because you can stay in the game longer.”

“Why is staying in the game better?”

“Because you can continue with that excitement, that high of being in the game.”

“What about those who were hit by the ball? Was it exciting to sit on the side and watch the game?”

“Maybe for some it might be exciting. There could be a really fast student that was clever and could jump and avoid the ball. Then people would cheer him on. But for others, after a while the game was boring and they just would sit and chat with their friends.”

“You mentioned that was a game in the third grade. What sorts of games did you play before then?”

I looked up at the tree, then thought, “well, we had a little spinning merry-go-round on our playground. We would each grab a hold of a metal bar, then jump on it and then spin around and around.”

“Was it exciting?”

“Why yes! Very exciting.” I could feel my heart skip a beat as I recalled the excitement.

“Were there any winners or losers?”

“I suppose we all were winners. We all laughed and enjoyed it.”

Sri then raised his eyebrows, or in this case, the whiskers above his eyes moved up and out so they resembled eyebrows. “So, it’s possible to enjoy without competition?”

“Maybe for little kids, perhaps. You outgrow playing like that, I suppose. Competing and winning is better. ”

“Why is it better? Let’s go back to where you were taught winning is better. Tell me an early memory of where you learned winning is better.”

This I could quickly answer. “Why it’s everywhere! Everything seems to be a competition, from best breakfast cereals to best fast food burgers to best cars to best sports teams. In elementary school, the best students were given gold stars on their homework assignments or received awards at the end of the school year.”

“Now tell me about grade school again and those gold stars that were handed out. Did everyone get gold stars?”

“No, not at all. I myself could go weeks without getting a gold star.”

“Did you feel there was a limited supply of stars, that only some people could get the gold star?”

“Actually, something like that occurred. The teachers called it ‘grading on a curve.’ On a difficult test, the highest grade would be equivalent to getting the gold star. Then everyone else was ranked against that one grade so most people received no stars at all.”

“So would you say there was a shortage of stars?”

“I hadn’t thought about it, but yes. There were a limited number of stars given to students. Not everyone received a star.”

“By there being a shortage of stars, did that make you work harder to get the stars?”

“Yes, it would if I was pretty good, and almost got a star, but my grade total was just a little too low.”

“What if everybody got a gold star?”

“I and everybody would say the test wasn’t hard enough. It wasn’t competitive enough.”

“Ah, so if everyone wins, there’s no competition. It’s not fun. There’s no drive to do better. But why be best? What is the driving force behind being best?”

“I think it is something about being successful. I felt that same high, that same energy when I got a star on a paper or was recognized for doing something outstanding.”

“Interesting,” Sri said as he yawned. “Tell me more about success now. That’s relevant in this discussion about competition.”

“If you are successful, you can move up. I was taught in school that if you are successful in school, and you do really well on tests, that you can get into a really good college. When you get good grades in college, you can get a good job after college. Then you can have a successful career, successful marriage, and be able to go on vacations and buy things like a new car or house in a good neighborhood.”

“Interesting. So how early in life are you taught all this about success?”

“I think it started in Kindergarten, when the teachers asked us to dream about what we wanted to be in life. It was all about being successful in some way.”

“So let me get this straight. Competition creates winners and losers, where winning is good and losing is bad. Competition is exciting. Competition creates an adrenaline rush, which is akin to being successful. Success is then measured in being able to do things, such as go places or buy things. So following this logic, it appears that the purpose of competition is consumerism. Do you agree?”

“Wow!” I never made that connection before.

“Imagine you are attending a sporting event. What would happen if you sat at the side and celebrated whenever anyone from either side made a great play or scored?”

“I’d probably get yelled at by the folks I was sitting near who supported the opposing team, or have something thrown at me. It wouldn’t be wise to cheer for the other team.”

“Ah, so there are rules to watching a competition as well as playing it?”

“Yes of course. You can wear the colors of the team you support, sit with others for that team, and cheer when everyone else cheers and sometimes boo when everybody else does that.”

“So the competition is also about uniformity, and everybody acting the same, somewhat dressing the same, and speaking the same, is that correct?”

“I suppose if you put it like that, yes that’s true.”

“And if you step outside of the norm, and cheer both sides, then the crowds police you and try to bring you back into line with the norm. Do I have that as you understand?”

I felt like ever so slightly a film had lifted from my vision and I saw more clearly for just a few seconds. I was thinking about something that had never occurred to me. Thinking back to geometry class with hypotheses and correlations, this is what I deduced:

  1. Competition is good
  2. The goal of competition is to win. Winning is good. Losing is bad.
  3. If you don’t play by the rules in even watching the competition, others around you will try to get you to conform to the rules and watch the competition in the right way.
  4. Winning competitions is successful.
  5. Not everyone can be a winner. There are winners and losers.
  6. There are a limited number of winners, so there is scarcity and lack.
  7. Winning in class, in school, in college, in work is the goal.
  8. Winning = success.
  9. When you are successful, you earn more money, and will be able to buy stuff.
  10. There are a limited number of people who can be successful. Scarcity is implied.
  11. Buying lots of stuff helps the economy, and more stuff is created.
  12. Competing and winning is an endless loop. You can’t just compete and win once and just enjoy that high feeling once then move on to another experience. You have an internal voice telling you to continue competing and winning throughout life.
  13. If you don’t participate in the rules of competition, such as root for both sides of a game, you will be forced by the public to play the game the right way or to be silenced.
  14. The purpose of competition is non-stop consumerism. It is taught and reinforced throughout life

“Yikes!” I thought. No wonder why many people are miserable. The premise is wrong. With that, I stood up and the garden disappeared and I found myself in an old parking lot with weeds, pot holes, and trash. Nearby was an old city swimming pool reeking of chlorine. I jumped into the water, created the Othala symbol and swam through it. I found myself back at the YMCA. I stopped swimming, touched the wall for the last lap, and pulled myself out of the pool. My head was spinning. This encounter only raised more questions.

The journey continues.

Introducing Sri

I left for the YMCA just after six am as I do most mornings to swim laps. I slipped into my swimsuit, put my long brown hair in a pony tail, then put on my gear. I donned a bright pink swim cap, goggles, and a timer that slipped over my index finger. With the timer, I had previously used a lap counter timer which I would tap after I had gone down and back to count as one full lap. I made the mistake and ordered just a counter that ran until you pushed the button again to stop it. But are there really any accidents?

So, once in the pool, I just let it run as I swam back and forth and back and forth in slow breast strokes. Breathe. Stroke. Stroke. Blow out breath under water. Breathe again. Touch the wall, change direction, then continue.

I began to think about my lucid dream a few nights ago where I found myself in a place where I could create my reality. I thought to myself, “When I go back there, I need a guide, someone to talk to who can help me sort all this out.” I swam back and forth in the pool a few more laps, and then imagined I was swimming in a lagoon, with a glistening sandy bottom sparkling like tiny jewels. The sun was warm and bright against my skin. Just then I imagined a dolphin swim by me.

I then imagined I was sitting on a big flat rock at the edge of the water and drying off in the sun and breeze. I was still wearing my swim suit. My goggles and swim cap were gone. I looked around and saw a golden wild cat sitting there sunning himself nearby. I say golden, because he had a golden glow to him, that emanated from what appeared to be inside him. I say wild, because he didn’t look tame, such as curling up on my lap for a nap kind of cat. He stood up, stared at me with large blue eyes, the deep color of the sky on a clear day, stretched, and laid back down.

I was curious who or what this cat was. I asked him, “What are you?”

He sat up, looked at me, and simply said with his mind, “I am that.”

I thought that was a strange way to define yourself. I was hoping for something else, like I am a cat from the mystical island of Mu, a sentry for the gods and goddesses. Something glamorous. Something with mystique. I was hoping for a guide.

He dampened a paw with his tongue then washed the top of his head with that paw. Then he said again, “I am that.”

I was beginning to wonder if he would be like one of those parrots that appear all clever to speak yet have a limited vocabulary. But then he spoke again. “What were you expecting?”

I thought, “Maybe a lion, a dragon, a unicorn, a fairy, or even a mermaid? A cat seems so, um, ordinary.”

The cat paused washing his head and looked at me and said, “I could be in any form, because form does not exist. You imagined me as a cat.”

“Whoa,” I thought. “Form does not exist? What do you mean by that?”

He stopped washing his head and laid back down. The cat sighed. “Look,” he said. “You think you are right now swimming in a pool inside a building. And yet you are here with me now, sitting in the sun. You can feel the sun and can taste the salt spray. I could have come in any form. I could have been that dragon if you wished.”

Immediately he transformed into a towering twenty foot tall green dragon with bright red eyes like rubies. His size blocked much of the sky and sun, putting me into a deep shade. Just his front foot alone was the size of a dinner platter.

“Maybe not that,” I thought. “You’re so big and intimidating looking. Rather than me thinking of you as a guide, I’d be forever thinking about if you’d want me for lunch. I’ll stick with the image of a cat, thank you.”

He laughed, which came out sounding like a cross between a meow and a purr. He then shrank back down into the form of the golden cat sitting before me.

“So what is your name?”I asked. “I don’t want to just call you Cat. That would be so uncultured.”

“I don’t need a name. Names are meaningless. I just AM.”

I felt some sense of deep wisdom coming in those words, even though I was far from understanding them as of yet. It felt like I was speaking to someone ancient, someone wise. I thought of the Indian gurus and guides and how some had the preface Sri (pronounced Shree) before their name as a sign of their position.

“May I call you Sri?” It’s more of a title and not a name. I really don’t want to call you Cat.”

He yawned, curling a pink tongue as his whiskers and ears went back momentarily. Then he said, “If you must. Sri will be acceptable.”

I knew by this time that it was about time for me to get out of the pool. I imagined saying my goodbye to Sri and diving back into the clear blue lagoon waters. Then I checked my watch. Fifty minutes had transpired. I pulled myself out of the pool.

The adventure continues.