Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunk cost

[image: calligraphy by Jakusho Kwong]

So here I am. I heard from several readers after my "Last Post" the other day. Husband Tom said the same thing to me hadv said - you can expand your idea of Dalai Grandma. And in a way I had, in posting my anger. As to knowing what I do here, I also see that Not Knowing, that's pretty Zen, after all.

Who are you today?

I don't know.

As Seung Sahn would say, "Good. Only keep that Don't Know mind."

I woke up today feeling better, ready to go to church. I'd been thinking of all the people I would miss in this community, of the fact that I've invested 25 years there. Economists call that "sunk cost." Traditional economics says your decision about future investment shouldn't have anything to do with past investment, but behavioral economics finds that it does. We are "loss averse," a term the Buddha would have smiled at, I think. There isn't much the dharma doesn't cover.

Nowhere do people act worse than in a spiritual community, I told Tom. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe we monkeys are just bad in groups. A neighbor has a story about threatening to shoot out the tires on the truck of the tree guy working in the yard next door, culmination of a long, intricate feud. Meanness hurts worse in a religious setting, though, because we think that here, if anywhere, we are going to behave a little better than the chimpanzees. Okay, an ideal.

I had a rich mental life this morning. The very nice woman found me, pressed the Ziploc bag with the innocent, pretty Donate Life brochures in my hand, made such expressive hand and facial gestures that I really felt sorry for her. I knew my own face was showing some complex feelings.

She said, "I'm so sorry, there was no way . . ." No way to get past that difficult person, I thought. Someone on that committee who must hate me. I knew who that might be. But I am actually not sure who the core members are right now, or who was in that meeting.

Even as we were seated and the service began I found my eyes would light on someone and the words would leap energetically to my mind, Expletive you! My, I was aggressive. It was Expletive you for every one who was ever rude to me, maybe half a dozen people, little scenes popping up bright in memory. And expletive you, too! Funny, perhaps, in the recounting, but not fun really.

At the same time I was feeling a strong energy in the church, the good energy of hundreds of people, many of whom I've spent some time with over the years, of friends my heart leapt in gladness to see. Complex, good-hearted people, real solid people, face after face of men and women I trust and like, who would never have done this idiot thing. It was a special day, voting to affirm a new associate minister, and people were happy.

We read an affirmation by Dr. Martin Luther King about embodying peace. Music played, and I meditated a little, counting my outbreaths one through ten. Even the first breath surprised me with its depth. I lost track, started again. As we settled into the quiet time at the center of the service, I formed my hands in a mudra of intention, just the first two fingers touching the tip of the thumb, and thought, I want to be peaceful. I want to be peace. I could feel heat in my hands, and waves of peace came over me, and I simply calmed down.

Every meditator knows what it feels like to try really hard to meditate in a bad situation - I remember doing it one night, most of the night, in the ER with my mother, who'd had an anaphylactic reaction - and to have it not work the way you wish it would. This was an unusually powerful experience for me. It seemed to validate the years of investment in meditation. Mentally I thanked many teachers, who kept saying, each in their own way, "Keep sitting."

1 comment:

  1. Hahaha this is so funny. You can win a Nobel Peace Prize yourself.