The Elephant in the Room

There’s an old story about 5 blind men who have no idea what an elephant is, until they are given the opportunity to explore, one by one.

The first feels its tail and reports back, “It’s nothing but a rope”.

The second feels a leg and says, “No you idiot, it’s a tree”.

Third man feels the ear, “What are you thinking, it’s a fan”.

Fourth feels its side and says, “Oh for Pete’s sake, it’s a wall”.

The fifth feels the trunk and says, “What are you all, blind?! It’s a snake”.

What we believe to be true is made up by our experiences and perceptions. Often we don’t appreciate the thoughts or opinions of others because, we feel we know what is true and real, even when some of our senses are hindered.

Dee and I often wonder how people describe us, especially after we’ve made a comment like, “She’s so nice” or “He’s a dope”, about someone else.

“I wonder if anyone thinks I’m nice… or sweet?”, she asks.

“Do you mean as in a sweet old lady? It’s not like you bake or anything”, I reply.

“Christie does think you’re funny though”, I add to be kind.

“Well, Diane said someone called me aloof. Is that a good thing?”

“Probably better than a know-it-all. Do you ever have those times where everyone is talking but you? Do people think I’m a good listener or just stupid?”, I ask somewhat rhetorically, which is my wont.

Being sisters, we can, tirelessly, have this same conversation at least every 6 weeks and never really come to any conclusion.

It’s interesting to wonder how we could be described by others. Chances are the descriptions would be based on the way they know us, as family members, friends, co-workers, students, opponents, teachers, parents, or partners.

“The whole is greater than a sum of its parts” is often, incorrectly, attributed to Aristotle. He wrote something similar but more complicated. None-the-less, the simplified version makes for a nice bumper sticker.

We are all multifaceted and sometimes it takes a while for the big picture to emerge. Letting go of the pieces we believe to be true about a person or a situation can be enlightening.

Sometimes I feel like I’m waiting for everyone to get it together and see that I’m not just the ass end of an elephant. “Would you let go of my damn tail and check out my ears? They listen. And the wall you think you feel is just a thin layer of skin making sure my innards don’t fall out.”

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

Perhaps the solution comes by patiently paying attention to ourselves just a little bit more. Notice a consistency or lack there of, in thoughts, words and deeds, in all situations. When we shed light on the truth in ourselves, it’s easier to find it in others, no matter what the relationship.

Then there’s this:

Five blind elephants were discussing what a man was. They plainly had no idea. One day they decided to investigate.

The first elephant went into a tent where a man was reported to be. When she came out she said, “Men are flat”.

The other four went in and after they came out they said, “Yes, you were right”.

Give it a minute.

Namaste- move that blindfold out of the way.

Finders Keepers?

The Nestle’s Quik tin was kept in a corner cupboard and to reach it required getting up on to the counter. I don’t remember when we were allowed to make chocolate milk by ourselves but it must have been after Had, Dee and I stopped spilling milk at dinner.
At least weekly one of us was banished to the kitchen to finish eating alone. I can still see me and my red Captain Kangaroo cup shunned until dinner was over. Something about milk dripping through the slats of the dining room table drove Mom crazy.
One day while pulling out the chocolate powder I noticed a red wallet. Inside was a ten dollar bill. Obviously I had discovered treasure. Finders keepers.
A few days later Had announced he had been robbed. THAT WAS HIS WALLET? 
I was mortified so of course I denied knowing anything about it. Apparently there was no doubt that Dee and I were innocent so interestingly the subject was dropped. I remembered thinking “phew, that was easy”.

Twenty years later, in a moment of pleasant sibling inebriation, I confessed to Had.
“Here’s ten bucks, I swear I didn’t know it was your wallet, don’t tell Mom”,

Even after all this time I was afraid of Mom’s reaction but assumed my secret would be kept. 

It wasn’t.

“I can’t believe you stole that money”, Mom said. “I was sure Keath took it so he was never invited to stay here again”.
Cousin Keath, from Kentucky, was an Eagle Scout and why she ever thought him capable of theft still astounds me. He was excellent at building tree houses and making spears. A couple of convicts escaped from Comstock Prison that summer so the spears were protection when going upstairs to bed.
For a short time I thought I should apologize to him, but didn’t. Look where the last confession got me.
My exciting discovery and subsequent shame followed years later by a drunken confession and more shame still wakes me up periodically in the middle of the night. My action and non-action affected so many people. Had was sad. Mom was mad. Keath was confused. Dee was relieved not to be a part of the story.
Asteya and Satya are two of the five Yamas that remind us how to engage with ourselves and the world around us. These two encourage non-stealing and truthfulness.
“I’m surprised I didn’t realize you were lying”, Mom said. “Usually your face gets beet red”.
That did it. Those two Yamas became ingrained. (Mama’s Yamas). When I find money on the ground, or anywhere, I either leave it or give it to the next person I see. I’m not taking any chances at having my face turn the color of Had’s wallet.

Namaste- find a treasure, give it away.

I’m so pretend busy.

I like being busy as much as I like sitting on the couch with a book. My to-do lists are long. My pile of books is big. Lists keep me organized and books keep me distracted.
Today’s List

Write the nieces.

Make up a dance about popcorn.

Vacuum the kitchen.

Plant some peas.

Check on IRS refund.

Think about a new business card.

Walk with Candy.

Buy candy.

Call Franny.

Plan another get-rich-quick scheme.

Do homework.

Teach 3 kids classes.

Teach 2 adult classes.

Some things on the list need immediate attention. Most of them don’t. Those that fall in the latter category are in bold. I like having a picture of things I have to do and reminder of things I’ll get to when I feel like it. 
Horribly paraphrasing Stephen Covey in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, there are 4 categories of stuff we have to do.

1. Important and urgent.

2. Important but not urgent.

3. Not important but urgent.

4. Not important not urgent.

Rumor has it we compile list #3 a lot whether on paper or in our heads. Put “I must, need or have to” in front of any of your (my) list items and it changes everything. It adds urgency where it may not be necessary. That’s being pretend busy.
And that leads to being so-stressed out, it’s no longer acceptable to be simply stressed, we need to be so-stressed.
At what point did being super busy or highly stressed become such a sought after human condition? When did we become inundated with talking about all the stuff we have to do ? Wouldn’t it be better to take the time spent mulling over our busyness and read Mad Magazine on the couch for a few minutes?
Don’t get me wrong. There are times I like making mountains out of molehills. I do that so others will feel sorry for me. They will cut me some slack for not completing my to-dos. The thing is they didn’t make up the list, I did. 
Satya (saht-ya) the second Yama, is truthfulness. Be truthful to ourselves and others. 
You: “I am so stressed out, I have so much to do before the weekend.”
Me (not practicing Satya): “I hear you!”

My reply intimates that I am as stressed and as busy as you.  No way I’m going to admit that I’m looking forward to an afternoon with Georgia on the sofa. If you’re busy I am too. So I’m not being truthful.
Remember yoga is not just a physical practice, it’s a mental one. It takes practice to hone down our lists and focus on what is really important. Cut yourself some slack and redo your to-do list. What’s really important? What’s really urgent? Be truthful. What must you do today and what do you get to do today?

New list:

Breath in.  Breath out. Repeat.

Namaste- Georgia and I are lying on the porch today!