One of the best things about living in New York is, of course, The New York Times. But having been so long a Californian, where most of the news is gossip, I find the paper overwhelming from the sheer bulk of it, all the while worrying about the trees. I heard once how many trees have to fall in the forest for there to be a New York Times, and the part of my heart that is heavy with compassion has obliterated it, as for me compassion includes forgetfulness.
But I do get it on weekends, so was up on the news about China, just in time to go to Petrossian on my way to the theater, where lunched at the corner table a beautiful young Chinese couple. clearly married, newly it looked like. I greeted them on their way out, knowing how to say Thank You in Chinese, but looking to enlarge my vocabulary. I asked if they had children and they said 'Not yet,' but were going to. "Now you can have two," I said, having absorbed the headline, relieved, as Obama must be, that it's not about him.
"Oh you are up on the news," they said, somewhat amazed. "That is only from yesterday."
And then I could not help but alert them to the truth that the first child would be jealous of the second, having some experience in that area, and coming as I just had from my beloved Jack Kornfield's morning lecture on Mindfulness, which mercifully materialized in time to soothe my soul. It was given at the Society of Ethical Culture, where, strangely, I had gone to a service last Sunday, where I was, I think, the only white person, moved to go there as much by curiosity as the need to connect. Pretty Asian girls had stood in the balcony, swirling as much as waving giant metal fans, a kind of exotic dance it seemed like, the metal bronze or brass, threaded. I looked for them today, but in the balcony instead was a pond-- not quite a sea-- of mostly white faces, almost all of them in the mental health field.
Jack was teaching along with Dan Siegel, another Mental Health practitioner on a very high level, professorial but genial and at moments, actually adorable, leaping into Jack's lap as he spoke of attachment, that the experiences babies have shape development in the brain, a need to depend on caregivers, speaking of the 3 Esses, See, Safe, and Soothed. I am probably getting much this inexcact and probably wrong, simplifying of course because that is all I can do. But it was quite wonderful and coming as it did, not a moment too soon.
Jack is known to my friends as my Jewru, having entered my life a long time ago, a crystal writer and diamond-like thinker, one of the brilliantly intellectual Jews who became Buddhists. Sitting next to me in one of the pews-- the building serves also as a church, so pews is indeed what they are, was a youngish woman, a Mormon, who had a dog-eared, underlined copy of his book The Wise Heart, and had flown in from Colorado for this event, and was clearly transfixed, asking me if he is accessible, which he is, one of the miracles of my life, although I am not sure Buddhists believe in miracles. He has seen me through the death of my husband and the death and I hope transformation of many things in me, as well as many things that are not as much uplifting, as painful. So it was a gift from the God that Buddhists don't believe in that he was here this weekend, and called to invite me to this seminar. Besides the wisdom and playfulness of his words, his voice casts the very most calming of spells.
It was at one of his retreats that songwriting, which I had left behind in college, came back to me, and although it was supposed to be a silent retreat, I went for long walks and some of the songs in my musical started up there. i have remained over the years, consistently an Upstart, and as my LA friends know, I was just thrown out of my Beverly Hills abode for singing, have the paper from my landlord to prove I am not making it up, the neighbor who wanted me out of there for singing, a woman named Song. So as writ before, i never have to make anything up, my life is so improbable.
But one of the best parts of it has been Jack. During the break I told him I was conflicted, because not knowing he would be here and there would be an all-day workshop, I had bought a ticket for a matinee at City Center this afternoon, with Wynton Marsalis and Bernadette Peters doing Sondheim. And gracious as he is smart and kind, he said to go to that instead of coming back to the seminar, because my focus now should be my musical, and I had had my meditation. Sometimes, as Blanche DuBois said, there's God so quickly. And in this case, so mindfully.