Sunday, May 15, 2011

A walk to the park

היום ששה ועשרים יום שהם שלשה שבועות וחמשה ימים לעמר
Today is twenty-six days, which is three weeks and five days, of the omer
הוד שבנצח
A day of humility in a week of perseverance

In Zen Buddhism, Yoga philosophy, and probably some other Eastern religions, the principle of non-attachment is integral to the practice. While there's nothing I know of in Judaism that would prohibit this practice, I don't thing it's something that's encouraged. There is a tendency to hold on to our traditions so tightly that we sometimes squeeze the life right out of them. We take customs that have developed out of a particular time and/or place and make them a mandatory aspect of rituals now performed in times and places far removed from their origins.

I thought about the concept of non-attachment as I was rushing to get to the Giants/Diamondbacks game on Thursday afternoon. I thought I had allotted enough time to get from my weekly Torah study in the East Bay to the ballpark. But a car stalled at the entrance to the Bay Bridge caused a slow down in traffic as I drove back to San Francisco. That led me to take a Muni train that did not go directly to AT&T park, so I had to walk four crosstown blocks to get there. All of this conspired to make me miss the beginning of the game.

I'm someone who prides themselves as being a first-pitch to last-pitch kind of fan, and this did not sit well with me. As I walked those long blocks, I realized how attached I was to being "the one who is always on time." It's not like I had a client waiting, a job that had to be done. It was a sunny afternoon, I should just enjoy the stroll. The timing of my arrival was up to me, not set by any rule. A fun afternoon watching a baseball game with a friend was the point--fifteen minutes was not going to ruin that goal. But I had to talk myself out of being annoyed and upset with myself for being late. While during the course of the walk I was able to relax, I hope someday I can get to that place more easily :)

Commitment is an important part of practice. Rituals need a structure. But context and meaning also need to be in the mix. Sometimes, in the rigidity of attachment, we lose the essence we're striving for.

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