We were at a wedding a few weeks ago. Andreas’ cousin Christian married his lady love, Daggie, who wore a beautiful empire line lace wedding dress with a moss green velvet ribbon tied in a bow at the back. I’m not a big wedding fan, but that dress was a work of art. Lovely!
I, on the other hand, was tired. We sat at the back of the church for the ceremony (contrary to tradition, because we still had our suitcase with us after a 6 hour train ride from Berlin to leafy, rich Heidelberg) and I found, tucked away under the stairs, a lovely painted wooden sculpture of an angel offering a goblet to a kneeling man, whose three companions remained soundly asleep. It’s a famous story, I’m sure, but I can’t, at this moment, place it.
Why do I bring it up at all? Well, I realized the moment I gazed on the three sleeping companions that, had I been around at the time, I would have been one of those men. OK, my beard isn’t as well-established as theirs, I am a woman after all. I’m not quite bald, not yet at least. And I would have had to have been incarnated as a man even to be in such a situation at such a time. But my propensity for exhaustion and uncanny ability for nodding off at the most crucial moment would have drawn me there like an Irishman to a pub.
I wonder if that’s the fundamental difference between truly spiritual beings and those who play around with the romantic ideal of being on a ‘spiritual quest’, like me?
I remember one retreat I attended when found myself in a kind of overflow room because the main shrine room was jam-packed. It was a relief, actually, to watch the proceedings on the TV—I’m not at my best when I have to share space with more than one person—and I was thoroughly enjoying the teaching. In fact, the Rinpoche concerned was on such a roll that there was no sign of him stopping for lunch. One o’clock came and went, and the other person watching TV with me was getting irritated. Quarter past one, half past one, quarter to two, and the Rinpoche kept talking (nature of mind was his subject, as you’ve probably already guessed). He was clearly building up to something.
Suddenly, my companion snorted loudly, announced she was hungry and had to eat, then stalked out. Within three minutes the Rinpoche had reached the apex of his subject and, even through the television screen, managed to shatter, albeit momentarily, the ordinary minds of every one of his audience. It was quite something. But my original companion missed it because she couldn’t tirelessly endure a lack of food.
I felt for her, actually, because I’d been in her position a million times before and knew what it felt like. At the time, I was also grateful to her, because that was the moment I began to think about what ‘tireless’ really means. We know it’s not about filling our time with activity—any international banker, or ambitious politician, or socialite can do that. From what I can tell, it seems to be more about being willing, continuously, to be flexible.
But more of this tomorrow. It’s breakfast time and I’m hungry. I guess it’s obvious that the snaps I’ve included are of Daggie and Christian (a bit blurry because they were a long way away) and the wooden sculpture in the church.