Some things I like: The first taste of my morning fruit and cereal—followed by the first drink of hot green tea or coffee. There is a particular pleasure of sweet followed by bitter warmth that is delicious. The second and third bites and sips are fine, but without that primary, initial sharpness. Then there is the feeling of lying down at night, feeling my body sink into the flannel sheets, the cloud of pillows and comforter offering a nest that makes sleep a healing respite. Some things I don’t like: The sharp cold that first hits my face and any exposed body parts in the morning when I open the door to let the dog out. Our days have been frigid, literally taking my breath away, and even before I open the door, I shiver. Or the slight but annoying rib pain that intermittently arises during the day from a yoga pose I did several weeks ago. Each time it makes itself known, it comes with a sense of frailty and defeat that I push against.
I have been conditioned to attend mostly to what I like or don’t like—and to do everything I can to make life be the way I like and avoid what I don’t like. As you might surmise, or as you might know from your own life, this means there’s a whole lot of “life wrangling” going on. But between these swings of liking and not liking—there are a million other moments neither pleasant nor unpleasant. Over time, as I’ve tired of the life wrangling, I’ve focused on these “neutral” moments more and more. There are new adventures here, and the discoveries are endless.
While brushing my teeth, I notice the vibration from the toothbrush and the vigor of my arm’s effort, the way my thumb automatically finds its resting spot on the brush. I notice the blue tiles, the warm air, the wet water. In this simplicity, something inside me opens up. It’s not like the moment suddenly becomes something I “like,” but more—that I become part of a bigger landscape, held by some force field that is magnanimous, gentle, spacious, offering itself. I might even call it life itself. But whatever I might call it, it calls to me, inviting me, more and more into these spaces of neither pleasant nor unpleasant… these zones of transition and being where I’ve typically paid little attention. Opening to these spaces, I make more contact with everything: the way a puzzle piece, when correctly situated, nestles against its neighbors—belonging. This “neutrality” feels shot through with light, purpose, and grace. And as this exploration continues, the pleasant and liking or unpleasant and not-liking lose their pressures and their promises. Loosening these bonds is the freedom I thought could only come through getting it all my way. In that spaciousness, I appreciate the irony. It’s a good laugh… and I smile as I spit into the sink.
By Lynn Koerbel