Recently, I got locked out of the house. It wasn’t my house so I did not know all of its little intricacies including the one about the front door bolt sometimes slipping down into the catch on its own. So I went outside to do a chore and when I came back the door was bolted shut.
At first I didn’t believe it. It was impossible. The bolt had to be physically turned from the inside to lock the door. In my disbelief I began to pull on the door shaking and rattling it to force it to open. It was definitely locked. Then I growled and noticed the panic rising. I had a full day that included a list of other chores before making my way to the airport to catch a plane.
Going around to the back of the house to see if I’d left the back door open was futile because I knew I’d locked it five minutes earlier when I’d let the cat out. I did it anyway. Then I checked all the windows and found one that could be opened if I forced it. I stopped trying when my arm began to bleed.
As I returned to the front of the house to escape the burning late-morning Florida sun I said a prayer. Well, barked one, actually. “Okay, what am I supposed to do about this?” Maybe I even said, “What the hell am I supposed to do about this?” I was highly aware of my resistance and lack of calm.
With that awareness I took a seat on the shady front porch and started to listen for the answer. I was locked out. What could I do? Not much. Did the rage help? Not a bit.
A lizard about the size of my hand sashayed out of the shrubbery and stopped a couple of feet away, watching me out of the corner of its eye, its tiny sides expanding and contracting rapidly with breath. That lizard did not have a big agenda. It moved again, stopped, moved again. Each time it stopped I stayed with it, with the power of its total presence, its utter lack of agenda. The lizard eventually moved on and I thanked it because it had brought me into the here and now.
Reflecting on my anger I saw that it had come from the fact that I was not going to be able to fulfill my agenda. My agenda had not only been meticulously planned (go inside, finish chores, accomplish tasks, eat some food, take a spiritual direction call, get to the airport and fly away), I was counting on the fact that it was all going to take place. I was upset because the future I’d planned was not going to happen. But that future was not my actual life. My actual life, my unfolding life in reality, was sitting on the porch, locked out of the house in +35C heat, learning life-lessons from lizards. There was nothing else. All the other stuff was just a bunch of thoughts that I had allowed to become expectations.
To commit to the spiritual journey means that when any challenge comes our way we stay open to the transforming opportunity being presented. I closed my eyes, went within and listened.
Let go. Wait. Trust.
Letting go of all my plans and seeing that the world would not come to an end by doing so, I went and picked some starfruit from a tree in the yard, thankful for the moisture it provided my thirsty mouth. With that action came an intuitive thought: Maybe I could knock on the neighbours doors? Fear rose up. I sat with it and then followed the prompt. Within minutes, two generous men were walking around the house with me looking for a spare key or a way to get in. Then one of them got a screwdriver and jimmied a window open. Hallelujah! I climbed into the cool, air-conditioned house, relieved and dripping with sweat.
As the rest of the day unfolded and the agenda got accomplished I kept meditating on a deeper question that came out of the experience: Where am I “locked out”? Or what am I “locking out” of my life?
Exactly one week later, while leading a retreat on the ashram in the Bahamas, I went to leave the little beach-side room where I slept to go to a yoga class. But when I turned the door handle and pulled, the door remained shut. I tried again. Nope. I was locked in. You know what I did? I smiled.
After trying a couple of tricks to jimmy the latch I pulled the screen off the window, lifted myself up over the sill, did a modified handstand to climb out, and went to reception to tell maintenance. Later, after the local man who repaired it explained that the salt-air had corroded the latch (happens all the time), I had the opportunity to do some more spiritual inquiry. Two episodes with locks in one week? Kinda hard to ignore.
Okay, so where was I “locked in”? Or what am I currently “locked into”?
There was temptation to go into shame. I’m doing something wrong. I’m being punished. This attitude will only keep me from looking deeper. A gentler approach prevailed: How did I respond to what unfolded?
My reaction to being locked out was rage, which came from being overly attached to my agenda. Fair enough, I had a flight to catch. But to assume I’m going to get to complete my plans at any given time is to deny the unpredictability of life. When I am attached to an agenda I am locked out of being present to life’s unfolding and I am leaping ahead of reality.
My reaction to being locked in was to smile. Made easier by some free time, certainly, but also by a willingness to accept what comes with an open mind and an open heart. When I am detached from my agenda I am locked in to reality. Life is unfolding before me and I am following with curiosity, presence and interior freedom.
Inspiring Message of the Day: May we all open ourselves to following the unfoldment of our lives rather than trying to leap ahead.