Enemy within, friend without

When too many emails means missing the one about “No dance practice tonight”…

… And showing up at the Swedenborgian Church (doesn’t this does name evoke a sci-fi movie?) to discover that I will be late for the express bus, thus I have to wait for the train.

Orange line. Evening commute. Not so overcrowded that you need to stand up but not empty enough to sit by yourself. I ask a woman if I can sit next to her. She nods, focused on her smartphone.

Then, a small commotion happens on the bench across the isle.  A woman sits next to an unsuspecting friend who is startled before they both start laughing… The luxury of meeting a friend on the street — or a metro train — a sure sign that this is your home town, where you belong.

These shared thoughts and observations lead to a meandering conversation of mutual curiosity with my metro seat neighbor, somewhat surprising for this city built on aloofness (when it comes to keeping your distance from strangers) and directness (when it comes to what you do and whom you know).

Who dances on a Wednesday?

“Where are you from?” turns into”What was the smelliest city you ever lived in?”
“What life story would you write about?” turns into “When are you considered experienced enough to share a story?”
“What do you do” turns into “Who dances on a Wednesday?”

I chuckle, “Today is Thursday, anyway”, and leave the train.

But indeed,  who dances on a Wednesday? Or on a Thursday, for that matter?

Well, it would be me with my feeble attempts to learn Bulgarian folk dancing. Or it could be anyone, if we were not so shaped by the structured demands of productive life and optimized efficiency.

Free creatures, framed by habits of thought

Productive life… How about a meaningful one?

Efficiency hacks… How about compassionate presence.


We are all  free creatures, framed by our habits, mostly habits of thought. We are so rarely aware of the boxes we put ourselves in that only the meditative peacefulness of a hike in the park or a chance encounter with a stranger who, miraculously mirroring the distortions in our self-chattering boombox, helps us to hear the subtle melody coherently vibrating in tune with our longing soul.

It is time to unchain the brain

Enemy within, friend without

On the way back home I realize that this whole scenario repeats the first half of the thought-provoking new essay by Andréana Lefton, “On Gentleness, Wrestling with a Wounded Angel” (I would copy the whole brilliantness of it but for copyrights):

“And, if I love those crying, playful, unruly kids so much, how could I not love the bawling, dancing, I-don’t-care-who’s-staring self I usually keep locked up? How could I not treat both inner parent and inner toddler with equal if different modes of kindness until, and here’s the real magic, they both mature? Until they reach their own understanding that has nothing to do with pull-and-tug, and everything to do with the space and flow of my ensouled body?

Wherever we are, sitting with a cup of tea, or at a computer, or on a commuter train, every bit of us is in flight. Thoughts are flying across synapses, cells are migrating to heal a wound, memories are churning up by the whiff of perfume floating off a fellow passenger.

And that harshness or loving-kindness inside our heads is flying too. He or she is fluid, and as full of space and change as we are. Our beings are not solid granite. We are evolving constantly — the parts of us that are immature or always have a foot out of line. And the sweet, beautiful parts too. Flying. Every blessed bit of us.

I may not have a grasp on gentleness yet. I may not know how to juggle the demands of being a young, single mother to myself — much less to the world around me. But when I shook out my thought-wings this morning, they looked strong and ready for a journey — however long it may take.”

The only difference is, I am now the single father — not only of two vivaciously energetic girls — but of unruly thoughts (or puppies, if you prefer) telling me to love the befriended stranger next to me yet continue judging the enemy within.

Stay, down, sit, heel. Heal!

“And God said, Love your enemy, & I obeyed Him & loved myself.”
Khalil Gibran

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