Every month, for the past 4-5 years now, the same Jehovah’s Witness lady has been coming to visit me. Yes, it’s been that long. It may even be longer, as I can’t recall exactly when she started coming by. It’s worth mentioning, right off the bat, that I genuinely like this woman. She’s around my age and is very friendly and warm and kind. And, in the interest of expanding my own perspective and understanding of people with different views, I do read the publications that she drops off each month, namely: The Watchtower. She knows full well that I’m a spiritual leader in a Buddhist tradition and very invested in my particular community, and still she chooses to continue her visits.
For the past 2 years or so now, I’ve been on the fence as to what the best course of action was to take, in regards to her monthly visits. Part of me wanted to muster up the courage to ask her to stop coming, in light of it being sort of a waste of both my time and hers, and also that of the rotating friend that accompanies her. But the polite and friendly part of me that genuinely likes her, and appreciates her incredible diligence – even if I don’t subscribe to what she’s being diligent about – felt uncomfortable asking her to stop coming after all these years. So I’ve been teeter tottering on the fence of indecision about what to do.
Finally, about a month or so ago, I stopped hemming and hauling over what to do and made a decision. After contemplating the matter further and inquiring with myself about what was in the mix, mentally & emotionally, I decided I did not feel right in asking her to stop coming, and I also didn’t want to be on guard anymore either, not knowing when she’d be happening by while I sat writing or working on the computer – so the only other possibility I could realistically think to implement was to stop half-assing our limited time together at the door every month, which is what I had been doing. I decided to start practicing not being on guard; and instead of being wary of her intentions or frustrated by the interruption in my day or be relatively closed off during our interactions, I would invest my energy into opening my heart-space a little more and being more friendly when she came by. So, simply put, I committed myself to the practice of no longer looking at her visits as an intrusion on my day and time and see them instead as opportunities for me to engage more with someone with whom I judge to have little in common with.
There are times to actively practice something – whatever that something is – and there are times not to. In this case, I made up my mind to practice. To practice connection and openness, kindness and patience, and understanding. There are times when an opportunity presents itself and we feel called to take that opportunity and run with it, in order to grow and strengthen. And there are times when that same opportunity might not speak to us in that way. And that’s okay. For me, the trick is to investigate the matter at hand and figure out which course of action is calling me in its direction – and then figure out for myself, which way to go.
She came over just the other day and my old habit energy kicked in right away. I was in the kitchen fixing lunch and, as I often talk to myself, I said out loud, upon hearing the knock at the door: Nope, not answering! Out loud but softly, I might add. But then I remembered the agreement I had made with myself about taking up this new practice of embracing and welcoming her when she came to visit, so I shifted gears and made my way to the door, greeting her as I would a good friend who was stopping by. As a point of clarity, I do believe in the potential potent powers of the motto: fake it till you make it. Additionally, though, as a side note, I also feel it’s important not to over-subscribe to this creed as well. Because as with most things, it can cut both ways, depending on how we use it. And in this case I feel faking it will allow me to move into creating it – “it” being exuberance, friendliness, and a genuine sense of connection.
Based on my new attitude while visiting with her and her companion at the door, I experienced a different exchange than I have in the past – and, as a side note, I do mean “at the door,” because a boundary I continue to maintain involves not inviting them to come inside. But our interaction was improved simply based on my new approach – at least my side of the interaction was improved, and really that’s of course all I have sway over AND what ultimately is what I’m aiming for in regards to taking up this new approach. I’m looking to bolster my own practice and my own quality of being.
Not only did I experience a more joyful interaction with these two ladies but they also wound up asking questions about my own Buddhist tradition as well, in an attempt to learn more about why I connect with it verses that of Christianity. And my judgement is that they were coming from an inquisitive place and not with a hidden agenda. So we had a nice dialog while standing a little bit awkwardly on my front concrete steps in the cold of approaching winter here in Missoula and afterwards, rather than being left feeling disjointed or bothered or otherwise intruded upon I honestly felt happy and more connected from the visit we had.
Our local dharma teacher Rowan often says that one of the marks of making progress along the path of practice – meaning: mindfulness practice – is that we have a new response to a rather old trigger or situation when it arises. And so I’ll end here by saying what I often will conclude with on a variety of my blog posts: The practice continues!