Thursday, March 19, 2015

Opportunities for Practice

I don't like bar soap. Prefer soap in an unbreakable bottle.
Bar soap slips out of my hand and toward the end of its life gets difficult to deal with and I don't like to waste anything so I use these little tiny pieces and rub them between my hands to get as much lather as I can, hoping to make them disappear but they just get smaller. Katrinka likes bar soap. She bathes and soaps a lot. I just jump in the pool and ocean and use soap when she insists. And the times she mainly insists, I obey cheerfully, because the shower with soap is a condition for joint participation in activities that I'm eager about and that we both enjoy. She says she could buy me some bottled soap but I say that bar soap is an opportunity for practice. If I'm not in a mood for such practice, I just use shampoo - which I think is just more soap.

That's just one example of many such opportunities. Back in John Tarrant's barn, we had a noren, piece of divided cloth Japanese use at entryways. It was held up by a dowel threaded through indigo cotton rungs on top. The dowel ends rested on nails. If we weren't careful, it would fall. I could have fixed it so it wouldn't come down, but instead we just called it "the mindfulness curtain."

Relationships with people of course give us many types of opportunities to practice of varying degrees of difficulty. Recently I have had a really interesting such opportunity on the tennis court. For the last five months, twice a week I meet for an hour and a half of doubles at 8am with some other male senior bule (what foreigner's are called here in Bali). Usually there are four or five of us. If there are more than four of us we rotate. We rotate anyway either every five minutes or after a game - moving clockwise to the next position. Sometimes there are just three of us. That's almost always when one of us is late or looking for a ball that went over the fence. When that happens one person will hit with two on the other side. 

One of our group tends not to hit the ball to me. If there are two on each side, it's not so noticeable but it happens then too - and it doesn't matter which side he and I are on - opposite each other or not. But if he's on one side and I'm on the other with another guy, I pretty much just stand there while he hits to the other guy. One time a few months ago, when the other guy was walking to get a ball, I called out, "Hi. How about one over here?" And one other time, all three of us at the net, the guy on my side said, "Now why don't you hit one to David?" Both times he did and then went back to his old ways. It's not that he never hits me a ball. I tend to do little math things in my head. I'm not real good at it but I like it. So every now and then I count. This morning, before there were four of us, three of us hit. He was with me. Then after a while I went over to the other side. 

He hit the ball 45 times before our fourth arrived - that's 45 when all three of us were on the court, no one fetching a ball. Not counting times when there was just him and me for a few seconds. Seven of those 45 were to me. Thirty-eight were to my partner. He's the same one who, only a couple of weeks ago, had suggested that a ball be hit my way. Today he said nothing.

I did more math in the frequent pauses on the court and figured I got almost one out of every 6.5 balls or, two out of 13. I also figured I got 16% of the balls if we count the ones hit to me when I was the only one ready to receive.

So the opportunities for practice here are many. I choose the one that is to not say anything to my fellow tennis players about this - and not to care. I do not engage in the much harder practice of not saying anything to anyone ever. But when another person joined us twice and later made a minor complaint about the one who makes me more sympathetic with a person who says the line, "He made me feel like I didn't exist for him," I did not express what I had the urge to. I have mentioned it to Katrinka a few times and now I share it with you. I do have thoughts about what's behind this behavior, but I don't want to write it in case he reads this which is widely unlikely. 

There's no doubt in my mind that a great deal of humanities' problems come from careless speech - and I have added my share. A corollary of the practice herein described is that I try not to say anything on the court. Anyone who knows me knows I've always been a total blabbermouth with poor editing and impulse control. So this is an excellent opportunity for practice. 

I must say I'm sort of amazed that no one seems to notice or say anything. I keep thinking that this will naturally correct, but it remains constant - at between one out of five to one out of seven balls my way in this particular configuration. It's so interesting just to watch it. It does take effort not to say anything. But I love the harmony that comes from keeping it shut.

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