The Sit up Bench of Life

I live near a waterfront. It’s not a beach. It’s either water to the wall, or a mudflat, depending on the season of the moon. There is a small section of shore with some sand that segues into muddy slime. All very natural of course so calling it slime may be somewhat libellous. In any case, this few metres of land go by the glorified name of Pandanus Beach, Pandanus being accurate, as these trees are indigenous, but Beach? Hmmm…. Nonetheless, the locals come out when the moon is right, because when the moon is in the 7th house, or wherever it needs to be to pull the sea as close the shore as possible, the little bay area is a pleasant bath, if you make sure not to put your feet down once you pass from sand to slime. Not so pleasant as to invite more than a half dozen oldies who have bathed here since their glory days, and the odd ring in who might have been in the area perhaps 20 years, though not a local yet. It is a nice place for meditation.

pandanus beach

But while the beach is not a busy spot, the walkway along the waterfront often bustles.   Exercise stations dot the path at intervals, ignored invitations to grow some muscle. I have tried them out but the bars are too big for my hands, a personal disappointment and annoyance, a design on which I’d like to blame my lack of upper body strength and bicep tone. Not fair perhaps, but nonetheless, I once returned from 6 months in from America, as slim and fit as I had even been, or will be again, in this same body, with arms well-toned by pull up bars of superior design. I contemplated writing the Council with advice on future plans, but laziness prevailed and more fat poled pull up bars have manifested along walkways round the city, and remain, as far as I can see, of decorative value. I blame myself for lack of civic conscience.

While the sit-up stations and chin-up bars are unattended, the monkey bars in the children’s play areas get more use. The swings swing, the see saws soar, child day carers tend their little flocks and yes, there even are some bona fide Mums. On sunny afternoons the old men with their model boats cluster on the edging of the sea fed wading pool, while women of a certain age wade back and forth, and youngsters flutter and splash, and slide down the water slide.

But that all happens a little later in the day. The occasion that brought me to this page to write was earlier, post dawn but pre mid-morning tea. There’s no great excitement to describe, just a humble story recalled.

I can be an anti-social bird at times, so when I walk I often plug my ears with wax, or the modern equivalent, and draw my hat down over my eyes, avoiding the good morning cries of my fellow creatures as we intersect, and fingering my meditation beads, the “mala” of the yogi, or those aspiring to be such. The earplugs not only keep distractions further at bay, but make it easy to hear the mantras that I softly say as I move the beads through my fingers. Yesterday I was wandering along, semi deep in meditation, and wandered onto an exercise station, to sit for a while and contemplate more deeply, when I was struck by the softness of the ground. The rubber substrate surrounding the sit-up bench was delicious under my feet. If a sitter-upper should become a faller-offer they wouldn’t suffer a thing, but would, rather, lie back and laugh. Instead of sitting I started circumambulation around the bench as if it were a thing of awe and wonder.

To help you appreciate my response to the mattressed softness underfoot I’ll risk boring you with a podiatristical interlude. Bunions are the painful swelling and protuberance of the big toe joint, while Hallux rigidus is stiff big toe damaged by degenerative arthritis. Cuboids syndrome is pain in the outside of the foot due to some subtle partial dislocation. Over-pronation and associated pain can come from a fallen arch – flat foot by another name. Anyhow, you get the picture?

I luxuriated through both my podiatrist advised and then adjusted shoes, with additional and washable orthotic arch supports. I didn’t want to leave that exercise station without some further contemplation. And zing! That contemplation brought me up short, recalling a cautionary character I had suddenly embodied:

Once, in a far land, there lived a poor man who worked as a barge puller. Yoho heave ho, yoho heave ho. All day he pulled on a rope, tramping, trudging on the river side. He only had thin sandals on his feet, and the ground was often uneven and covered in rocks, and his feet swelled and ached with bruises, while at other times they slid in chilled rain soaked mud. Yoho heave ho, yoho heave ho. At night he would rub his poor feet, bemoaning his fortune, and calling on God to provide him a better one. If only, he would dream, if only the river banks could be covered with mattresses.

Such short sight! I remembered the insights gained from my spiritual teacher Jagad Guru who once told me, in response to my questioning him about whether or not my prayers were really being answered, as they seemed to be, that of course it was possible for God to provide me with anything (not that He necessarily would – that would make ME God and Him my order supplier!) And no loving parent will give a child whatever they think they want. But the real question , my teacher Jagad Guru Chris Butler taught me,  “what should I pray for?” If you go to the richest person in the world (and who is richer than the Supreme Source of all things?) do you ask him for one little coin dime, ringit, 5 cent piece, peso, pick your poison)? If you go to God, ask Him for that which you won’t be getting anyhow. Even the birds eat, without a thought of where it comes from.

Let it be bread that will satisfy you, the living entity who feels, who yearns for happiness beyond some temporary material enjoyment, beyond a crusty chocolate croissant, beyond a crusty chocolate love affair, beyond even a crusty chocolate old age with a marriage partner who will eventually die and leave you. So these Insighful Lessons by Jagad Guru Chris Butler about Supreme Person helped me a lot.

Don’t look for a mattress for your feet, a rubber substrate to the sit-up bench of life, an ease for your bunions. Pray for that which we all eternally crave for. Dream of, wish for, work for, pray for, not something from God, but a real and lasting relationship with God, a chance to come to know that Supreme Person again, for your heart will not be full until it remembers that eternal relationship which has been forgotten, that we have ignored and denied in our shortsightedness, dreaming of a cure for bunions while we trudge along, pulling our burdens up the river bank of life. Hear this sweet sacred sounds and experience deep relief and calm.