Getting Back

I’ve been experiencing such dread on Spanish Class days. Thanks to COVID and other challenges, I slid behind the rest of my group, and have struggled to make up the difference since then. I can handle not being ‘best in class’, but don’t like to be a drag.


I’m taking as my practice the backward step, what a good friend calls sheer appreciation. Even should I drop the class with just a week to go, it has oriented my view differently than before embarking, and has helped me to approach life in Miami with the enthusiasm of viable learning curve and endless opportunities. I turn my attention from the content of the painting, to the paint itself, appreciating a wider, less time-ordered view.

It’s okay to evaluate and revisit a goal, but if one forgets appreciation within that, the goal, meant to be one part of a complex universe of relationships and connections, becomes a sticky web.

In practicing open awareness, I’ve found it helpful to think of existence—the entire play of sounds and thoughts and bodies and trees—as the foreground of life, and awareness as the background.

In the Zen tradition, the shift from focusing on the foreground of experience to resting in pure being is called “the backward step.” Whenever we step out of thought or emotional reactivity and remember the presence that’s here, we’re taking the backward step.

If we wake up out of a confining story of who we are and reconnect with our essential awareness, we’re taking the backward step. When our attention shifts from a narrow fixation on any object—sound, sensation, thought—and recognizes the awake space that holds everything, we’re taking the backward step. We come to this realization when there is nowhere else to step. No anything. We’ve relaxed back into the immensity and silence of awareness itself.

Tara Brach

By contrast, the feeling of ‘endless opportunities’ is the opposite of what’s been going on with my work as of late, not just due to management shifts and the loss of an important presence on the scene, but general plateau. I’m still learning, but haven’t shifted gears in a while. I’ve been wondering if this is the restlessness I’ve sometimes felt intuitively, signaling a change of wind direction or something new out on an edge. I can appreciate this open question.

From this stance, I found myself captivated by one of the writer George Saunders’ [excellent!] “Story Club” emails. In it, he described ten ways of approaching endings.


Another way I’ve talked about this is that we want to always be escalating, even into its last lines.  So, I’ll spend a little extra time goofing with the ending, sort of, you know, Rubik’s-cubing it, trying to see if I can get just a little more light into it.  I’m thinking something like, “Dear story, do you have anything else you want to tell me?’ 

This is where I’m at with my work in the store, Rubik’s-cubing it. Not a bad approach when dealing with restless edge states. And the idea of tweaking, playing, and backing up to open up to new meanings, brings to mind the Beatles documentary that came out during the last few years. I highly recommend it. Most of the promos rightly center around a fascinating moment when Paul is just playing, like a child in a bathtub plays with sounds and toys, and out of that comes Get back.. get back.. get back to where you once belonged...


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