By Margaret-Anne Enders –
I generally tend toward the Luddite end of the technologically savvy scale; however, lately I have developed a new respect for a certain piece of technology: my parents’ GPS. Well, not the GPS exactly, but the woman who lives inside it. Surprisingly, she has surfaced as a new mentor for me. I don’t even know her name. I do know that she is a bit old, although she doesn’t sound like it. I’m certain that she pre-dates Siri. I don’t even know her well. I met her a few years ago when my family and I were visiting my parents in Alberta for Christmas. It was a cold, dark winter evening and we needed to navigate the back-streets of Edmonton and Mill Woods and do far too many big-city errands in the time we had. My parents kindly offered to lend us their GPS to make the task easier.
You would think it would have helped, but somehow we got caught up in a bunch of little streets and kept making wrong turns. The woman inside the GPS tried her best, telling us quite specifically when to turn and in which direction to go, but perhaps we just weren’t ready to relinquish control. Nevertheless, after each wrong turn, she clearly but patiently said, perhaps to us, but perhaps just to herself, “Recalibrating.” Each time she said it, she remained calm and offered us a new direction. Never once did she get rattled.
I haven’t thought of the GPS woman for years, but just the other day, her voice popped into my head with a gentle and clear, “Recalibrating.” I don’t know why my psyche called it up, but her leadership has again offered direction. There are many instances in my life lately where things aren’t going my way. The complexities of personal relationships, workplace dynamics, and societal issues result in numerous occasions for frustration. Often there is no one in the wrong, just different ways of being and doing that, for whatever reason, don’t go along with my perhaps-too-rigid expectations.
Buddhist teachings recommend the virtue of being equanimous. It’s a bit of a tricky word, and an even trickier concept. Basically it means accepting how things are in the present moment without getting carried away by strong reactions or emotions. I have a knack for such reactions and so being equanimous is not an easy task. It requires self-awareness of those reactions and constant vigilance to discern the situation at hand.
Here enters the concept of “recalibrating.”A situation occurs that differs from my expectations. I make every attempt to be equanimous. I accept the new reality. But now what? Somehow this word, “recalibrating,” heard in the voice of my GPS guide reminds me that I have to take a new bearing. It is possible that I will end up at the same destination, but the route has changed. So when I hear that voice in my head, I can feel in my body that I need to point in a different direction. I physically have to do something different, to imagine a new path, all the while
The kids return home having missed the school bus on a morning that I have a lot of work to do. “Recalibrating.” Okay—drive the kids to school, do my errands this morning, work from home this afternoon. The budget meeting at work takes an hour and a half instead of half an hour. “Recalibrating.” Shuffle some work to Monday and let go of having everything done by the weekend. How many people actually get everything done by the weekend anyway? Darn, I forgot the clothes in the washer again, and it is 10:00 at night. “Recalibrating.” Find a good podcast and hang up the clothes, soaking up the peace and quiet in the house. Or throw them in the dryer and let go of worrying about the energy it is using. My mentor is calm—I can be too. I wonder how much of my stress level comes not from the change in situation, but from my reaction to the change in situation. When I can recalibrate, I find I can adapt more easily. Change of plans? No big deal.
Of course, unlike my mentor, I am still human, and some things still are a big deal. Equanimity offers wisdom as such times as well. When I do have a strong reaction or emotion, being equanimous means that I accept the reality of that anger, sadness, or fear in that moment. And when I can accept it, I can move into recalibrating much more easily.
I don’t think the GPS will replace my love of maps and the satisfying feeling of knowing where I am and where I am going, but I will continue to carry, with gratitude, the memory of my trusty guide’s calm confidence in my ability to find my way despite many wrong turns on a dark winter’s night.
In her work with the Multicultural Program at Cariboo Mental Health Association, as well as in her life as a parent, partner, faithful seeker, left-leaning Christian, paddler, and gardener, Margaret-Anne Enders is thrilled to catch glimpses of the Divine in the ordinary and the extraordinary. To learn more about the Women’s Spirituality Circle, call (250) 305-4426 or see www.womenspiritualitycircle.wordpress.com or on Facebook at Women’s Spirituality Circle in Williams Lake.