I am contemplating a visit to “the Cape,” as they call it here. Cape Cod. Everyone in Massachusetts goes either to the Cape or to Maine for holiday.
The only time I’ve been to the Cape was many years ago, when I took a week’s workshop on fundraising at Tufts University. I was doing fundraising at the time, asking folks for money on behalf of Greyston. I hated asking people for anything, but Bernie had a knack for asking students to do the very thing they liked least. As usual, we had no money, and Alisa, Bernie’s daughter, was kind enough to share her one room with me at nights while I drove to Tufts every morning.
I decided to use my one day off to drive down to the Cape. The day turned out rainy and cold. I drove all the way out to Provincetown and then back, seeing very few people outdoors. As far as memories are concerned, I have just one, and that is sitting on a bench in the rain and looking out at birds and waves under drenching skies.
That was over 30 years ago. I talked to Bernie a few times about going to the Cape, but he wasn’t interested. I talked to Aussie, and she’s very interested.
I told this to my brother in one of our phone calls. He asked me if I wished him to call some friends of his with homes at the Cape to see if I could stay there. I hesitated before saying yes. When I hung up, I remembered that I, too, had a friend with a home there, so why wasn’t I asking her?
For added reminders, I participated in two Reflections on Precepts yesterday, one with members of the Zen Peacemaker Order and one with our local sangha, and the language around the precept of Non-Stealing stood out: I will freely give, ask for, and accept what is needed.
It felt as if the universe was saying: You never like to ask anyone for anything, you take pride in taking care of yourself. But it’s never been you who’s taken care of you, it’s been me. Sometimes I function through your hands and sometimes through other hands. There’s give-and-take everywhere and at all times; the curtain between the two has always been far more diaphanous than humans understand. You’re like a child trying to replicate all the complex goings-on at home inside a small dollhouse, and after putting the little doll to bed or clattering around the small kitchen with a couple of miniature pots, she thinks she’s God.
So last night I emailed my friend and asked. This morning she called and not only said yes, but added: “I’m so glad you felt free enough to ask.”
Free enough. Free of self-consciousness, free of some identity I create in my head, free to hear no, yes, and everything in between. Free to give, ask for, and accept what is needed.
It said a lot about her and her generous spirit. It also reminded me of what Bernie often said over the years: We have all of the Buddha’s wealth at our feet.
We look at things very statically: Some people have money, cars, homes, and others don’t. But the basic nature of money, and of goods and services, is to flow. Even the bank holding your savings account invests that money overnight; it keeps the money flowing.
Imagine I felt free to ask for everything I needed. Stone Soup Café gives out produce and other foods for free every week; if I went there my food bill would go down. Not go there as I used to in the past, trying to help with volunteer labor or ideas, no. Go there to ask for food.
I have needed money to keep this blog going and to give to immigrant families who have very little, and I’ve never been disappointed. I ask and people give; I don’t personally know most of these kind benefactors. I have asked for, and received a break from my Foundation Training trainer, who helps me with stiffness and pain in my back and hips. The garage that fixes my 12-year-old car gives me a break. Always, I have to ask.
Often people offer without my asking, and Bernie used to shake his head and tell me that the words No, thank you were out of my mouth before the person had even finished offering. I don’t do that anymore, but the next big step is to ask.
I’m reminded of the beavers building dams in different sections of the Sawmill River below. When they do that, different small arroyos are created that go in all directions, carrying rivulets of water that break through the banks and create new channels, spreading the flow instead of maintaining just one, big, gushing stream.
It’s all there, only we must build our little channels and divert the energy here and there. When I do that, I’m not indulging my usual drama about not needing anyone, I’m participating in the flow of things; nothing personal about it.
Our local town has a big budget for its schools, which serve many children of illegal parents. They give out grants to cover special needs, including the salary for Jimena, whose job is to connect the school with the immigrant families and make sure their children are served. Certain states boast about how much wealth they create for their residents while collecting lower taxes. I sometimes bitch about our local taxes, but at the same time I am proud of how we channel that wealth in so many directions, creating a wider flow that serves more and more.
My personal practice? Ask, and ask again.