September 13, 2014

Finding the Missing Piece: Soul Service in Union Station, Chicago. ~ Teela Hammell

Chuck Taylor/Flickr Creative Commons

I recently spent more than a week at an intense silent meditation retreat.

We weren’t allowed to speak, laugh, make eye-contact or facial expressions, and even hand gestures were off limits.

Basically, I was up to my eyebrows in rules, but equally brimming with optimism about where this retreat would take me spiritually. And though I claimed “no expectations,” a part of me was secretly hoping to be put back together.

Like every other human on planet Earth, I sometimes feel fractured. Like I’m missing some vital part, and if I could just get my hands on it, I’d suddenly understand the nature of the universe.

(And, step into my rightful place as queen of planet “Cuteonium,” where all of the fluffy four-leggeds with over-sized heads roam free.)

Ahem. (Clears throat)

But really, it’s an epidemic. Looking outside of ourselves for the missing piece.

So here I was, doing it again. Meditating for twelve hours a day. Chanting some version of someone else’s ideal prayer in a language that resonates just right (according to someone).

All good and well. Except that I felt like a dry leaf one gust away from being ripped from my branch to float unceremoniously into a smelly gutter.

And days later, as I contemplate my experience, trying to make sense of it all, trying desperately to find what I’d obviously missed because I’ve yet to take the throne, or find that elusive “missing piece,” I realized:

I’m probably not going to find the missing part of my humanity in an artificially controlled environment (a former monastery draped in caution tape reminding us of “approved” areas) surrounded by humans who’ve been asked to act like robots.

That’s why I’ve taken to the streets.

That’s why I’m writing about a random day in Union Station in Chicago when I bought a ticket for the chick behind me in line, just because.

The next day, I return to the station and am immediately approached by a guy who gives me a whole week’s worth of train tickets.

“Insta-karma?” I think, smiling.

Less than five minutes later, I’m sitting at a small table by myself across from a man in his 50’s when I overhear him calling his bank to cancel his cards because his wallet has just been stolen.

He then calls a friend asking if he can spare the 40 bucks he needs to catch the train to Madison by the afternoon. Evidently, the friend can’t make it happen.

The guy’s nearly in tears by this point. No one else in the dining area looks up. Eyes on phones, and coffee cups.

I just happened to use the ATM and had two crisp twenties curled up in my pocket. So, I walk over to the guy, tell him he reminds me of my dad (same boots I think), and hand him forty bucks. He springs from his seat, beaming.

I’ve never heard so many thanks. He bolts off to make his train. I leave too.

I’ve taken no more than ten steps when a gentleman kindly helps me lug my suitcase down the stairs. Then, another random person helps me shove it in the only locker left, (one that requires a strange suitcase-over-head maneuver), that I just can’t muster.

I feel a little like a queen.

As I board my train, I’m buzzing with gratitude. I look closer at the feeling, and I’m surprised that what I’m most grateful for is the opportunity I’d had to give.

It felt so good. It felt so lucky.

After all of my seeking, meditating and purifying, attempting to attain a more profound understanding of life, it seems to me that all I’ve really got to do is sincerely attempt to do good. For the sake of doing good.

Therefore, the equation seems not to be:

meditate + ritual + other fancy shit = more profound understanding of life.

More accurately, it seems to be:

doing good – expecting compensation = starting to figure this shit out.



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Photo: Chuck Taylor/Flickr Creative Commons

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Teela Hammell