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Mindful Friends

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Fate is being kind to me. Fate doesn't want me to be too famous too young.

Duke Ellington

I was meeting an old friend who I had not seen in many years and I was looking forward to catching up with her over a long dinner. I arrived at her house in Beverly Hills in my Honda Civic and since I had been driving all day (as one does here in Los Angeles), we decided to take her car. She clicked the door opener as we headed towards her garage and I looked in to see a pristine silver convertible Bentley.

"Get in!" she said with a tremendously whitened smile.

I demurred. The car was a $200,000 artwork and I could only imagine that I had sat in gum at some point during the day and was going to stain her beautiful automobile.

"I drive a car," I heard myself say. "This is an AUTOMOBILE!."

"Get in, silly!" she repeated

I slipped in and we were off to dinner at a swanky restaurant that I had never heard of. The automobile was a stunning masterpiece of design that seemed to gently hover down the streets. The engine sounded like a cat purring and what I was feeling could only be described as intense case of car envy. I felt like a failure driving around a piddly Honda that could have easily fit in my friend's glove compartment.

But by her first glass of Chardonnay, I learned that my friend's home was underwater to the tune of millions of dollars. But that wasn't the really bad news. By the second glass of Chardonnay I learned that she had hacked into her husband's email account (as one does here in Los Angeles) and found out that he had fallen in love with his dominatrix. Tough to explain to the six and eight year-old boys. So now dad was living in a one-bedroom apartment in Echo Park with Miz Whipmebeatme, and mom lived with the boys in the foreclosure (with no nannies! Egads!), and they could not afford to get divorced because then they would end up even more broke than they already were behind the smoke and mirrors.

"The market will come back," she said with dread of being buried in a pauper's grave as she motioned to the waiter for more of Napa Valley's finest.

When I had slid into the Bentley my mind told me that riding in it would make me feel as if I were leading the glamorous life. And it did! I felt excessively glamourous and virile for those fifteen minutes!

But what my mind did not tell me was that a $200,000 automobile was a meager consolation prize for a broken family, emotionally scarred children, an imminent messy divorce, and a probable bankruptcy. The glamourous sheen seemed to wear off fairly rapidly.

So here is possibly a more interesting way of reframing life so that we can show up authentically for every moment and experience: imagine that we will experience 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows while visiting planet earth. Unfortunately our minds were built to attempt to cling to the joys and avert the sorrows - maximize pleasure and minimize pain. But anyway you slice it there will be 10,000 and 10,000. Nothing we can do will tip the scales to 10,001 and 9,999.

It is not the 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows that are distressing. It is our futile, disappointing, and ultimately fruitless CLINGING and AVERSION that causes stress and suffering.

Learning to authentically accept each experience moment by moment is the antidote.

So we must try to avoid coveting our friends because we don't know the 10,000 sorrows they will traverse to arrive at their 10,000 joys.

Our lives are our lives and their lives are theirs. Our paths are our paths and their paths are their paths. Desiring anything to be different from the way it is causes suffering.

These are Mindful Friends.