Picture the scene. The American Embassy in London, the non-immigrant visa section. Having started to que outside at 8.00 along with my follow hopefuls the line starts to move at 8.30, slowly. By around 9.00 I find myself, with more than a 100 others, in a large room facing a huge screen part of which shows a video, with subtitles, of America. The video is selling America. Universities, National Parks, family life, leisure, freedom and above all the potential to achieve ones dream. To be a success. Everybody is young and smiling, there is no rain! This America is indeed beautiful. And clearly we waiting hopefuls would not be putting ourselves through this ordeal if we didn’t want or need a visa to grant us entry to this beautiful country.
An older British woman behind me is recounting her young years growing up in America. Swimming in lakes, constant sunshine, happiness all the way. Another visa hopeful. We all have a number and are called to a window to have our papers checked, then called again for the interview. Hours go by, or so it seems. Eventually I leave the building just two hours later with the potential of being granted a three year visitors visa. Could you please expedite my visa so I can travel early September and actually get to the conference? I ask pointedly. I’ve made a note of your potential travel dates. the interviewer responded. The wait time can be up to six months!
Traveling to the USA has a more take it or leave it feel for me these days. Going is part of fulfilling my monastic function, that’s to connect with the lay and monastic sangha face to face. Which is good to do now and again. Mostly however I use the phone, Skype and email to keep in contact. The woman behind me is obviously already half way there emotionally – wanting to revisit happy memories. Moments down the road from the Embassy in a shop I encounter her. She is sobbing uncontrollably. Nobody can pacify her. She sobs on and on loudly. In the past, walking away from the Embassy, tears have fallen down my face from the relief of escaping the building. This woman’s tears were to do with disappointment. I did not enquire further.
Adrienne finishes her long walk today. I hope it isn’t raining as it is here near Preston. She wrote the following a few days ago:
As I get closer to the end of my journey it has sometimes been harder for me to remain in the present. I have found myself thinking about the end. I guess this is quite natural but other miles still need to be walked and there are still quite a few of them! So thinking like this isn’t helpful; it makes for a bit of a ‘trudge’. From Nearly There – The Merit of Walking
There is a lot to ponder on here isn’t there. About personal achievement, of doing or getting what one sets out to do or get. About disappointment and success and about where do I go from there? Achieving a goal, especially when there is a lot invested in reaching it, can leave one flat and asking What next? Disappointment as with the woman in tears, likewise.
At the end of the Scripture of Great Wisdom there is Going on, going on always going on, always becoming Buddha. Pointing to our living our greatest potential with every step of the way. One day Rev. Master Jiyu remarked in my hearing, Hum that should really be always being Buddha.
Whether in the elation of success or the pits of failure this teaching brings one back to the present. Here is where next! Being Buddha.
I will keep that in mind when next in the American Embassy, visa section, waiting interminably to be called for interview. Or any other time I feel pressed.