On Breaking the Habit of Comparison – HDC to NYC to Providence RI

On a Megabus, on the way to New York, again, then to Providence.  A few days ago I hiked on the Rachel Carson Greenway Trail, but was so mentally preoccupied with my landlord situation (he’s a total creep and I feel the need to get out, ASAP) that I could not relax enough to write.  It was a great 6 mile loop and the exercise helped me work through the anxiety. I totally hit the jackpot too – wild raspberries and blackberries toward the end. YUM!

I was just thinking about all the cities and trips I’ve taken since the beginning of 2015. Goodness to think of all the things I’ve done since September 2014…The headtrips too. Maybe a timeline for myself would be a good thing to create.

I try not to use comparative terms to consider others or analyze my own experiences.  It is no easy feat becoming aware of such behavior, and it definitely requires a ton of patience, observation, reflection, and radical honesty.  I get annoyed easily when others’ opinions subjectify MY experience, and it helps me to become ever more self aware.  Sometimes though, I still do it, unfortunately.  Comparing anything is futile (I say this poetically, because objective comparison is a necessary  skill in evaluating some of life’s most important possibilities) but what I mean is that every person, every place, every thing tangible and -in, is unique.  To say one place is better than another, well that’s not fair; and to to make such a comment when someone is really enjoying the one deemed ‘lesser’ is mean and probably a (sub?)conscious attempt to elevate one’s own self worth [I just saw a guy playing the trumpet while driving a minivan].  That isn’t necessary and it feels icky.  I am guilty of it.  Really, very regrettably guilty of it.

Which is probably why I am now so keenly aware of it in myself and others. I did it in Phoenix all the time. “Oregon is better bla bla bla.” How the hell could a logical person really compare all of Arizona to all of Oregon?! They could not. They can not. One can really only compare the things that matter to you as an individual.  For me it was food, water, greenery.  My Arizona experience was much more challenging than my Oregon experience but was the Oregon experience better? Is Oregon as a state of space and political boundary and all its contents better? No way. What a ridiculous concept.

I’m writing this because I’ve just left NYC, and I really am not crazy about it.  I was super happy in my bus-seat, ever more so with each mile we moved further from the city center.  As we drove across a bridge with a stellar view of the New York City  skyline, I had to push a memory and its subsequent thought out of my mind.  Now, here I am ruminating about it, so I might as well hash it out/share it on paper.

The memory was of my trip to California this past Spring, and the specifically the time I spent in San Francisco.  One day, driving away from San Francisco (I tend to prefer a view of a city over actually being in it) with a close friend toward the coast, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge.  Climbing in elevation I looked back – at the bridge, the bay, the city, and it was literally breathtaking.  Today, escaping NYC, seeing one view and remembering another, I thought, “San Francisco is better.”

What am I even trying to get at here?! Honestly, I don’t actually like San Francisco either. But it’s not better than New York and my experience wasn’t better. I’ve attached some false nostalgic joy to it because just now I was overwhelmed by my disdain for New York.

San Francisco has fewer smokers, is less humid, and probably has more herb shops.  It’s definitely closer to more of my friends and the weather is exactly what I prefer.  But it’s still a huge city with all the traits of modern civilization that do not mesh with the parts of me that feel good in spaces where many people congregate.

The Comparison Card from Osho’s Zen tarot deck (my deck of choice), has the following description: Who ever told you that the bamboo is more beautiful than the oak, or the oak more valuable than the bamboo?  Do you think the oak wishes it had a hollow trunk like this bamboo? Does the bamboo feel jealous of the oak beacuse it is bigger and its leaves change color in the fall?  The very idea of the two trees comparing themselves to each other seems ridiculous, but we humans seem to find this habit very hard to break…The way to find out who you are is not by comparing yourself with others, but by looking to see whether you are fulfilling your own potential in the best way you know how.

We do this with ourselves, with the things and places we and others love and dislike…we do it with everything. Breaking the pattern of judgment, of comparison, and practicing the art of discernment will leave us liberated to experience all things and share in the joys of others without unnecessarily injecting our own emotions into situations. It is in this new state that we are free to be fully, in totality, ourselves.


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