Sansaku: The Flower Couch
I don’t often dream of the Counseling Center, but I did last night. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed be up there, and asked Judy to look at the schedule. She pulled out the old black notebook we used before the computer took over.
It was a simple and convenient grid, with our names across the top and 8 to 5 in half hour lines down the side. It made for a lot of appointment slots, and we’d scribble in the names. One time I filled up my column and kept on going. I double-booked an entire day. Susan was delighted.
There was an old flower couch back in the group room. It was slowly becoming unstuffed. The students didn’t notice, but certain stories had them stabbing the fabric with pens and picking it apart. The couch sat uncomplaining.
Whenever I needed a cup of coffee, I could always count on that couch to cough up the change. I’ve rifled the cushions dozens of times. And it’s where I got my pens.
The flower couch was replaced in 2000, when I took a year’s leave. They had to wait for me to be gone to get rid of it. I understood, there comes a time. They didn’t see that wonderfully shabby couch with the same symbolic eyes.
When Chyako finished reading my sansaku draft yesterday, she asked me a question about those “holes in the street” issues I’d come to call my friends. “How’d that happen?” I flashed on the couch and could see Ram Dass sitting there.
He was visiting campus in the late nineties, and a group of us had gone out to dinner at Grandma Chung’s. The student who arranged the visit was in one of my dream groups. We still had a half hour or so before the lecture began, so we sat in the group room and talked. He was on the couch.
When I pointed out this psychoanalytic situation, Ram Dass told a story. It’s probably in one of his books or tapes. It’s too good not to be. He said, “I’ve spent countless hours on the couch and at least a hundred grand on therapy.”
“Do you know what? It didn’t work. I’m as neurotic as ever.” And I have to confess I was glad to hear him say this.
He asked if I had ever read the cartoon strip Li’l Abner. “Oh, yeah.” And I described how our Mom dressed up as Daisy Mae one Halloween and scandalized us. “Then you’ll remember the shmoos.” I was the only one who did.
But sitting there on the flower couch, he explained how he slowly made peace with his personality problems. They’d become like shmoos, not only harmless, but kind of goofy. Whenever his old neuroses showed up, and they did, he said he’d invite them in for tea. They’d become good company.
I realize I’ll have to continue this, but in Greek drama the tormenting Furies can turn into the benevolent Eumenides, and the devils who whisper bad thoughts can also turn into angels.