Saturday, November 19, 2016

sitting with fear

The recent election has me very afraid. I am scared that we are headed in a dark direction, and that many people will suffer as a result. I am also, frankly, frightened of change for the first time in my life. I have always sought change out, and drawn energy from it. Now I see an element of risk with it, that change could involve loss and diminishment and even pain.

When I sit in meditation, the fear is palpable. I have been exploring it, trying to not run, not let distraction pull me from that feeling. But is is hard. So much harder than sitting with racing thoughts, with distraction, with pleasure. Because fear feels imperative -- I should DO SOMETHING. RIGHT NOW. It is so uncomfortable, and so primal. RUN. ATTACK. TAKE CONTROL. 

I feel an urgency that doesn't exist, except in my own mind. There is time to breathe, to pause, to reflect, to decide. I can take thoughtful action, or take no action at all. I know that intellectually, but it hasn't yet sunk in to my core. My body still doesn't recognize any sort of space for . I feel all the places that are tight, tense, the fast paced breath, the quickened pulse. Breathe it in, breathe it out. Try again.

There is also an energy there, with the fear,  an undercurrent. Like it could be transformed into something positive, if I could just understand how to tap it in a skillful way. 

Fear is in the driver's seat right now, for many many people, on both sides of the current divide. People voted for Trump because they feared loss, they feared change, they feared the OTHER. People voted against Trump out of fear of hatred, of bigotry of violence, of what it would mean for each other. We have fear in common, and we need to understand it, and to master it. 

Our challenge is this - fear is a teacher, but we have to be willing to sit and listen and learn.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Up and Down, Ebb and Flow

It's been a busy time. Lots of work, lots of play. We added a dog to the household, and that comes with an inevitable bit of upheaval as our routines change. She's a joy, but she's also a rescue with issues we need to work through. I stopped going to school, for good this time. I think. That leaves me with time to do other things, but I am usually so brain-dead after work that I watch a lot of TV, read a lot of junky books.

Its all up and down, ebb and flow.

We went to the beach a couple of weekends ago, for a long weekend. I got to walk on the beach, watch the waves. Same thing, ebb and flow. The tide come in, the tide goes out. The wind moves the sand one way, and another. We're all caught up in the same dance. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

suffering of our own making

This has been a month fraught with anxiety for me. Our car was stolen on the first day of the month. It was no prize -- a 2003 Honda SUV with almost 170,000 miles on it, with the scratches and nicks and dings that a city car invariably acquires. But it was paid for, and I was flat broke. So I worried.

Fortunately, we have insurance, and we never skimp on coverage. So by the 3rd, I had a rental car. A brand new GMC SUV with 2000 miles on it. It's shiny, a huge silver thing with tons of chrome. I hate it. It is really stupid engineering -- nothing about it makes any sense. It's huge, but has no room inside. I can't find a place to put my purse. I could barely fit my groceries in the way back. Still, it has heated seats, a nice stereo, a backup camera.

We went car shopping, test driving new cars. We found a car we love. It's perfect! It has none of the ugly unattractive qualities of the rental. It drives like a dream. We waited the 21 days the insurance company required. We were set -- suddenly overjoyed that we will have a new car. Except.

Apparently our car was recovered. It had been at the city impound lot since the 15th. So now I have a new wave of anxiety. How bad will it be? Do I want it to be okay? Do I even want our old beater back? or do I want it to be totalled? I go to the impound lot and they take me out to the car. It's not so bad. It's got a broken rear window and some jerk tried to scrape off the bumperstickers, doing some real damage to the paint in back, It's full of trash -- pizza, drinks, loose tobacco everywhere. The front seats are fully reclined.

I find out that the car sat, and we didn't get a call because the police made a mistake on our paperwork and so the incident number they recorded was an old one. So our car wasn't listed as stolen. Had our insurance not found it in the impound, lot database it would have been auctioned off in a couple of days. I fumed and fretted and spent some useless time being irked.

And then we waited. We had a lovely Thanksgiving. We waited some more. I called the adjuster and he said the car isn't totalled. It will be repaired. So no new car. And I have to wait some more, driving around in the perfectly decent, intolerable rental car. I almost cried. I felt thwarted and disappointed.

I have spent the month being irritated. I've been anxious. I've pouted. I've been spoiled and entitled. I've coveted. I've been dissatisfied. I've worried about money. Every bad moment I've had this month has been generated by my own thinking, by my own mind.

What really happened -- I had my car, then I had a different car. I have a different car and then I'll have my car back. My insurance company is paying for everything. Poor little me. I had some inconvenience. That's really ALL that happened.

A little dharma lesson, wrapped up in a Baltimore City bow.

Monday, November 16, 2015

mourning for Paris, mourning for all of us

The attack on Paris made me weep. I love Paris -- the cafes, the art, the history, the style, the people. If a place can be deserving of special grace, I would say that Paris was that place. But all places, and all people, should be safe from bombs, from guns, from hatred. No place deserves what happened on Friday. People eating dinner, dancing, watching a soccer match -- there is no place where this should end in blood.

I mourn for Paris. I mourn for all of us.

In the aftermath, people are calling for war. People are asking that we turn away the Syrian refugees, close mosques, bomb Syria back to the stone age. I have seen such astounding amounts of  bile, vitriol, just pure undisguised hatred in the last few days, directed mostly toward "muslims". People are afraid, and channeling all that fear into a single target. That the vast majority of Muslims have nothing to do with terrorism has not diminished the anger.

The more we hate, the more we engender hate.

I mourn for Paris. I mourn for all of us.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

a convert to quiet

For most of my life, I have been immersed in sound. When I was small, our house had five people in a two bedroom space. It was never really quiet. When I was 10, I discovered AM radio. I listened as often and as long as I could. I even recorded American Top 40 onto cassettes, so I could replay it during the week. When I was 15 and started driving, I had an FM radio in the car. I would drive places just to have the music going. When I was 20, music was a large part of my social time. Music videos with friends, music when we would just hang out, music while I studied, music while I wrote my papers. As I got older, I swapped in TV for background music. Listen to the news while I caught up on work, or endless student, while I wrote papers or read for class. I had a stereo in my office, and couldn't get through the day without my tunes.

I literally couldn't work without the noise. It was never quiet. I live in the city, and even the nights are filled with sound - cars, racing dirt bikes, sirens, cats in love, dogs barking, foxes with their unearthly cries.  When I began meditating, I was really uncomfortable with the quiet. No music, no talking, nothing. Just me breathing. Now I really enjoy it.

I dive into it, submerge, let it lap over me. I bathe in it. And I find that it nourishes me, fills me to the brim. And slowly, in impossibly gentle increments, I begin to hear the softest of sounds. But now I notice them, really hear them. By becoming a convert to quiet, I have gained the ability to really and truly hear.