Monday, October 14, 2013

shambhala training

I just finished my Level II course this weekend, over a year after taking my Level I course. The weekends are tough, but really rewarding. Yet I find I struggle to make myself go. Partially it is the cost; I feel guilty spending $150 on something that benefits only me, and is really a luxury in our budget. And the time is hard to come by - it requires a Friday night, all day Saturday and all day Sunday. Those are valid reasons, but not really the whole of it, I think.

When I really sit with it, and why I struggle to do this, I come up with this. It is physically and mentally uncomfortable. Physically, it is harder than you probably think to sit on a cushion cross-legged for long stretches of time, throughout much of a weekend. My knees ache, my ankles ache, my back screams. I begin to eye the cushion like it is a torture device. Eventually, I give in and move to a metal folding chair. But my back still hurts, my ass gets sore, and my knees ached in an entirely new way. By Monday morning, I walk like I am 90.

Worse though, is the mental discomfort. I know that I am going to face things that are difficult. I am going to experience feelings I would rather not feel. I am going to be vulnerable, and even more, I am going to be vulnerable in a group of strangers. I will have to be honest, and open, and care deeply about people I may never see again. It is so very hard that I shy away from it.

And yet. Ultimately I find a point in time where time, money, and willpower all coincide to make a weekend possible. So I go, and afterward I always wonder why I resisted so hard. In the afterglow of an intense weekend of meditation, I vow to attend another session as soon as I can. I will go to the center every week. I will strengthen my practice at home. I will immerse myself in dharma. I will be kind and gentle and good to all.

Each time, I mean it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

birthday musings

Today is my 51st birthday. I am more than middle-aged, but not yet old. In my head, I am young. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and am surprised to not see my 20 year old self. I am more fit than I was 10 years ago, but less fit than I was in my 20s. I feel pretty damn good, these days.

Still, I do see changes. My hair is going white, pretty rapidly. I figure I've got another 5 years or so, before it's all white. I've got arthritis in my knees, my fingers, my toes. I'm 25 pounds heavier than I was at 30.

A lot of the changes are on the inside. I think I've grown a lot in the last 5 years, probably more than I did in the previous 20 years. I am calmer, more patient, less quick to judge. I worry less about what I look like, what people think of me, how things appear. I try harder to do the right thing.

I'm still learning -- I hope I never stop.

I feel touched by grace today. To live, to breath, to enjoy and wonder, to love and be loved -- my heart is full.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

of all the things I've done

I am a feminist. I have worked for a paycheck since I was 15. I have 3 degrees. And yet, when I think about it, the two best things I have ever done are marry my husband, and have my son. Today is Mother's Day, and I am thinking back on how lucky I have been, and how much that role has meant to me and my life.

It's ironic though, that the things that have felt, deep in my being, the absolute rightest are really right out of the conservative playbook. Wife and Mother. Come to think of it, I enjoy being barefoot, too. And I can whip up a pretty nice meal.

I am glad that I didn't have to choose one hat over the other. I am glad that I could be myself, with interesting and challenging work, could keep my mind satisfied with education, and still be a wife and mother. I would have missed so much if I couldn't work and go to school. And I would have missed so much if I couldn't have married and had a child.

I will probably never dream of programming, or building a new accounting system. But sometimes, I do dream I am back in that rocking chair, in the still of the night, rocking my baby in my arms.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

why is writing so hard

Why is writing so hard? I find it easy, too easy, to talk. Sit me in a room with my professor and I could easily talk about my paper, about what I've looked at and what I want to say.

so why, when confronted with a blank piece of paper, do I find that same task nearly impossible? I have a term paper due in a week. How much have I written? About 15 tries at a first sentence.

I have read articles, books, blogs. It is not that I have nothing to say. I just have no ability to say it.

I think it's because academic writing is a straight-jacket. It's pantyhose and heels. It is meant to create an impression. It's not my real voice. It's not my style. It is all form.

I want to write about the idea of illness as a manifestation of divine will. I want to talk about this couple in California that let their 9 year old die of a burst appendix, because god would cure him if he wanted to. I want to write about Michael Mompellion, in Year of Wonder, telling people the plague was a gift. I want to write about Father Paneloux, in The Plague, telling people that the plague was god's judgment, that they deserved it. Whether god punishes or refines, the idea is two sides of the same coin. People want to matter. They want to be significant. If god has singled them out for punishment, or for testing, or for anything, it means they are somebody. If god has a hand in their illness, well at least they were noticed, they mattered. If god is punishing them, they could do something to improve, to end the punishment. If god is refining them or testing them, it is possible they could pass the test. There is something, some thing, that a person could do to get better. If god made you sick, god could make you well. If god made you sick, then it was for a REASON. And that is better than the terrifying alternative, that you got sick for no reason. That is was random. We want order and reason, even if the reason makes no real sense.

But this is just talking, and a paper has to have order, structure, citations and sources. I can't just say what I want. I have to prove it, in a careful, measured sort of way.

I will be happy when I am done.

Monday, April 15, 2013

another city suffers

Another city suffers. This time it is Boston, where two explosions ripped through the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Immediately the news began to pour out, the images of the chaos, the wounded, intermingled with the responses from twitter, from FB, email. Through the wonder of the internet, we can all be near real time victims as well.

Always, after these events, there are the same questions. What kind of world do we live in? How can people do this to each other?

I don't have an answer, or not much of one. I do know that while we focus on the perpetrators, we somehow miss the hundreds of people who ran into danger to help out where they could. We live in that kind of world, too. It's not just a world of sad damaged angry people who blow things up. It's also the world of people who risk their own safety for strangers. It's the world of people who ask only how they can help.

I wish that we could convince the angry people, the fearful people, to set aside their anger, and let go their fear. I wish we could find a way to include everyone, and make everyone heard, so no one would need to blow something up to be somebody.

Maybe someday, we will get there.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

whittling a new me

It occurred to me this week that I have spent the last 5 years whittling a newer me. I've been on a journey, without really knowing it. I've been taking classes, losing weight, exercising, eating healthy, meditating, trying new ways of relating to the people in my life. I thought these were separate things, each taken up independently.

Now I see that this was all one thing -- not a mid-life crisis, but more of a 2nd wind, or maybe a 2nd act. I wanted to be more whole, more healthy mentally, physically, spiritually, for the 2nd half of my life. I wanted to put what I've learned into practice.

I was sitting in meditation class this week, when I had an "aha" moment. With perfect clarity, my inner voice informed me that "this shit works". Not just the meditation, but all of it. It WORKS. What I've been doing has transformed me, my life. I don't know how it works. I don't care how it works. I don't care why it works. It just does. 

I wish my inner voice was a little more refined. Maybe a little more elevated. But I can't argue when it speaks the truth. "THIS SHIT WORKS"

Sunday, January 13, 2013

you never completely know

It's never too late to learn something about yourself. My most recent realization is that I have a huge blind spot where illness is concerned. My 87 year old mother in law had the flu. I adore her, but I never thought of going to help her out while she was sick.  Only after a disturbed night of sleep, where apparently my much kinder subconscious was trying to get through to me, did it belatedly occur to me that maybe I should have gone over and made sure she was okay, or brought her some soup or something.

By and large, I think of myself as a kind person, an empathic person. I care deeply for the people in my world. But, if they are ill, I want them to just "walk it off". I do not want to bring water, soup, aspirin. I do not want to stroke foreheads, hold hands, sing a sweet round of "soft kitty". I want to RUN AWAY and come back when they are better.

It's not self-preservation, It's not some instinct to avoid the sick so I don't catch something. I am no better at treating myself. I do not want anyone to help me when I am ill, I don't even want anyone around me, and I rarely want to help myself. I don't want to take pills, rest, wait for things to heal, or in any way acknowledge that I am not FINE. JUST FINE.

It is a knee jerk reaction, outside of the realm of thought. Now that I am aware of it, I can work on it. I can figure out why it frightens me so much that I shut down.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Reflections on a New Year

The first day of 2013. Normally a day that would have me thinking over the past year, mulling resolutions, planning for the coming year. Except, for whatever reason, that's just not what's happening. I just don't seem inclined to review the past. I had a good year, mostly, and even the bad spots were necessary. Planning for a whole year seems like too large a task, and too pointless. The year will unfold. We'll see what happens, as it happens. I am trying to shrink my planning down, to look at this week, and maybe next. With luck, some day I will be able to look ahead only a day at a time.

My resolutions, are the same as they are every year now. To be better. I will be more patient than last year. I will be kinder than last year. I will give more. I will complain less. I will make more time for the people in my life. I will be fitter. I will be more financially responsible. I will meditate more. I will try to grow in my practice.

And I will be kinder to myself when I fail, or backslide, or miss the mark.