Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sending a Notecard

I was driving to town yesterday when I remembered that my dear cousin Agatha hadn't sent me a card or flowers following my surgery in February. I love Agatha, but I am often exasperated by her. Sometimes I think I should stop working so hard to maintain this relationship. And now I had proof: she hadn't thought enough of me to send even a card as several other friends had. I was really getting ready to get myself all riled up.

But I put my soon-to-be-rampage on hold. When I got home, I did The Work of Byron Katie, a process of inquiry. I turned the thought around 3 times with ho-hum results. Then as I was putting my worksheet away, I remembered: I had received an orchid from the meditation center where I teach, and I hadn't sent a thank-you note.

How sneaky is that?  I'm the guilty party, but since that's very unpleasant to consider, I slap my projection onto the nearest handy target: Agatha.

It's all projection. Our world is entirely made of our own fabrications. And the thing is, we believe them.

There's no "out there" out there. It's all happening in here. The things we call "out there" are actually "in here."

We love our dualisms--in here / out there, me/her, us/them. And it's all just Life unfolding.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The 3 Marks of Life

I got 3 tattoos yesterday. On my right breast. At the radiation department at the hospital. The tattoos are simply little black dots used to line up the radiation equipment when i start my daily radiation treatments 10 days from now.

Now i am "marked for life." These tiny tattoos remind me that cancer is a deadly serious opponent. They remind me that the cause of death is birth. The cause of death is life.

1 of 3 tattoos (plus freckles)
According to the Buddha, this very unsatisfactoriness is one of the 3 "marks" of existence, one of the 3 characteristics of life. This unsatisfactoriness causes us stress as we look away, resist, resist, and try, vainly, to find some other escape out of our predicament.

As much as we try to avert our eyes, our bodies are headed in one direction, and one direction only: Death.

Notice the unpleasant feeling of that word: Death.
Notice the unsatisfactoriness that arises from that unpleasantness.

I have 3 tattooed marks to remind me of the Buddha's wisdom.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Pleasant and Unpleasant

I drove 40 minutes to the county jail yesterday to teach a weekly meditation group on the women's block. I arrived to find the unit on lockdown, so I had to leave.

To assuage my disappointment, I stopped at the farm and garden store. I was looking for onions because a few friends have told me they've already planted their onions. I found fat bunches of Spanish onion seedlings and elsewhere I found 4-packs of Walla Wallas--a big, sweet, onion-ring type onion. 

But the item that got my attention was the potted tulips on sale for half price. I bought 2 pots of white tulips, and 3 pots of pink tulips. Oh, the front step looks so much better.

Did you notice what i did?

I felt disappointment.. Unpleasant.
Driving 40 minutes, "for nothing."  Unpleasant.
Without really paying attention, I shifted my internal thermostat (and maybe yours?) to pleasant by stopping to buy onion seedlings.
I saw tulips. Pleasant.
On sale! Pleasant.
I bought tulips. Pleasant.

Unpleasant does not equal "bad." Unpleasant is simply unpleasant.
Pleasant does not equal "good." Pleasant is simply pleasant.

This simple meditation on pleasant and unpleasant focuses our attention on the motivation behind desire. (I don't want to feel unpleasant. Unpleasant feels unpleasant. I want to feel pleasant.)

I showed up at the jail and greeted 2 of the inmates. Pleasant.
I showed up for them. Pleasant.

Those women in orange pants are locked up with their minds. Now that is truly unpleasant. They need all the stress reduction they can get. Even if it is only knowing that one person showed up for them.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thou Shalt Not...

A few years ago, i gave my sweetie a sign to hang up in his den.
Thou shalt not whine.

He never did hang it up, and now he has given it back to me (how generous!) and hung it up in my little greenhouse with a slightly altered message:

Thou shalt not wilt.

Oh, dear. Yes, sometimes days go by, and i still don't water my houseplants. The potting soil dries out. The plants begin to wilt. Occasionally one perishes.

Especially at this time of year, when the sun shines full force through leafless trees, the plants in the greenhouse dry out and dry up fast.

In meditation, our posture sometimes wilts. Our backs are so accustomed to slouching in comfy chairs that we've lost our back muscles. When our posture wilts, we can easily drop into a snooze. Or we might notice back pain.

 We want our bodies to hang on the erect column of the spine. I sometimes think of my shoulder blades as a coat hanger, off of which the entire torso hangs, just as loose as a coat hanging on a coat hanger.

A wilted posture leads to head-bobbing meditation.
A relaxed and alert posture leads to happiness.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Young and Old Hyacinths

In this season of  a "new arrival" in the garden every day, every morning, every afternoon, today i am planting my aged hyacinths, which bloomed indoors in February. Two months later--today--they are brown and bent, looking like decrepit old ladies. Into the ground they go, to rest in peace.

Our eyes do not rest for long on the old and the un-beautiful. We distract ourselves by focusing on the young and the cute and the oh-so-sweet who are so full of life. We give ourselves a transfusion by claiming the young for ourselves--distracting ourselves from our own slow diminishment, our own bending to the gravity of time.

We say "Age before beauty," but we privilege beauty and under-privilege age.

Spring! Drink in the anti-gravity of life welling forth.

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-- Rumi
    translation by Coleman Barks

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Gardening--A Cancer Preventative

A friend recommended Cancer: 50 Essential Things to Do. The author, a cancer survivor who at one point was told he had 30 days to live, has talked with thousands of cancer survivors. This slim, easy-to-read volume is the distillation of all those conversations.

He delineates 8 overall strategies, including medical treatment, diet, and community of support. He also includes Purpose & Play.

"Survivors balance this deep sense of purpose with play. It's more than fun; it's something much deeper, a cultivation of joy.... I am struck by the large number who enjoy gardening...."

That's you and me, my friend. We are cultivating joy. We en-JOY gardening.

Notice joy when you go out to the garden today, even if you are only walking by a flowerbed on the way to your car.

Feel the joy in your body.

We are playing in the garden, and Nature speaks to us silently, deeply, subconsciously of life and death. It happens every day, every minute. Life unfolding and changing.

Monday, April 20, 2015

What Brings Me Alive?

Poet Ann Gengarelly writes:

I am living in a season where anything or anyone 
that doesn't bring me alive,
I will not mark in my calendar.

One thing that is definitely on my calendar is gardening! And another thing is meditation, particularly meditation retreats.

I could tell you about the things on my calendar that don't particularly bring me alive. Some of those things cause me actual stress, "Oh, i don't want to...."

And how about the loved ones who cause me more stress than aliveness? What to do? For the moment, i am simply waiting, practicing patience, and loving them from a distance. Maybe that is close enough.