Sunday, August 30, 2009

Unlikely Teacher

It was wonderful to bathe in Jack Kornfield's presence again, this time for a daylong retreat at Spirit Rock. Not so good, was the crowded room, and having to squeeze on a chair next to a big guy. At first, I tried to dismiss my annoyance. Everybody else seemed so content to be with the master. I beat myself up for not feeling the joy. My neighbor's leg brushed against my left thigh, his shawl spilled over my shoulder, and his right foot clearly invaded the space in front of my chair. Way to start! I started plotting some escape routes, scanning the room for other empty chairs.

Jack proceeded with the fist seated meditation. "Close your eyes, and become like the Buddha. Find your quiet place under the tree, and start focusing on the breath . . . " The irony of Jack's instruction did not get lost on me. You've got to be joking! I am supposed to meditate, in these conditions. My day is ruined. I was so looking forward to this retreat. Outrage. Annoyed, annoyed. I've got to find a way out of this. Ah, Ah . . . This is another opportunity. I am to learn from the situation. Make room for the annoyance. I don't like feeling annoyed. Judging. Oh! I forgot to turn off my cell phone. What if phone rings? What will people think? Shame on me. What to do? Reach down to my bag, and look for culprit. Futile attempt. Phone's buried at bottom of my bag, out of reach. Panic . . . Neighbor's breathing heavily. What a mess! Better let go, return to the breath, and be with moment. Soon, I am breathing in sync with neighbor. Taking in all of the annoyance, the fear, the disappointment, and starting to relax. And I start thinking about neighbor as my teacher. And I burst into silent laugh.

My cell phone did not ring. At the break, I went back to my car to retrieve my cushion, and found an empty corner to sit in. Empty space never felt so good . . .

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Swept Away

Only two months ago, I was sure I would have nothing to do with anything 'spiritual'. Been there, done that . . . An involuntary passage through the darkness led me to change my view, and look inside for a breakthrough. Seeds planted years ago, during an earlier stint with Buddhism, had laid dormant and got reawakened. I did have an ah ah moment, when it became clear to me, that there's got to be a better way. And I finally understood in my core, what the Buddha meant by the inevitability of suffering, and the possibility of ending suffering, and the basic unsatisfactory nature of life, and the need to let go of aversion, and clinging, and avoidance. Now I am swept away by a force greater than I. And I have no choice but to go along.

My favorite part in the collage - this quote from an old Vogue: I wish the monks would adopt me and put me to useful work. I'd introduce casual Fridays, refrock them in Pucci paisley or Burberry plaid. Not that I am a fashionista. No. I am responding to the playfulness, the irreverence. Be silly. Be calm. And stay clear . . .

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Chicken Without a Head

Things to do, places to go, people to see, ideas to germinate . . . I am suffering from busy mind. My brain won't give me a rest and is on a war path with my still, deeper self. I shall embrace the busy-ness, and find out what it wants. Not fight it. Circle around its perimeter instead. Starting with the rapid beat of my heart. While paying attention - or rather attempting to - each breath. And when I need a break, listening to the morning sounds. Squirrels dropping their nuts on the tin roof. Prad coming in and asking "Where are you?". I delight in those distractions. Then go back to attend to the constrictive state in my stomach. I know this is not a new condition. And remember the comment from one of the patients, whom I worked with years ago, at the psych ward in El Camino Hospital. The old woman's wisdom was not lost on me: "You look like a chicken running with its head cut off." Today, I am feeling the angst of the injured chicken.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's Cold In There

My body did most of the talking this morning. Chills, still, as I arose from sitting. I lingered in the cold space inside. Constriction. Frozen heart, frozen mind. Feeling the warming, expansive effect of each breath. Melting the ice away, slowly, but not long enough before the bell rang.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Fear of No Thoughts

Ever since I resumed my meditation practice a few months ago, I have been busy. Never a dull moment during each sitting. My prolific mind and sensitive heart have taken turns entertaining me with multiple dramas - and sometimes comedies - in which I am inevitably the primary star. Recently, I just started noticing a change. Times without any thoughts at all. At first, I welcomed the break. A few seconds here and there, not thinking! From my readings, I knew this was a good sign. Yesterday and today were different however. The 'not thinking' took over, and I started feeling weird, from not knowing what to think or feel about this 'not thinking'. I became restless, and wondered what would happen next? Mostly, I got scared of losing control.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gil's Question

Last night's talk by Gil Fronsdal, was about intention. Gil sent us home, asking us to ask ourselves the question: "What's my life's intention?"

The word wisdom first popped up in my mind. Then happiness. I thought about life's transience, and what a gift life is, and the importance of living it well, and not wasting it. The gift of consciousness, and the tragedy of unnecessary suffering. And I settled with this answer: 'To cultivate the wisdom to live my life well.'

Sounds about right for now.

Monday, August 24, 2009

On the Receiving End

This morning when I awoke, I was touched by the sight of this small, humble flower,

left on my desk, by Prad. Loving kindness works both ways. Knowing how to receive is just as important as giving.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Know Thyself

Collages are like maps of my unconscious, showing me the various parts of myself at a particular moment, some of them still in the process of becoming. I particularly connect with the image of the woman in the middle. "Keep calm and carry on" . . .

Bearing the Pain

The thrill of sitting in the presence of Blanche Hartman quickly vanished, once I settled in my seat. At first, I tried to ignore the pain. In my legs, and lower back. "I shall stay still no matter what" and try to focus on the breath. Aversion, I am feeling aversion towards the pain. Let me try to love it instead, breathe through the various parts. That worked before. Usually the pain becomes dull and I soon stop noticing. Not so this time. The pain became more intense, and my futile efforts at dealing with it caused more and more frustration. I longed for the bell to ring, and the time when I could stretch and give my body some relief. I am a creature of pleasure. I fundamentally do not like pain, physical, or otherwise. It is one thing to read about aversion and the need to retrain one's mind. It is another to live it in the moment, gracefully . . .

Saturday, August 22, 2009

One Big Joke

I close the door. Set the timer. Sit on my cushion. Close my eyes. And wait for the bell. Looking forward to 30' of quiet. Listening to my thoughts, the pulsing of my heart, and ready for whatever comes. Then the cacophony starts. Slammed doors. Spoon hitting breakfast bowl. Water running in kitchen sink. Microwave beeping. He's in the kitchen, going about his business, and interrupting my meditation. Frustration, frustration . . . with a few breaks in between from paying attention to a breath here and there. Dogs' footsteps on the bark, outside. Soon joined by squirrels shaking some leaves. Train blowing its horn. I am not in control. Better go with it, whatever it is. Pressure cooker releasing its steam. Door slamming. Conversation with the dog. Phone ringing, answered. Plane, distant sound. Annoyance. Mind taking over, suggesting that I change my tune, and join the chorus. As a willing audience. Taking in, looking forward to each new sound. Breathing. Expanding. Ironing the frown out of my forehead. And enjoying. Smiling. Car alarm, getting louder and louder. With jackhammer chiming in. I get it. The world's playing a joke on me. So that I get it. I don't get to decide, on the tune. I start laughing, just as the bell rings.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Feeling the Empty Nest

Welcome to Mind Deep, my new blog. A place for sharing the small nuggets of wisdom, that inevitably arise during daily meditations. Today is about feeling restless, and not judging that unsettled space. I've got reasons. My daughter is off to college and the full meaning of the word 'empty nester' is hitting me, finally. Making space for the unpleasantness.