Gifts and Sorrows

His Holiness the Dalai Lama suggested this excellent exercise (paraphrased through my mind):

Picture yourself sitting in a line of other sitting humans that stretches out as far as you can see to your left and to your right. Now bring to your consciousness a sorrow or burden you feel.

Imagine yourself looking to your right. Imagine that all of the people in that direction have more resources and an easier time with their sorrows and burdens. Maybe they have fewer problems, more or better friends, they are more clever, and they have abundant access to whatever they need to ease their suffering. Imagine they suffer less that you.

Now imagine yourself looking to the left. All of the people in this direction have it worse than you. They are carrying burdens and disabilities that are more challenging than yours. They have fewer resources to draw upon to meet those challenges. Imagine they suffer more than you.

And now bring your consciousness back to yourself and check in again on your gifts and sorrows in this moment.

I have found that exercise to be quite useful. And now I realize that I prefer circles to lines. I love the small circles of family and tribe. I participate in many gatherings where we form circles for celebration and communication.

So now I’m picturing, curling that nearly infinite line of sitting humans to my left and to my right into a circle, and this meditation becomes quite powerful.

I am an equal part of the circle.

As I become aware of my tribe mates,

I am aware that each has gifts and sorrows greater than my own. And that I have gifts and sorrows greater than theirs.

In this moment, which is all there is.

Perhaps we can be useful to each other’s sorrows with our gifts.

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Riding the train out of high school (1995)

All these questions

All these contradictions

Searching for

ANSWERS
Searching for answers to…
THE WRONG QUESTION.
You ask:

“How?” Why?” “What?” “Who?”
You forget

You forget the key –>

The question that is the answer

To all these questions:
“When?”

“When are you?”

“when?”
And the answer is:

Now.

You are now.

On the bridge.
Not a kid. Not one of them.

In the middle. On the way.

Part way there. Not there yet.
Cradle yourself.

Do not demand so much.
Cradle yourself.

Gently take this journey.

Which you can not stop,

Should not fight,

May not speed up.
Just be now sweet darling.

Gently ride this train 

Into adulthood,

Where the questions

won’t be answered,

But they won’t hurt so much.

Mindfulness Explained

The frogs get it.
They sit by the pool, reflecting.
Perfectly still except for the movement of their
Slow – Steady – Breath.
Perfectly still, and also perfectly alert,
Aware.
Ready to catch, leap or continue being still and aware
As the circumstances which arrive warrant

Eclipse Meditation

The sun is a really true thing. It’s there every day. It is like breath, coming into the sky, going out, coming in, going out. In modern language, you can literally set your clock to it. The sun is a really true thing. It is there every day. Even when clouds come in front of your experience of the sun, and you instead say “it is cloudy.” Yes, there are clouds, but the sun is still there, and so it is still a cloudy “day.”  Here’s the thing about the sun, it has a power you simply cannot deny. You will die with out it, and if you don’t keep your exposure wise, you can die with it. It can literally blind you. This is power that is impossible to ignore.

The moon, she is true also, but you have to pay attention on a longer time scale. Those who can truly appreciate the moon are those who have the patience to notice deeper, more esoteric patterns. The moon stays with the earth, dancing around and around, and also comes closer and moves further away. The moon, she comes and goes to help you with impermanence, and cycle. She asks you to come out to play at night when she is full; and when she is “new” — when she has moved closest to the sun — you are invited to fumble about at night on your own. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that this longer cycle is somehow less powerful, or less true than the hard and fast cadence of the sun. The moon is tides, and wind, and weather, and seasons. The moon makes the savory richness of complexity. This is power. You are wise not to ignore it.

Today, we will have an eclipse. The sun will still be true, but the moon will give us an experience of darkness during the light that is unfamiliar, entirely predictable and still titillating. Today, the moon will say “you may not ignore me.” The astronomical predictability of today’s eclipse is essentially not different than the cadence of the sun, the pattern of the moon, it just takes an even longer and far more patient scale to grasp. It takes the kind of scale which requires understanding at the pace of mathematics, learning, and teaching. It takes believing in something you can observe, but not touch nor change.

People who have not taken the time to learn this mathematics or patience have traveled long distances to be in the place where the eclipse will be “total.” Even the folks with the day passes in the location where they reside will probably take a few minutes to go outside and see what all the buzz is about. They no doubt have not done the math either, but they take on faith that those who have are speaking truth. This is power, and it is a choice.

Think about that! Someone you do not know has predicted darkness today, and you believe it is true, and you will be acting accordingly. The moon is a really true thing. The sun is a really true thing. And this eclipse is a really true thing. And you know about it because other struggling humans with math and the study of astronomy have let you know the news. And then these two things that give you an experience that you take to be immutable, will give you a really different, though entirely predictable, experience today.

Today also, the 14th Dalai Lama tweeted the following words. If we can believe the cadence of the sun, the patterns of the moon, and the prediction today of the mathematicians and astronomers, and act accordingly, I wonder if we could also extend our consciousness out, even if for just a moment, to believe the truth of these words. Could we, like we do with the astronomers, take on faith that this lineage has done the math, and has an understanding of human psychology and ego that the rest of us can take as news to use. Can we truly grasp that thousands of monks and scholars, learners and teachers, over generations, have done the practice of slowing down to pay attention on an even deeper, slower, more patient and esoteric pace? Try it in this moment just to see. Here is the news that Lhamo Dondrub has let us know today:

“Anger and jealousy are related to our sense of self-centeredness and our disregard for others. Self-centeredness easily gives rise to fear, which fosters irritation, which, when it blazes into anger, can provoke violence. The time has come to accept that if we’re talking about peace in the world, we have to consider peace within ourselves.”

At other times, he’s said you can take any path you want to peace within yourself. If it is Jesus or agnostic meditation, celibacy or tantra, 1 god or many, is of no import. But find that peace, please, because we need you.

So here is a little exercise I’m going to offer myself during the eclipse.

As you watch that shadow cross the landscape from where you observe, take a moment to notice your breath. Notice the in- and out-ness of it, and how grounded and real that helps you feel. In and out. The breath is, in this moment, the truest thing. And notice it helps your heart maintain its cadence. But the heart is different. It wants what it wants, and drives you to take yourself through deeper and more esoteric patterns of fullness, newness, it dances you around and around, sometimes calling you to move closer, and sometimes further away. And then, pay some attention to your mind. Not just the thoughts your own mind conjures to entertain and distract you, but notice the news you’ve let in from the others. You are not alone in this world experiencing either the darkness or the light without the cadence of the sun, the patterns of the moon, the contributions, some true and some not, of thoughts shared with you by your fellow humans. 

And as you contemplate this, invite yourself to ask, what do you give your attention to? Do you stay focused on the simple and undeniable cadences like the sun? Do you allow your focus to extend to a longer, more patient scale like the moon? Do you believe what you observe, or what you are told, or do you need to do the math for yourself? Maybe you don’t need to do the math, because you have something else to contribute that the rest of us could use? Are you doing that?

Because a number of us are telling you that a shift is coming, and this eclipse can be a metaphor for that. What is it a metaphor for? That is yours to find inside. And it starts with knowing deeply your own patterns of anger and jealousy, of seeing that your self-centeredness is not the truest thing in the landscape today, or ever. There is a natural loving kindness and great peace that is here in this and every moment, if you choose to cultivate the practice of making yourself available to it. Please do. We need you.

 

 

Stillness

Lately, this extremely unfamiliar but very welcome deep calm has come for a visit. Paradoxically, it is a little unsettling in its newness. I laid down to meditate for 10 minutes yesterday and over an hour passed without my noticing the time. I sat at my computer to be productive and chose instead to wander aimlessly about the house adjusting little details.  I pulled into my driveway from errands, turned off the engine, and felt no desire to ambulate for many minutes.  I had an intention to create some art, but found a truth that I could summon the beneficial feelings of those practices without actually getting out of my seat.
I can see how some of the mystics get so unkempt, seriously. It’s a quiet that is more about my mouth not moving. I’m having stretches of no mind, no thought, no desire, even no desire for movement because this moment is so engaging. And then this moment and then look here is yet another that is so worthy of my full presence.
I’m sure there is a name for this. I know it is a normal part of the process, but my analytic mind insists it needs some context, lest I allow myself to fear the pull of drifting completely into stillness that won’t serve my basic needs like work and food and child care.
But when I think too hard on the nature of this stillness, my ego is all too pleased to respond with less peaceful thoughts, my learned personality offers to shatter the calm with obsession and worry over details, my mind rushes in to stir the pot.  But on a deeper level than these friends is the truth, and it gently emerges to offer them a reminder:
This is a practice. It takes time.

On being in the Middle

It’s okay to be
part way there;
to cry while I make love with you;
to still use words
where touch belongs;
to feel sensations for which
I do not yet have words.

It’s okay to melt
lovingly into your embrace,
while I use one hand
to hold reverence
for my own fear of abandonment,
and another to cradle my desire
to not become trapped.
We are always right
in the middle of the beginning.

Each day I begin
to follow this thread
that weaves seamlessly in and out
of your soul and mine,
to feel how it spans between
pleasure and purpose,
safety and freedom.

I allow myself the space
to stand naked
in a puddle of love,
to stomp my boots impetuously
as I laugh at the absurdity
of it all.

Love note from my future partner (NOT a short story)

She’s been “leaving” me for years (it’s not really leaving, it’s more like minding the gap that is required to keep our spark moving). In the beginning, I found it heart wrenching, but now I just know it is part of how I am here to love her. It’s not my favorite part of our relationship, but I’m just resilient and persistent enough to let her go, and each time, trust a deeper knowing, that we aren’t done.

This leaving habit of hers pre-dates me. In her early relationships, she stayed in the house, but left the premises emotionally, shutting down and cutting off the pieces of herself she couldn’t figure out to bring into the particular dimensions of the puddle of light of that relationship. I can think of no worse way to love her than to enable that.

In the beginning, it was hard. A wordsmith, she can be quite convincing when she explained that she’d reached her end with me. Even as her heart and my heart spoke differently, her exit was very convincing. Sometimes loud, worse when it was cold stone silent. For a while, it seemed erratic. Over time, I came to understand the paradox that sometimes “both” can be true – that she needed to be away, and also that she was, even in her exit, permanently and inextricably inside our togetherness.

So we have a relationship that is like swiss cheese, and whether that is judged as good or bad is my choice. It is all of one connected piece, and I can focus on that, or it is full of holes and I can focus on that. I’ve learned to now hold those holy spaces with a loving caress. When she goes away, she goes to grow, to feel her own breath, to reconnect to the quiet signal that can sometimes be hard to hear in the cacophony of our robust and gregarious life of family, tribe and community (and my noise?). What I’ve learned is, that signal inside her that is so clear and discernible to me and sometimes so elusive to her is a broad and undeniable call back to community and connection. She lives in connection, and I’m blessed to be one of her chosen connections.

I keep the light on, enjoy time with my and our other beloveds, and look forward to meeting and starting anew with her again and again, each time greeted at my open door by a partner for this next patch of life that is an upgrade from the one that just left me.