Thursday, July 28, 2011

Let Go (Or Be Dragged)

In the practice of meditation, once we step out of our concern for security and are willing to be raw and rugged, personal, as we are, somehow a certain relaxation takes place. We discover that the more we let go, the more comes back to us, rather than that we lose our grip on anything. Thus a real relationship to our situation begins to develop.
You know I love me some Chogyam Trungpa.  

I am letting go of a lot these days.  My house is under-going renovations.  So, the actual, physical, 3-D situation around me is in the midst of transformation.  And yes, it can be a bit, uh, disconcerting.  The environment is raw and rugged for sure.  And relaxing into that can be challenging. For the most part, it remains exhilarating for me.  But at the end of the day I lay down exhausted-- in part from juggling all the little projects and decisions that arise to interrupt one another all day long (multi-tasking was never my strong suit), and in part, I am convinced, by just living with the energy inherent in a torn up, transforming situation.   For someone who really loves her comfy, cosy cocoon space, this is probably a good new taste to cultivate.

After all, the truth is, we are always in the midst of change.  

Love to you in the midst of yours.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

God Light

I am in the middle of renovations.  This old house needed a new roof.  So I have been living inside the head of a giant who is under going extensive dental work for about a week now.

I am also removing a couple of walls and adding some sliding barn-like doors to open one space and define another as my studio.  Oh, AND I am getting a bathtub after living without one for 10 years now.  Bathing is more than a hobby to me.  I take lounging in hot water seriously.  I am getting a 5 1/2 ft cast iron claw foot (please say a novena for the guys hauling it up my narrow farm-house stairs) and I am totally stoked about it.

It is remarkable to experience change happening after imagining and wanting it for so long.  It is noisy and dusty and inconvenient, sure, but kinda wonderful at the same time.  Transformation is powerful.  There is something literally awesome about it.

Yesterday a solar tube was installed over the spot where my claw foot tub will go.  I was out of the house for dinner at some friends when the guys finished for the day, and it was dark when I got home.   Brushing my teeth,  I noticed the round face of the solar tube installed in my sloping ceiling, thought, oh, cool, and trundled off to bed.

This morning I toddle into the hallway half asleep and head for the john, when it hits me like a major chord:  The Light of God.

You know how in old paintings-- and sometimes in real life-- you see this bright beam breaking through the clouds and this kind of spotlight of Heaven beams down?  It was like that, only in my bathroom. A brilliant white beam of light was bursting forth from the alcove where my shower currently sits.   It was like God was taking a shower in my bathroom.

I can't wait to -- quite literally-- bathe in the light of God.  Totally awesome.

PS:  As some of you might note, last year on this date I was rushed into surgery to cut a "window" in my heart (well, my pericardium, to be exact, the sac around my heart).  This was how metastatic breast cancer made itself known to me.  It is not lost on me that today, one year later, I am writing about the the Light of God pouring through a hole cut in my roof. And about the power of transformation. This world is mysterious and beautiful, my friends.  And it has a wicked sense of humor.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Yeah, yeah, yeah....

You've heard it all before.  My yoga teacher used to end every session by saying:
A grateful heart leads to a peaceful life.  
I had to say out loud at least one thing for which I was grateful.  Then, I had to do it without rolling my eyes.  Then, I had express my gratitude for something other then my yoga teacher .  Let me tell you, it weren't easy for a dyed-in-the-mind, affirmation-scoffing wise-ass like me.

But here's the thing:  She was right.  I am here to testify:  A grateful heart leads-- at the very least-- to a more peaceful life.

And here's the other thing, the secret thing, as ee cummings would say,
"... here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life:"  

Cultivating a grateful heart leads to a grateful heart.

It really works.  Gratitude replicates itself.  Once you start the habit, you find yourself experiencing more gratitude more often.  I am talking real, authenticate, spontaneous gratitude-- NOT the "I know I should feel grateful" bullshit, which really only serves to re-enforce what a sorry, selfish ass you think you are.

No.  This does not even smell anything like that.  I have to tell you, even the very things which raise one's hackles can begin to engender gratitude.  Sounds crazy, I know.  I will not claim it always works for me-- I can still get pissy and grouchy and filled with delusion and despair, as anyone who knows me can well attest.  But the mere possibility that this state can spontaneously transform into something like gratitude is stunning and profound.  It is a fascinating phenomenon.

But this kind of ordinary magic works against how we have been culturally programed to see the world: Us v Them,  Winners/ Losers, With Me Or Against Me.

Years ago I drove cross country with my Dad.  Anyone going slower than us was deemed an idiot,  anyone going faster than us, an asshole.  Sound familiar?  Don't we all do that to some extent?    My Dad, caught up in the ongoing tele-novella of the highway, would swear, pound the steering wheel, and spew general dissatisfaction with every other vehicle on the road.  Do you suppose those idiots and assholes were doing the same inside the little world of their own cars?   Probably.

There is an old zen story about a monk in a boat in the fog.  Another boat smacks into him.

Why don't you watch where you are going?  Don't you see how thick the fog is?  You should be more careful!

His boat gets hit again.  Then again.

What do you think you are doing? You idiot!

The boat pulls up beside him,  close enough so the monk can at last see it through the thick fog.  The  boat is empty.  The monk's emotion evaporates.  He laughs.  He realizes all boats are empty.

All boats are empty.  

For me this is a story about how something that hooks you (a klesha in yoga or buddhist terms) can turn into an opportunity for gratitude.  The world is always there for us, Pema Chodron says.  It is always in response to us.  We can be grateful for that.  It is our patient teacher who never gives up on us.  It stands aside while we beat the shit out of ourselves if that is what we want or need to do.  When we turn back to re-engage, our world is right there for us.  Always ready to teach us as much as we are ready to learn about ourselves.

Two last things:

I started this post in response to a weekend full of kindness visited upon me by good friends, mere acquaintances and family.  I am so grateful for each of them.  Grateful to be part of a world where the exchange of love in thought, word and deed is not merely possible, but actually takes place.  I love that about human beings.  I love it when we live up to our potential to love one another.  Go, team!

And that trip I took cross country with my Dad?  I was on my way to a month-long meditation retreat at Gampo Abbey.  The whole way there I was aware of how reactive my Dad was to the traffic around us.  The whole way back I was aware of how reactive I was to my Dad.

For this, too, I am grateful.

As I am for you, gentle reader.