A Life of One’s Own

Wood Stork 0214The life we have is a singular strand in the undulating web of existence. Each life has its own tensile strength, the maximum stress point before it is pulled apart. The actual experience of living stretches us into a life of our own.

Yet, to live the life we are given is more than undulating with the ebb and flow of existence. It means remembering each experience is unique, even if the situation seems familiar. No two moments in existence are exactly the same. We have not “been there, done that.” Not precisely.

In fact, lulling ourselves into the familiarity of a situation may just get us to the maximum stress point for we are not meeting the moment but escaping it. We believe there is nothing new in a situation that is so familiar and the tension grows.

At some point we release the familiar, put down the past for the present, drop the known for the unknown. We take “refuge in the Buddha”:

Every time we feel like taking refuge in a habitual means of escape, we take off more armor, undoing all the stuff that covers over our wisdom and our gentleness and our awake quality. We’re not trying to be something we aren’t; rather, we’re reconnecting with who we are.

(Pema Chodron)

Often, denial runs parallel to the ego-mind and around certain bends they dump into one another before separating into their own meanders. Both are rivers I traverse frequently.

A few months ago, I volunteered with a professional team, offering work that once defined me. It did not seem like I was escaping but rather, opening to a new moment—which it was—yet I opened to the new day clad in ancient armor.
Storks and Egrets Waverly 0214

My administrative abilities were essentially intact but I was heavy with haze, out of sync. I persevered, taxing my physical strength as I have done for decades in order to escape the life that is mine for a life that is not. My body responded with a resounding “no.”

Give your real being

a chance

to shape your life.

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj~

It is the tensile strength of a life to stretch without snapping. In these last few months of working with the team there was a niggling, an actual yearning to be somewhere else. I wanted to walk away—leave the armor to a life past–but doing so felt like fear so I lived in-between.

Nobody else can take [our armor] off because nobody else knows where all the little locks are, nobody else knows where it’s sewed up tight, where it’s going to take a lot of work to get that particular iron thread untied. You have to do it alone.

(Pema Chodron)

It is in vulnerability that we trust completely for all armor is removed, and what is left is who we actually are. It is then one claims a life of one’s own.

I began by cleaning some of my neglected writing tools. All the ink cartridges in my fountain pens were empty, and the nibs were clogged with dried ink. My writing bag was in total disarray–I had not even replaced my daily journal—I tossed memos, meeting notes and added a soft, Virginia Woolf journal embellished with notes from “A Room of One’s Own.” The journal is a gift from a thoughtful friend.

Anhinga Waverly 0214

On an overcast, humid morning I went to Waverly, welcomed by a noisy chorus of snowy egrets, wood storks, and anhinga. There was much flapping about as a lone hawk swooped and circled even alighting for a moment. Having thought better of it, the hawk had somewhere else to be. I understood.

That I am able to hold my own physically again in a relatively short period of time indicates the incredible progress my body and I continue to make together. That some joints are too well-worn for some activities does not mean there are not other ways to live.

All was as had always been, and all was as had never been. Such is living the life that is one’s own.

(Regular blog posts will resume by March 2, 2014; recovery is assured but always at a pace of its own.)

14 thoughts on “A Life of One’s Own

  1. Love the self-awareness and wisdom here, K. I also love the reminder of having beginner’s mind to every moment. Sitting in meditation helps me realize that no two moments are the same. I might be the same zafu, same room, same time, and same routine, but every sit, every second is unique and full of opportunity to deepen in awareness and equanimity.
    I am so happy your body and you have found some peace. Sending you positive love until you return in March. {{{Hugs}}} kozo

    • “Beginner’s mind” is precisely it, Kozo! There one is, open to the moment as it unfolds, and the wonders to behold for each moment. Your comment expresses this so beautifully–same zafu, same room, same time–for yet another unique experience. I will remember your words and thanks, my friend.
      Karen

  2. I know well this challenge of wanting to say yes to something when my essential self says no. I so often push myself to the point where my body has to echo the no before I listen. Thank you so much for this lovely post to remind me of the importance of listening to my essential self before my body has to force the issue. I hope you are continuing to recover and that you are finding joy in the return to your writing.

    • You know, the return to writing has been quite revealing. I cannot yet describe it but it is as if I have finally come home to roost. It is as if it is a different world for writing, as if I no longer question it. I was not aware that I had been questioning my life as a writer but it appears I had. We’ll see. Thanks so much, Kenetha.
      Karen

  3. Another wonderful post, thank you! It’s amazing how, when faced with an old familiar situation, we fall so easily into those old ways – our ‘armour’. And as you say, it’s by shedding that ‘armour’ that we can sometimes discover more of ourselves. I wonder; do those who have not shed that ‘armour’ – who spend their time in the comfort of their ‘zone’ – realise what they have, perhaps, missed? Or do they live comfortably, unaware of the potentialities? Probably it depends on the individual, I suppose.

    Great news that your health’s smiling upon you, and I hope all continues to improve as you move – with that wonderful sense of acceptance you have, from which we all can learn – along the pathways of life.

    • Interesting question about those who remain in the “comfort of their ‘zone'” as you so aptly describe it. It seems to me that never venturing outside that box means living with a certain amount of fear that someday someone may break through or the comfort may just crumble from lack of nurturing. Perhaps the fear completely cloaks the possibilities of bursting from the bud as Anais Nin wrote.

      I am pleased that my health held much better than I anticipated, and circumstances followed that required even more of me, albeit for a shorter period of time. Yet, I am able to maintain my own, although I have realized some new realities. Perhaps a blog post will follow, not sure. Thanks so much, Matthew.
      Karen

  4. Your insight that led you to say “no” was (as revealed here) really a “yes” to your essential self. A lovely and inspirational post. This week, I too said “no” to an editing job . . . and am still trying to unencumber myself from a volunteer job that keeps growing! One day at a time. May you stay healthy and of full heart.

    • Thanks, Beth! Indeed, my essential self said enough and let’s get back to it. I hear you about editing jobs and the attractiveness of those volunteer positions. I know both of those “stops” as well. Always good to see you here.
      Karen

  5. When I am feeling particularly tuned in and forgiving of self I ask whether the task I am breaking myself against is one that, ,if failed by someone else, i would forgive–or better yet, whether I would say, don’t even try it, to that person who is–at least hypothetically–not me. It is hard to practice kindness toward your self, harder still to recognize that, in addition to all the things you are, there are things that you aren’t. There are tasks that will never be within reach and are best left for someone with other skills and ambitions. There is enough for each of us to do, and not do, to fill a life time.

    • “There is enough for each of us to do, and not to do, to fill a life time.” Exactly. Although I cannot yet describe it, something changed, as in this is not a task I will revisit. With that finality, of course, comes yet another beginning…. Thanks, Adrian, for sitting with me.
      Karen

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