The Conquering of Self: All in a Day’s Outing

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It is a spring day of which poets write and painters paint but my mind is all a jumble as thoughts tumble, each more urgent than the last. My body has joined the revolt, sending one pain message after another. This mind-body battle means it is a perfect day to take myself off to Waverly.

It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles.
~ Buddha ~

No matter how many times I visit Waverly, it whispers to me, sometimes to remind and other times to reveal. Regardless, a breath here is less ragged with frustration. The mind-body battle is still present but now resides at the edge of my awareness as if the stillness of Waverly is all-pervasive.

Waverly offers something for each of my senses. With the focus of a juggler tossing each ball high enough so that the others remain in the air, I take in one view completely before leaving it for another. In a moment’s stance, the mind-body is absorbed otherwise.

Standing at the edge of the circle of live oaks whose branches intertwine into a year-round canopy of shade, Waverly as park and pond is mine to survey. I will not walk the park and pond today but I decide to try to make my way to the bench on the bridge that crosses the pond.

Stillness of Waverly 0514

My steps are deliberate, almost mindful, as my right knee wobbles. My focus shifts to the pain in my shin and then to my calf and back up my thigh into my hip. I take in what I have come to know as a “pain breath,” which gives me a way to communicate with it.

Sometimes, the pain will release but this is not one of those times. Again, I assume the juggler’s focus, tossing the pain as high and as far away as I can, knowing it will come round again but I have made it to the bridge.

Waverly has never seemed so vibrant. I have lost count of the times that thought has come to me as Waverly’s purity of color and panorama of life stun. This is a world not shy about life.

There is tightness in my lower back but this time it releases simultaneously with my noticing parent geese and their two, yellow-brown goslings in full down just at the edge of the other side of the bridge.

I will not disturb you is the only thought of which I am aware as I quietly open my camera. The sun is behind me so all I can do is aim and hope that the goose family is somewhere in one of the shots but regardless, my mind’s eye has this one.

Goose Family 0514

In my three years of visiting Waverly, these are the first goslings I have seen.  My entire mind-body watches with a focus that had seemed impossible moments earlier. This has been a spring of uncertainty.

The hawk and the geese 0514The red-shouldered hawk also decides to watch from atop the light post, perhaps to watch for a failure in focus, perhaps not. The parent geese are ever alert while the goslings are otherwise engaged yet in this moment, the world is theirs. They do not dawdle in their gusto of being alive.

As a human, I am easily snagged by the “what if” of drama but in the natural world, life is lived as it comes. Each moment is so precious, so all-consuming that it cannot possibly be anything but enough.

I rub my right leg in gratitude for each sensation it sends, as my mind opens to being rather than to battle. Such is possible with each breath, this being in life as it is. How it dazzles.

25 thoughts on “The Conquering of Self: All in a Day’s Outing

  1. Hello. I am new to your blog this evening and so thankful to have found it. Searching for anything about the drip drip drip of denial, I ended here with you and your fellows. Beautiful writing, lovely thoughts, and a sense of shared respect here has made me happy to have found you. Looking forward to connecting again. Thank you.

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  2. Thanks for taking me to Waverly again with you. I do feel I am getting to know it but then there is always something new, for us both – here the goslings. I have seen them at Kew Gardens – so far from you but an experience to share. Thanks, Karen.

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  3. I am in awe of your ability to be with the pain you are experiencing, even as I am sad that you are experiencing so much of it. It sounds to me that what you are doing is less of a conquering of self and more of an ability to present to self (and its pain) in a way that also makes space for so much more. I see such courage in being present in this nonviolent way to all that you are experiencing without allowing the pain to become the entirety of that experience. I hope the pain has receded in the days since.

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    • Excellent point about being present with pain, and I am working hard on that. As this post points out, I have a tendency to go to battle rather than to be–at least that has been my past behavior–I want to make space for so much more, as you say, because then it will not be a battle but an experience. Thanks so much, Kenetha, and I am practicing your advice. Thanks for that, too.
      Karen

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  4. I’m so sad that the pain is increasing Karen. You have such beautiful words to describe it, and such inner strength to handle it. I really admire you. Thanks for sharing Waverly with your awesome pictures, your wisdom and your friendship with me. Feel better!

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  5. An all-too timely meditation for me, struggling yet another spring from the cursed “You’re not as young as you once were” syndrome. Moving into the pain, breathing with it, works for so many types of pain. Thank you, yet again.

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    • I, too, know that “are you kidding?” attitude my body gets from time-to-time. Going to the core of pain makes it no more or no less than it is, meaning no drama, just pain. Thanks, Janet.
      Karen

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  6. You are quite right; we have to accept what is given us, often whatever that may be. The sensation of pain is not pleasant; but sometimes it cannot be avoided. A little while ago I had to have a tooth out. I can’t tolerate local anaesthetics – they trigger a reaction that provokes sharp, chronic pain that lasts for months. I learned that one the hard way. After some discussion the dentist pulled the tooth without anaesthetic. I didn’t like it, and nor did he, but it was the least bad of my options, all of which were bad. I used a specific technique to deflect the impact, which I’d always thought I’d learned from my mother, decades ago – she taught yoga for over 25 years and it’s a method that involves the inter-connectedness of the body as a system, yoga-style. But it turned out the method was actually from the martial art I learned back in the 1980s. No matter: it worked against the instantaneous pain of the extraction.

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    • Whatever works is my motto, Matthew. As you point out, there are similarities between yoga and the martial arts. Of course, then there is the “westernization” of yoga (exercise/physical workouts), which is probably not part of the technique you describe. What I find helpful with the mind-body connection is that it seems an approach to pain in the moment, as if one can go directly to it. For me, that identification and focusing on the sensation gives me a way to get through the instantaneous pain, as if I get to the core of it and if nothing else, be with it. At least I am with the pure pain. Thanks, Matthew.
      Karen

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    • The state of mind that we bring to any moment may be the most important aspect of being. At least, I am beginning to think so. Thanks so much, Kitt.
      Karen

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  7. Wonderful photos and lovely writing, K. To be able to say “to being rather than to battle” about your pain seems so great, K. — Jane “Miss Case”

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    • Ah, my dear Miss Case, I actually am finding more in being and less in battle. At the very least, it is less tiring. Thanks so much for stopping by.
      Karen

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  8. As you know, my friend, Ray and I put our dear old companion Moo to sleep last Thursday. There is no advice for doing this that really helps, but in trolling the internet for advice on knowing “when it is time” I came across something I knew but had not thought about much. Dogs do not fear death. They live in the moment. And it is true, every dog lives more firmly in the moment than the greatest Zen master, but Karen, sometimes you come darned close.

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    • Dogs are the most mindful creatures I know; Cooper and Gumby really did teach me Zen. Of course, each interpretation was uniquely theirs. That dogs just are is their greatest gift to humans. Death is the last moment yet a moment is what it is. Thanks, Adrian.
      Karen

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  9. when i experience pain, it consumes me entirely, leaving no space for anything else. your attitude toward your pain and your way of seeing through it and over it is absolutely inspirational. thanks!

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    • For me, being in the moment or mindfulness Is not to be consumed by the sensation but to recognize it and then experience what the moment is offering. Some moments, that actually happens! Thanks so much, Craig.
      Karen

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