Where We Are All Alive Always

Recently, I was reminded I have been blogging for 10 years as of this month. It doesn’t feel that long any more than it feels like I am in my 70th year. Once I would have been world weary with the passing of a decade and getting older—I would have put it in a box and labeled it—agonizing over the passing of time, as if I did not live in the eternal present. But that’s fear for you.

When I began blogging I was terrified of putting myself out on the Internet, especially my writing. What did I have to say that had not already been said (and no doubt much better than I could). I was trying to define what was possible, as if I had that kind of power, when all I had to do was wake to the world as it is.

Despite all the fear, I was determined to have a post published on January 1, 2012 so I posted Andrew Marvel’s poem, “To His Coy Mistress”; the opening line is “had we but world enough and time.” It was not me actually writing but it was a blog post published. I had to begin where I was as I was, not that I knew that at the time.

And there was something else about 2012 that was important. It was the year the world would end, according to popular Mayan calendar conspiracy theorists. After all, it was on the History Channel so it had to be true. So, it could be a short blogging experience—there was that—but the Mayan calendar possibility worked neatly into yet another version of a book I have yet to finish. So many signs, so little time.

Early on, I found the structure of the blogging challenge, a Round of Words in 80 Days, quite helpful. I had to publish my writing goals, whatever they may look like—daily word count or number of writing hours. I tried all the strategies but what worked for me was blogging regularly. Still does.

About seven or eight years into blogging I added another blog, aimforeven.com, because I wanted to explore, specifically, the idea of living evenly, not to settle for mediocrity but to live with an open heart, constantly mindful of life, digging deep into change and what it offers.

I thought I might write a book about aiming for even, if it worked for me. It has. As for the book, I have shelved it for that other book that never goes away and is making yet another appearance. My 70s feel like the years I will write my books, and I put that down to blogging, the constant flexing of the writing muscle. It’s not about the fear of finishing or self-publishing that stalls me.

In these last seven years, there have been so many new health scenarios. First there was one hip replacement then another, some of my cervical vertebrae needed to be fused, I fractured my pelvis, and now I am dealing with what appears to be a herniated disc in my lumbar area (I’ve had this happen three times), and I cannot stand long enough to take a shower.

I have ordered some durable medical equipment for the bathroom, and I am now outfitting my wheelchair to accommodate my package and mail pick up in the lobby of my apartment building. This is the stuff of getting older, being offered new lenses through which to view life, and the adjustment takes awhile. In the meantime, awareness is key.

And yeah, I aim for even. Living evenly gives me space no matter how little there may appear to be. It’s great for the tough stuff in life, those moments that take the breath away, especially when it involves the ones we love most.

My 90-year-old father is living with stage four pancreatic cancer. It’s been hard waiting for the diagnosis that the early scans made obvious. Dad says, “Well, the first day I blubbered, but then I decided to get on with it.” He knows there will be more days of blubbering, as he calls it, but he also knows that no one is guaranteed tomorrow—not a one of us—so we might as well dig deep into today to see what it offers. And that’s what he does and has done all his life.

Being 90 is just a number to Dad for he has always been so much younger than his years but he rather likes the idea of living to 100. There is something to be said for having lived all the days of a century and staying curious about life, as my dad does. At 88, he decided to retire to do other things beyond being part of the everyday work world. Not surprisingly, Dad was onto something.

A New England Journal of Medicine study, published in 2018, revealed the years of 60 to 80 as being our most productive. My father has certainly proven that to be true so it may be that that 90 to 100 are our prime retirement years, whatever that may look like. I remember reading about a writer who thought his most productive writing years were in his 90s. He was 104 and still writing.

In a sense we have “but world enough and time” if we live in the moment we have, immersed in what the day offers, unconcerned about the past or the future, for no one lives there. No one. The eternal present is where we are all alive always.

Life as a Pirate: A Love Like No Other

Note: Regular readers may recognize the picture of these four young pirates or remember a bit of the previous post but writing, like memory, is a collage of images—the who, what, when, or why—jostling for time and space. Each revisiting reveals another perspective. 

It is Dad who turns me into a pirate for Halloween. Particularly impressive is the way he ties that scarf around my head, perhaps the last time I ever wear it. I was not a girly girl. I don’t remember what we used for my pirate sash but it was impressively blood red and ran to my calf. I doubt I told Dad how impressed I was or whether I even thanked him for this moment that was so good for both of us. And my mustache has a bit of a French flair to it, doesn’t it? I looked good!

Yup, that’s me on the far right.

My mom uses pinking shears to create my black eyepatch. She knew her way around any piece of cloth. I wonder if I thanked her. Probably not. If nothing else, I was consistent in my thoughtless pre-teenage angst.

It is a financial stretch for my parents to buy black, corduroy slacks (as my pants were called) but they read the Halloween invitation dress requirements carefully. This is my first slumber party, and my parents like these girls—a lot. Maybe what they like most is who I am when I am with them. Sometimes, I bring the glow of their friendship home with me.

All four of us are 12 in 1964. We have been in junior high for two months.

Maurya is the witch with the fading pirate mustache. She had always been a witch for trick-or-treating but for us, the mustache. She was so good at making a witch and a pirate work together, as if they always had. She did that kind of thing all her life.

And the witch-pirate is the reason this is not a Halloween post anymore.

Maurya exuded equanimity, and I suppose in our own way we knew that; I would not have known the word but the other three, probably. It’s just that she seemed to know everything without ever seeming to know everything. Who would not want to stand in the light of that witch-pirate?

Nancy is the pirate next to Maurya. Then Jeré, the party host, next to me.

For reasons understood only by junior high girls, we will not remain friends with the party host. Even Maurya was not too enthusiastic about the way Jeré popped the bands of the braces on her teeth—food on the fly. It probably was uncomfortable for Jeré, as she said, but it made Nancy gag, and the gag reflex won the day. And I think there was some issue about Nancy’s boyfriend living too close to Jeré. First romances are drama like no other, also for reasons understood only by junior high girls.

Jeré was the only child of much older parents who did their best to give her the world as she had come to expect but what teenage girl didn’t believe the world was hers? She moved away within that school year (I think), and I hope she found what I did with Maurya and Nancy.

The three pirates go on for 52 years—together with separate lives and never disconnected—no distance too great to come a runnin’. In 2014, the witch-pirate sails into the sunset for the last time. Nancy and I are adrift for a while but love eventually puts the wind in our sails. Today, Maurya would’ve been 70.

I no longer think about calling her but it is the rare day that I don’t think of her at all. The love is greater than the loss, the gratitude for over 50 years of friendship immense, enough for the years I live without her. Or so I tell myself every moment I reach for our friendship, the light in my stars, sunlight on pond waters, moonlight waxing or waning.

The witch-pirate did not suffer fools nor was she unkind, ever. She understood people have only their kind of love to give; she knew that often our shortcomings and our strengths are one and the same. And on this birthday and every day I think of her, the image of two lines, in her handwriting, comes into view:

Never cast aside your friends if by any possibility you can retain them. It is easy to lose a friend but a new one will not come for the calling nor make up for the old one. And when it is death that comes calling, the loss is no less.

But what of the two adventurous pirates still sailing the sea of unconditional friendship, 58 years and counting. They are now virtually connected every month in what is eerily similar to the 3 ½-4-hour phone calls they knew as teenagers. Nancy and I might be more different than alike, and we have set sail for opposing seas from time-to-time but our friendship always closed the distance.

We do not see eye-to-eye on politics or religion, if we were to list our points for argument but that’s not how we roll. We talk about what we know to be true and that puts every subject on the table without labels. We were fortunate to find love during years when we needed it most and it has withstood the events and years of our lives. Might as well cut off an arm rather than lose this testament of friendship.

Nancy is much better at setting the table at our monthly virtual meetings than I am, and it is so hard to leave her each time. There may be a day we just stay permanently connected—virtually—we already take food, drink, and bathroom breaks so maybe naps are next.

On December 19 Nancy is 70. Happy birthday, me hearties!

Zen Meets a Boojum with Snark

Alan Watts tells a story about translating Zen texts into English and the selecting of those books. He consulted a Zen master who found the translation idea pretty preposterous, particularly the selection of certain books. After all, any and every book is Zen, be it Alice in Wonderland, the Bible, or a dictionary for “the sound of rain needs no translation” is what the Zen master had to say on the matter.

There is no separating Zen from being alive.

The first time I came across the Alan Watts story was some years ago, when I was on my own quest for anything Zen, wanting to capture and analyze Zen so I could keep it as a constant companion, completely oblivious to the fact that everywhere I went, there I was, in the eternal presence of Zen.

For everyone there is a way but there is no one way for everyone. I get that now.

But then, I explored quotations and Zen memes to suit any occasion, read books about Zen, and listened in rapt attention to Pema Chodron offer Zen just as it is as. And from her lips to my ears, the sound of rain needed no translation but only when she whispered it.

So, still translating with no Zen of my own or so I thought.

It may have been in the fall or spring. In Florida it is the color of the leaves that distinguishes those two seasons, so similar in temperature. It was raining with a constancy and clarity I have come to know of early morning rain, steel rod straight without wind.

It was just an hour or so into the light of day, and I was in the middle of monkey mind meditation. I have long forgot the pressing issue of that day—so important it was—or it may have been the frustration of yet another monkey mind day of meditation. Agitation has such an array of possibilities.

And then I was one with the rain. Just like that.

I don’t know when it started. All I know is that once I realized what was happening, it stopped, and I was back watching the rain with an awareness, an evenness of mind, that would stay with me for at least a few hours. I was completely present to each task but soon my mind started wandering and trying to explain that which does not translate.

I have had this happen to me three times in the years I have been meditating and it is much the same each time. I am aware of returning but not where I have been—that is a complete blank. And for the next few hours in the day, there is a heightened awareness, which I do my best to make stay, but I think too much about what was and not what is.

The moment is all I have and I don’t let it be enough.

Twice this meditative state has involved nature and once it involved what I can only describe as a feeling of knowing I was going somewhere. I was particularly tired that morning and quite low on energy yet I remember thinking “Oh, this will be good.”

And it was.

It was the longest time I have been “gone”—two to three hours—the heightened sense of awareness stayed with me for some days afterward and has never completely left. I turn to it when I find myself moving away from the moment I have. There is nothing back there and everything right here.

I questioned whether I had simply fallen asleep and maybe I did. It was some time before I told a friend, and she said Eckhardt Tolle had described a very similar experience and wondered the same thing about falling asleep. We always know when a moment changes us. And that is enough. The sound of the rain needs no translation.

There is no way to analyze or translate what is beyond our knowledge of the physical dimension. And considering human limitations, not the least of which is our penchant for labels, I have no doubt we deny what we know to be true. We have words but they are not always what they once were.

Consider the Snark in Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark.” The poem might be about the unanswerable theological or philosophical questions or simply nonsense, without meaning at all. (However, the idea makes a very interesting episode of Inspector Lewis [Series 5, Episode 1]).

In the poem, there are nine tradesmen and one beaver who go in search of the Snark—and if this reminds you of a snipe hunt—when they find the Snark, it “gently and softly vanish[es] away [to] never be met with again.” And to this end, the episode of Inspector Lewis offers an interesting twist.

Detective Constable Hathaway tells an anecdote from the late 1870s about a young girl who writes to Carroll, wanting to know why he didn’t explain the Snark to which Carroll responds, “Are you able to explain things you can’t yourself understand?” It works well with the script but I can find no tell of such tale.

Reverend Dodgson, an early Carroll biographer, writes in 1876 of a young girl who loves the poem so much that she recites it at will, whether or not she has an appreciative audience. Her favorite venue, it seems, was the carriage ride. She knew a captive audience when she had one.

Lewis Carroll, writing to an American friend about the Snark says “I’m very much afraid I didn’t mean anything but nonsense. Still, you know, words mean more than we mean to express when we use them” (The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll, Stuart Dodgson Collingwood, 1899).

The last line of the poem is “for the Snark was a boojum, you see,” an animal of the imagination and in 1922, Godfrey Sykes would name the Boojum tree found in the Baja Peninsula for it is like no other. Even in physics, there is a geometric pattern on the surface of helium known as a boojum. At the moment, there is a brewing company in the Carolinas with the name of Boojum Brewing.

It seems to me that once again, everywhere we go, there we are, in the eternal present defying definition. All we have is awareness, preferably heightened.

And somewhat tangentially related is a “what would you choose” scenario of two choices: a.) $1 million in cash, free of any taxation burden; b.) returning to my 40s, knowing everything I know now, as I approach 70.

Even if this were a multiple guess question my answer would be immediate and the same. (In full disclosure, forced into either or, I chose returning to my 40s but life is neither this nor that. It is on its very good days, a Boojum).

Money has never been an attraction, much to the chagrin of those who love me. I am not good with money because I just don’t care about having more than enough to meet my needs, and only this has been true in the last act of my life. For most of it, I followed the magical thinking form of finance, of which the worry was harder than maintaining a monthly spreadsheet.

And I have to admit that I enjoyed my 40s but mostly, I became comfortable with each decade as it revealed itself, a series of leit motifs in the overarching experience of life, not that revelation is always pleasant. Each decade has required adjustment but I have no wish to return to any time, even the past nanosecond. Been there, experienced that.

Only the eternal present offers what is new under the sun.

Moments That Change Everything

Perhaps on no other day is the nature of fear and fearlessness more apparent than on the winter solstice, the celebration of dark during a season given to light. Tonight, the quarter moon reveals the yin and yang of life, its phase equally light and dark.

A rather somber opening for a solstice celebration but these days are darkened by a pandemic that kills thousands—incredibly, thousands—every day. No sentence is darker than that. Yet, there is the promise of a vaccine; like the solstice it is the promise of lighter days. The science of stuff gives a glimmer of hope, and the rest is up to us.

Too given to fear, we often stay in the dark much longer than we need, not only at a high cost to ourselves but to the planet. We too soon forget that fearlessness is not being without fear but facing what scares us the most, the light of day, revealing who and what we are. Transformation. The winter solstice marks its beginning.

For over 30 years now, the winter solstice is inextricably intertwined with a quarter moon night, both black and bright, in a southwestern Wyoming town that has become known to me as Fossil. No such place really exists but the land of the fossil fishes does. There, life is in layers with occasional interruptions in the laminae—the moments that change everything—it’s a place I lived and then later it became its own story, and every December, I return to begin anew. Sometimes, I actually do.

Jillian drives west on Interstate 80, searching the brittle, white Wyoming landscape for highway marker 189. Unending waves of prairie snow-crust keep her from locating the lone highway marker, but the broad, green-and-white exit sign that reads “Fossil” is not to be missed. She turns onto a narrow, two-lane highway that looks and drives like a one-way street. This is the high plains desert, 6,900 feet, covered in glistening snow crust that will not melt until June is the last thought she allows herself before arriving at the house on Ruby Street, on the night of the winter solstice quarter moon.

In the clear cold of midnight, Jillian looks at an Independent Realty photograph that had been taken the previous May when burnt orange poppies surrounded the once white clapboard Ruby Street house now covered in a false, red brick front that sags. Nubs of native grasses dotted the wind worn grounds; seven aging cottonwoods bordered the back and sides of the corner lot. Sweeping, broad limbs of a lone blue spruce provided perpetual shade for the front porch. And facing the eastern scallops of Oyster Ridge, with its fumaroles from long abandoned coal mines, was a cherry tree heavy with blossom, magnificent in its breadth.

But this is the winter solstice and there are no blossoms, poppies, or grasses, nubs or no; just the fumarole gas plumes in the moonlight, somewhat like Yellowstone’s geysers, as they start to signal their burst. But this is not the fantasy of Yellowstone. It is life at timberline, a harsh cold beauty for the very few. The fumarole plumes will fade with the night but the gas is ever present if not always seen.

In the -2° crystalline landscape, the snow beneath Jillian’s boot all but shatters with her every step. Everything looks and feels cold enough to break at the touch of her glove so she is careful as she turns the key in the front door of the first house built in Fossil at the turn of the 20th century, the Madam’s home. Standing on its threshold, there seems a sliver of possibility Jillian has found her way home. Maybe it is the magic of the solstice with its yin and yang moon, yet in the stillness of the dark, the light swirls as she lets a life lived end and a life she has not, begin.

“Transformation always involves the falling away of things we have relied on, and we are left with the feeling that the world as we know it is coming to an end because it is” (Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening).

One with the Wood

Morning mantra…I wanted a way to define the moment for if I could confine it, then I could experience it. Ha! I lost the control and kept the mantra, which is more than I will ever be: to meet each moment with compassion, lovingkindness, joy, and equanimity, a frame for every day. I’m not setting goals just reminding myself to open the door of each day and begin there.

Just waking to some days is easier than others. To meet what happens after that–looking to the heart and not only the face of life–is never easy. Feelings may not be facts but they are powerful, for at their core is pure energy.

Mindfulness–awareness like no other–helps me open that daily door, which is (sometimes) to a forest, rare and rich. Every day is a stroll, indoors or out, but a forest floor with sun shadows is stuff for my memory banks.

It is summertime in the Florida panhandle (although the calendar considers it spring), the humidity almost as high as the 90°+ temperatures, some of my best days for my body.

My walking stick is wood, a live branch now fallen, stripped of bark and varnished clear, its knots remembered. I have added black rubber tips to its top and bottom, one to ground and one to grip, for ease of grasp.

My left side is weaker, so much so my left hand cannot hold the stick with any certainty but my right hand, used to leading, finds the walking stick a useful prop. Sometimes, balance looks lopsided.

I waddle and wobble, a slow stagger sometimes, but an evenness of mind and body down a forest path on a late spring morning just after sunrise is–to me–all that and lots of birdsong.

This greenway is 50 acres of forest and meadow with 12 miles of dusty sand trail but to me it is boundless, yet forests have their limits these days and are now carefully tended not to exceed…what is done is done.

I walk until I tire, reaching a picnic table made of concrete, its bench table tops painted brown for natural reasons I suppose. Still, I am grateful for such tables, as well benches, for there are days I stop briefly at each one but today, it is the second picnic table where I will stay.

Not far along, I know, but in the forest, distance ceases to matter, like time. It’s forgotten. To neither, the forest bends. Rather, it gives its all.

Regular readers of this blog may recognize the above picture of a magnificent live oak split down the middle by lightning some six or seven years ago, not even nanoseconds in its life. See how its heart has sprouted so many new lives.

In the distance, in stark contrast, stands another oak, a sentinel stripped of its bark, possibly by lightning but by life, nonetheless. At the tip of one of its limbs, I notice movement, the shape of a turkey vulture when its head switches to profile, but mostly it is one with the wood.

In awe, I watch as all else disappears.

Not even the heart of the magnificent tree with all its new lives distracts from being one with the wood. No sound nor single thought or emotion, only nothing consumes mind and body. I am neither on the ground nor in the air, only nowhere.

In some moment I return to being alive with the energy that animates everything rather than being one with it. Such soundless moments never repeat in the same way or in the same place. I know. I’ve tried. I no longer search for the silence. It is enough to know it is available in any moment I open the daily door.

Silence is not the absence of something but the presence of everything” (Gordon Hempton, Ecologist).

The View from Down the Hall

A lesbian lives down the hall from Connie, not that she cares.

It’s a label she has avoided all her adult life and now, at 88, a neurologist asks if she and Babs “are a couple of queers.” It isn’t the first time she has heard that question (in so many different words) for she and Babs lived together for over 40 years but now they live apart with separate lives.

Babs promised to stay but finally, she found a relationship with her daughter, who lived 300 miles away. And then there was the volunteer job as a docent at a local museum. Connie was invited to move, even offered a house, but Connie liked being the one with the money and doing the offering.

It would be five years before she moved to be with Babs in the same town but in an apartment. All their years simmer, a pot constantly stirred, frequently boiling over, their differences the only constant they have ever known.

In her remaining years, Babs is immersed in what it means to be in the workforce at 86. She kept the house, washed the pots, and cared for Connie’s every need for decades. She doesn’t miss the life but she misses the Connie “who could sell ice to an Eskimo.” Business after business, Connie was a success.

Now, her mind is a jumble. Intersecting thoughts, their edges jagged, her past seeping into her present, a rapier seeking its mark. She doesn’t know daydream from daylight.

“If this is me, I don’t want it anymore,” Connie says, turning her snow-white head from side to side, blue eyes red rimmed, but her thin face younger than her years. Babs took good care of her, it seems. Still, Connie’s snake-like spine increasingly betrays her with pain and immobility, but that’s nothing like the longing she has for Babs.

Connie never had to care for herself so she never learned how. She always had enough money to hire everything and everyone. “I just can’t do any of that,” she has told me time and again, and I have come to believe what Babs told me, “I waited on her hand and foot.”

Their bond was that they never tried to change each other. Their differences keep them plotting, stirring the pot, making sure the pilot light never goes out. They live as if life–this one right here–is eternity and they have all the time in the world to mold life as they need it to be, at times demand it be.

I admire that, I really do. Of course, I cannot  know their lives, only what I watch through my life lens (with my own boundaries and biases) but it seems a badge of love, this life, for Connie and Babs.

That’s the view, anyway, from the lesbian who lives down the hall.

Courage in Every Size

 

 

Today’s #DailyDose features a favorite place of mine, Second Chance Farm (SCF). Regular readers may remember SCF as the sanctuary of Cooper James and Emma Rose. It lies deep in my heart as do the people who live there.

At the farm, courage comes in all sizes, shapes, years, and species; love seems to persist no matter what. To me, that’s magic. I’ve never known what really led me to the sanctuary, and I probably never will. It doesn’t matter. I found it.

I’m sharing Aim For Even’s post because I want you to meet Phoebe Louise Dooley, a true profile in courage. Hers is a story about what is best in us, so here’s the portal into “Where Magic Lives.”

Mom’s Last Door

Today, the Memorial Mass celebrating my mother’s life is being said.

I am over 2000 miles away. Ours has been a long-distance relationship for almost two decades.

The last time I saw my mother was four years ago. Increasingly, we shared physical disability. Soon, neither was able to travel.

Most Sundays, I wrote a weekly letter to her, just a page or two. She was no longer able to send email so for the last 2 ½ years of her life, I wrote her a letter.

She did not write back. The give-and-take of regular correspondence was not the purpose of the letters. Mom wanted to know about my life, the day-to-day of it, and so I told her.

Some weeks I wrote her about Zen Buddhism within the context of her own devout Catholicism.  It pleased her that I practiced a kind of “faith,” even if that is not how I would have described my practice.

Once that distinction would have mattered but in writing the letters, the word faith fit. Mom had a deeply personal relationship with God, an unwavering faith and trust in His grace. She believed “Let go and let God.”

Mom respected people’s beliefs; they need not mirror her own. She knew how to listen and many turned to her. She showed me I do not have to agree with people but I do have to hear them.

It took me decades to appreciate that in my mother but when I did, it opened so many doors for me.

I think it always opened doors for her, too:

Let my last door open into the light of late spring.

May it be shadowed with the announcements of those who walked

into darkness before me—right foot disappearing first,

body leaning into the unknown, trailing hand making mostly

mysterious gestures: I’m all right or come along; it’s what I thought

or it’s not what I thought.” *

Mom died in winter–in Wyoming–her memorial service is in late spring. Just two days ago it snowed.

Spring still lags. I know she would appreciate that.

An avid gardener, Mom knew late spring better than most. She accepted its elusiveness and never doubted it.

I have no doubt its light opened her last door.

*Wendy Bishop, “My Last Door” excerpt from My Last Door, Anhinga Press, Tallahassee, FL 2007.

Our Outrage Keeps Separating Us From One Another

Ours is to extend good manners to all life on this planet. Having good manners is synonymous with having a reverence for life. It means understanding that the energy of existence connects us all.

Edward Abbey said, “It is not enough to understand the natural world; the point is to defend and preserve it.”

And I would argue that it is ours to explore death in the natural world for it occurs there as a natural part of being alive. In the human species, killing occurs for myriad reasons, many of which have nothing to do with survival.

We act as if we are in control of this planet. We are not. It is not the natural world that needs us. We need it.

More and more, our outrage separates us from the reverence for life. That separation may very well be killing us and the planet.

We are not united in our outrage. Rather, we compare and contrast the act of killing animals with other senseless deaths of humans being killed on the streets where we live.

There is not time to mourn one life before another is taken. There is no outlet for our outrage.

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At the core of this divisive anger is a lack of compassion, although compassion is at the core of every major religious tradition, as is the fragility and importance of each life on this planet.

We are not open to that reality. Rather, we are angry.

All of this outrage over which life is more relevant/important is like comparing apples and oranges. How can one death matter more than another, if we profess a reverence for life?

There is confusion of equality with equanimity because we do not examine why we keep ourselves separate from rather than connecting with reverence for life.

We prefer apples to be oranges and vice versa–on demand. They have a relationship as fruit yet they are not the same from the outside in or the inside out.

Each apple or orange has its own unique characteristics and to have the same expectations for both is to deny the life force as well as our connection to it. We are denying our own existence.

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No matter how many times we say it, there is no comparison of one life with another for one life does not matter more than another. Such a comparison separates us.

In Buddhism, being separate from life is to believe we have a kind of “supremacy” over all life, as if we owned it. We do not. Our belief in this ownership is why we suffer: attachment, aversion, and indifference.

Our attachment to a certain way of life and our aversion to another way of life lead to a general indifference to death, until it touches us. We have no outlet for our outrage.

Anger fragments easily for fear drives it, and fear floats through us, powered by our own biases. We separate ourselves from what connects us, the life that animates us all.

We demand the natural world respect our human boundaries. Often, species extinction is the price. What does it say about us that we are willing to destroy the very world that sustains us?

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It is our unfortunate history and legacy that we have never understood this from our earliest days on this planet.

Matthew Wright explores this point in his excellent essay, “Cecil the lion’s death highlights the fact that humanity is the scourge of a fragile Earth”:

“…we unerringly manage to destroy every environment we go into. All, I suspect, downstream of a survival technique that worked quite well when there were only a few thousand of us and all we had were stone tools and sticks. “

In another fine essay on controlling our lives, “Breaking Free,” Liz Beres offers a unique perception on living in the here and now: she offers that it requires “an incessant acceptance of permeable principles. “

With “permeable principles,” life is approached with equanimity for there is a respect for each and every life on this planet. There is an openness to reverence for life. We extend good manners.

These days, it is difficult not to be angry. Some days, I just cannot stop myself. However, I have learned that in hanging onto my anger, I will only give it life in other places, inadvertently or no.

I have done that too much in my past. I no longer want to separate myself from life. Not for one more moment. The price of anger is too high.

In maintaining a connection with all life, I have an outlet for my outrage.  That may sound too simplistic. Maybe it is but I know it is difficult to do. Human history reveals that.

The natural world provides for our existence. We need it. It does not need us. Never has.

Not all the anger in the world will change that.

We are Lacking in our Attention to Signals

We are in constant relationship with signals, as senders or receivers. There is not a moment–or nanosecond for that matter–that a signal is not sent or received. Response is an individual matter.

Each signal is a demand on our attention, and often, we feel bombarded. In order to be part of 21st century life, it feels as if we must be sender and receiver simultaneously.

At what cost to existence?

Bloom of Peace 0613For me, signals are the energy of existence, a constant competition for our attention whether as a hand gesture or the tugging of “our gut” begging us to respond.

Beyond our physical senses are magnetic fields and electric currents, and the technology that allows us to send and receive 24/7.

And what of the signals we do not know about? I suspect there are signals sent that remain unheard for there is much yet to explore in this dimension of existence that we inhabit.

Yet, we do not lack for signals. We are, however, lacking in our attention to signals.

In response to the signal overload of our lives, we pride ourselves on our ability to send and receive multiple signals. We believe we are good at it.

We split our attention among signals, responding as if each were not a unique signal. Yet, as weary as we are at the number of signals demanding our attention, we anxiously await the next signal coming through.

Our mind-body is all about maintaining balance, right down to each and every cell. It is a constant challenge for our mind-body to keep shifting in this scramble for signals.

Our mind is not hardwired for such splintering. There is no multiple signal software for the heart.

More than we ever admit, we mix up signals. Sometimes, we completely miss a signal while other times, we send a signal best left not sent.

It is a rerouting of the energy of existence, a change in the coming and going. The nature of our response creates a new series of signals. The change has been sent.

It is like an O. Henry story, in which signal and after signal is sent, often in desperation or good intention. Yet, in the final sentence of the story, we discover the signals scrambled. Attention misplaced or never given at all.

For things to reveal themselves to us,

we need to be ready to abandon our views about them

(Thich Nhat Hanh)

Moments are a series of signals, options readily available to us. We need to receive each signal singularly so that its Clarity in the wild 0413unique story may unfold as it originated.

These stories are the moments of our lives. We owe each one our undivided attention so that we may respond mindfully.

It is for the earth to spin on its axis. Ours is not to spin but to stand and receive the signals–the experiences of our lives. How else will things reveal themselves to us?

Always, the choice is ours. We can focus on receiving a clear signal and respond or live a life of static, simultaneously sending and receiving, unaware of how we are changing existence.