One Long Moment

Acceptance is a lifetime practice–one long moment–less about events and more about impermanence.

You know the drill. Everything is going fine, life is good, and in a nanosecond, the entire landscape changes. It’s a new life lens: the joy of the extraordinary or the bottomless gulf of grief–and everything in between.

Life will not be as we want it, no matter how hard we hold onto or push it away. Somewhere between these two is a moment of not clinging and not avoiding–accepting what is–where forgiveness is not such a chore, its heady fragrance in the crushed petal of the violet, never to be undone. Life has changed.

Mine is to accept the experience–come what may–I am neither doormat nor fortress. In acceptance, I respond with compassion. It may not be what others want but if I am mindful, I offer all I am able. It is all I have.

The older I am, the more I accept what a treasure change is.  Still, I am a slow learner and sometimes given to stubbornness, steeped in the fear of being old. Yet, at any age, I am who I am.

Acceptance is a lifelong moment but it will not sit with fear. There is no room. The fragrance of forgiveness too heady. The pull of the life experience too strong.

I think that is the seat of self. Ageless? I don’t know.

It is the body that does age and mine not so well. I look older than my years; I have since my 50s. In my mid 30s the right side of my face began to sag.

Too much medication, wrong kind of medication, not enough medication. I don’t know. Maybe it would’ve happened anyway. I really haven’t noticed these last years.

These days my visage sags with wrinkles, like the smoker’s lines above my lips. I don’t single out any one face furrow. They are the lines of my life, altogether.

Although I no longer drink, I once drank heavily. I know how fortunate I am in not missing alcohol. I thought it a change I would never make. Same with smoking.

I discovered that finding “life in the present” is as heady an experience as any martini—more so, actually—even better than the cigarette after dinner or sex.

Aging keeps me curious; judgment feels unreliable because it is. Aging reveals me as I am, flawed but ever viable. I need neither regret nor expectation. Who wants boomerangs?

In awe, I sit in the seat of self, where all gifts are given and received. Some are surprises, not all an easy open.

I may have an expiration date but the energy that animates this entire physical dimension does not. I’m not trying to stop any processes. I want to learn the grace of acceptance.

The body is a marvel at adapting to change. It is lifetime acceptance in action, forgiveness a given. All I need do is follow its lead and keep my life lens open.

Confessions of a Fixer: Does a Warrior Lurk Within?

KMHuberImage; Wood Stork Fishing
KMHuberImage

Warrior is not a concept that has ever described me for I have lived my life as a fixer. Now in my sixties, I can only hope that fixer is a permanent past tense characteristic.

It is not as if I was not aware of the warrior concept—I was introduced to Buddhism over 25 years ago–but as a committed fixer, I cared little for clashing or “going a-warring, not that a bodhisattva or Buddhist warrior does either.

“Those who train wholeheartedly in awakening unconditional and relative bodhichitta (“enlightened mind”) are called bodhisattvas or warriors…of nonaggression who hear the cries of the world. These are men and women who are willing to train in the middle of the fire…[who] cut through personal reactivity and self-deception [through] their dedication to uncovering the basic undistorted energy of bodhichitta” (Pema Chödrön, The Places that Scare You).

Admittedly, I did not care for the word warrior and was not  comfortable with bodhisattva but I admired the warrior’s way and still do. For me, it has been amazingly easy to confuse fixing myself with the warrior’s way. It has taken decades to discard the cloak of the fixer.

As a fixer, it never occurred to me to consider maitri, the complete acceptance of one’s self as one is. “Only when we relate to ourselves without moralizing, without harshness, without deception, can we let go of harmful patterns” (Chödrön). Yet, for the warrior maitri is essential. The warrior understands her inner self is her guide, her greatest strength.

“Lasting transformation occurs only when we honor ourselves as a source of wisdom and compassion” (Chödrön). As a fixer, I did not consider acceptance or surrender. That was giving up. No, I was determined to change my fundamental nature–as if I could–that was my fixer’s guide to true transformation. Yet, everywhere I went there I was, no matter how many different paths I took.

KMHuberImage; Florida turtle sunning
KMHuberImage

In the way of the warrior, there is no clean slate, just the self that is. The warrior knows her strength is in accepting all of the patterns and behaviors that have been her life. They are the open road to her heart, free of any sign pointing to one feeling or another. The warrior is open to the energy that is.

“There is nothing wrong, nothing harmful about that underlying energy. Our practice is to stay with it, to experience it, to leave it as it is” (Chödrön). As a fixer, I “dealt” with my feelings and thoughts by putting them where I did not have to see them. It was enough to know they were there. Maybe they would just go away for I had no intention of staying with that kind of energy. I was too busy trying to fix my life.

The warrior has the courage not only to look within herself but to stay with the energy, regardless of its outcome. Essentially, she “touches the bubble [of emotion] with a feather” (Chödrön). The warrior goes beyond the reactive demands of the mind chatter to the energy that is fueling all that emotion.

She stays with the energy for that is the warrior response, to experience. Sometimes, the response is silence but regardless, the warrior does not cling to whatever outcome occurs.

Always, the warrior is as compassionate with herself as she is with the world, not trying to fix either one. The quest of the warrior is staying in present moment awareness, and for a fixer from the past, that is quite a quest.

Finding Story Anew

My last two blog posts have been an examination of my current mind-body consciousness, specifically my meditation practice and eating habits. I share Deepak Chopra’s belief that a change in one’s consciousness or awareness affects a change in one’s physiology at the cellular level.

I don’t remember when I did not believe in the mind-body connection but I know that reading Chopra’s Quantum Healing helped me consider what quantum healing may mean for me. I first read the book in the early 1990s and again just recently.

Old Woman Tree; KMHuberImage; Tallahassee Park in Winter

Of course, my current level of awareness is quite different these twenty years later. Then, I was completely attached to outcome—clinging the Buddhists call it—meaning my attention was always focused on the end result. Mostly, I was on a pendulum, swinging back to the past and then to the future without a thought to the moment. No wonder I never felt free.

Becoming aware that the moment is where freedom resides broke me open to Chopra’s “field of infinite possibilities” both physically and spiritually. Now, every facet of my life is fluid as I focus on what is and not what might be, which takes a lot more energy but in every moment, there is more energy.

Nowhere is this more evident than in my writing. When I began blogging, my writing focus was entirely outcome based: I set myself a certain number of words per day, I joined various writing challenges, and I troubled my readers with my angst over whether to plot out a novel scene by scene or just write it out by the seat of my pants. In nine months, I produced 220,000+ words in what I have come to regard as my daily writing practice. It is as valuable as my daily meditation practice, and  I don’t regret a word.

I was so attached to the outcome of writing– was it a novel, was it a memoir, was it a compilation of essays–that I abandoned story in search of format or genre. I could not free myself of what my words might become until I settled into the moment to write. One word after another, each sentence emerged from life rather than artifice. I re-discovered how I write.

In writing from the field of infinite possibilities, format/genre didn’t matter nor did structure, which is not to say that format and structure do not matter. They do and are critical to a successful outcome but like story, they have their moments for each writer to discover. For me, that meant having to know my story first, and I wrote in a way I have never written.

Having always appreciated a good story, I was well aware that I did not know the structure of story so I found out from those who did. I read, I watched movies, I discovered scene, and I wrote every day. I began to see snatches of story and I was reminded of John Irving’s response to the question of how he writes: “I start writing my autobiography and then I begin to lie.”

Pond in Winter; KMHuberImage; Tallahasse Park in Winter

I am writing an old woman story, and I am an old woman. If one can come of age at age 60, this woman does it. I cannot say that she is sympathetic or even likable—yet—but she exists in more faces and more places than is comfortable for any of us. Age or aging is still a thorny subject, and we have many clichés and euphemisms to avoid the word old.

But what can a woman make of a life at 60, if she has just awakened? That does sound rather autobiographical but I was lying before the end of the first paragraph–such is the way of story. For all I know, the old woman story—for lack of a better title–will remain part of my writing practice, as publication is not the outcome it once was for me. It’s too soon to tell.

For now, I go to the writing every day just to see what happens  with the old woman for I have not lived her life, although an old woman myself.