The Case for Chaos

Increasingly, I choose chaos over suffering. It’s a conscious act, one I have come to know as sitting in the seat of Zen.

The Buddha taught suffering and ending suffering. There’s no avoiding pain. It is integral to the life experience. How I deal with pain determines whether I suffer.

This is usually where chaos ensues. 🙂

Pain arrives like any other experience, a visit from the unknown. If I sit in the seat of Zen, I am without expectation, open to what is being offered. Welcome or unwelcome, the experience changes me.

It is not the nature of life to suffer. Pain is only one experience and like all every other one, it is merely passing through. No one experience frames a life unless we do not let go.

Being chronically ill offers me various levels of pain but sitting in the seat of Zen offers me a life lens to adjust to whatever light is present in varying perspective.

I have demanded much of my body. It has responded beyond my wildest expectations, often adjusting in ways I am late to discover but become aware of nonetheless.

As Anne Lamont said, grace finds us in one state and leaves us in another. It strips us to our core—revealing us as we are, transforming us from what we were. It is the heart that must make the mind bold to life anew, and somehow, it always does.

This past week, I visited my neurologist who advised that while there is no improvement in my cervical spondylotic myelopathy, there is no change, either.

The tingling in my fingers will not subside nor will sensation replace numbness in my hands.

I’ve known this since the cervical fusion failed in 2015 but to know and to bear are often different worlds.

I may be able to push my fist through a wave of impermanence but I will still be knocked to the ground. And there is no out running the wave—ever. Mine is to be, to experience.

Hollow comfort that when fear is in abundance but I don’t have to be fearless, just a little bit curious, that is sliver of light enough.

What now for my hands and arms? The answer is what it has always been, world-building “around the tiniest of touches” (Carol Rifka Brunt).

I have a reverence for the capabilities of the “opposable thumb,” probably because my thumbs feel more in opposition than opposable. Yet, there remain possibilities.

If I ignore the “tiniest touches,” I will drop the plate or the egg. I must be completely present to my task. Less focus is required in lifting my collapsible walker in and out of my car. In gripping the walker, tingling streams through my hands, the “tiniest of touches.”

I no longer wrap my mind around that one moment when all life will seem in balance. I once worked toward such a freeze-frame but it left me lacking. In all the imperfection of impermanence, I would rather its wave.

How easy it is to forget that we are world builders–our one life experience so chaotic, so full of grace.

A Day in Search of the Theory of Everything

I am at the point in my life where I can appreciate every day of the week as just another day.  I keep plans to a minimum. It keeps me open to just what any day can bring.

Every once in a while, a day does take on a life of its own. Often, when there is a plan involved. So it was with last Monday and my plan to see the movie, The Theory of Everything.

The day began like any other Monday as I perused my WordPress reader for a #MondayMusing post to share on my Twitter feed. The first post I read–Core Spirit–made an indirect reference to the Theory of Everything.

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It is a thoughtful essay on consciousness, in particular the differences between the scientific perspective and the spiritual experience. These differences are centuries old.

To me, science confines itself to the natural world, what it can prove/observe.  Those in the spiritual community—poets, philosophers, religions—confine themselves to the experience of just being alive.

In the Core Spirit essay, scientists seek to define the natural world; the spiritual seek “communion” with it. Yet, it is a world we all share. That we have unique and different perspectives should serve to broaden understanding—fuel curiosity—ultimately, it still divides rather than informs.

As for the Theory of Everything explaining all the laws of nature and accounting for all that has ever happened? The essay ends with: “Einstein said that knowing this equation would be reading the mind of God” (Core Spirit).

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To my mind, agreement upon that equation will not come readily but then I am one who immerses herself in the wonder of the moment. Science may  find the equation; some say it already has. For me, science only adds to the awe.

I was pleased at the coincidence of coming across the post on the day I planned to see the movie about the Theory of Everything.

I checked the movie’s show time once more before leaving but paid no attention to the movie theatre location. That, I was sure I knew.

When I arrived at the third movie theatre location, I was told the movie is now out on DVD. The movie theatre employee looked at me askance, of course, but she did have to make a phone call to discover that information. We both learned something.

If I had read the complete movie listing, I would have discovered the fourth location where the movie was, indeed, playing at that specific time, out on DVD or no.

Of course, it was too late to drive to that location. I was not dismayed. There might be a day to see the movie but it was not that day.

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Once home, I checked my email. Within the last twenty minutes, I had received an email from the Washington Post, asking to re-publish “Learning Zen from a Beagle,” my post about a blind beagle showing me the way.

Had I gone to see The Theory of Everything, I would have missed being available for a back and forth email session with the Post editor. I would have missed this moment in my life. Maybe, I would have missed everything now unfolding.  Maybe not.

As for my next plan to see The Theory of Everything, my name is in the local library queue. On another day, my name will come up. Who knows what will unfold.

 * * *

For a thoughtful and concise post on the equation and the Theory of Everything, here is Matthew Wright’s “How Stephen Hawking Reconciled the Irreconcilable.”

For a considered discussion on consciousness, here is “The Akashic Field and Consciousness.”

If you are interested, here is the link to the Washington Post’s republication of “How My Blind Beagle Taught Me Zen.”

With the Dawn, the Every Day Miracle Begins

Settling into the miracle of life may be all that we ever require. The miracle of the every day is the field of infinite possibilities available at every dawn. Distinguishing what is from what is not is a lifelong dilemma, a constant in humanity.

“Every particle of creation sings its own song of what is and what is not. Hearing what is can make you wise; hearing what is not can drive you mad” (Sufi poet Ghalib).

We are prone to making sure that events turn out as expected, keeping wonder in absentia. We are more comfortable when we confine the outcome to known boundaries. Trusting the miracle that we are requires a shift in perspective.
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“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle” (Albert Einstein).

Viewing life through that lens, merely appreciating that we are alive seems more than sufficient. Yet, there is the matter of day-to-day relationships and situations.

The Vedic sutra Sankalpa–Sanskrit for purpose or intention—can be a way to frame our choices and decisions. “Every decision I make is a choice between a grievance and a miracle. I let go of all grievances and choose miracles” (Deepak Chopra, SynchroDestiny, DVD version).

Sankalpa opens up the field of infinite possibilities by encouraging us to choose courage over fear. When we accept our fear, all that is left is courage.

It means loving ourselves for who we are, not for whom we want to be or for the person we have been but who we are in the dawn of each day. In loving ourselves just as we are, we connect to the miracle of being alive.

“… Loving [ourselves] requires a courage unlike any other. It requires us to believe in and stay loyal to something no one else can see that keeps us in the world—our own self-worth” (Mark Nepo, Book of Awakening).

When we settle into the miracle of all that we are, we open ourselves to the world. There is no guarantee the world will open to us in return yet to live the miracle of the every day is to rely on the constancy of our own self-worth, confident in our ability to absorb the day no matter how it is presented to us, whether as pain or pleasure.

Every moment of our lives is like an opening night performance for our roles are constantly evolving through plot twists and scene changes. All the acts of our lives play from beginning to end, sometimes to applause and other times to catcalls. Such is the stage of life.

“And all moments of living, no matter how difficult, come back into some central point where self and world are one, where light pours in and out at once.…a fine moment to live” as is the next. (Mark Nepo).

The Wisdom in Compassion, a Matter of Nuance

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The practice of compassion requires considerable courage, for the way of compassion is living an active life amongst all beings. Practicing compassion means we trust ourselves enough to connect to life completely, making ourselves vulnerable, a daring in its own right.  Such is the wisdom of compassion.

Compassion (Late Latin: com=”together” + pati “to suffer”) offers us a perspective on suffering. Its etymology—the peeling back of the layers of its life—reveals its nuance, allowing us a peek into its past. Much of the mystery of life lies in such nuance.

The practice of compassion is a commitment to connect with the suffering of all beings, including those we do not like. Connecting is not condoning but rather a revealing of the nuance inherent in every being. “It involves learning to relax in allowing ourselves to move gently toward what scares us” (Chodron).

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Moving toward what scares us allows us to soften rather than harden, to open to options previously hidden from view. In acknowledging that all suffer, we recognize that all know pain in its various guises. Suffering reveals our connection to all beings.

In practicing compassion, especially when to do so challenges us to our core, we appreciate the pain of other people. The nuance is in recognizing the suffering without judging the behavior. In this coming together with those who suffer— the etymology of compassion—we glean the wisdom inherent in living such a life.

Dr. Grace Damman terms this as the aligning of compassion with wisdom: “What I mean is that when I am served by other people who are driven by their own standards of excellence, and not by the demands of my ‘whiny self,’ then I am best served by them.” It is what she discovered in her recovery from a serious car accident, a truly vulnerable state.

In reaching for the wisdom within compassion, our perspective broadens, leaving us less susceptible to shenpa or getting hooked by our emotions. When we are hooked, we soar with our neuroses, oblivious to objectivity. We sever our connection with all beings, hearing only our own demands, our own needs.

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The churning of our emotions slips us into solitary confinement with our suffering, devoid of compassion. We sharpen our selves, harden our hearts to resist what scares us–creating the classic boomerang effect—the life of the infinite loop.

When we finally stop and peel back the layers of our pain, we open up to compassion, softening into the realization that all suffer. We connect to the nuance of life. The practice of compassion is not for the faint of heart but for warriors—bodhisattvas—who trust their vulnerability, for they know it is their connection to the wisdom of existence.

“We cultivate bravery through making aspirations. We make the wish that all beings, including ourselves and those we dislike, be free of suffering and the root of suffering” (Chodron).

Such is the way of a life of compassion.

After Silence, Music Expresses it Best

The power of music was the Bloggers for Peace challenge for August. It brought to mind Aldous Huxley: “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
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Throughout the history of humanity, music has permeated barriers often considered impenetrable. Music unites continents, as the deeds of humanity are recounted in song. Human existence is the song of the ages written across bars of hope and measures of peace.

From Paleolithic time onward, every major tradition—Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism Tao, Hinduism—embraced song as one way to reveal the stories of human existence. Combining music and story, each of the major traditions expressed compassion for all in the community as a way of daily living. Similarly, each tradition warned of the pitfalls of hoarding riches and extolled the virtues of giving to the least among us.
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In each verse of the song of community, all give and all receive, the song of the ages expressing the inexpressible.

For many in my generation, “We Shall Overcome” was the song for civil rights for every American as well as every citizen of the world. We are still singing this song, still committed to overcoming what divides us in order to live with what unites us–peace. Globally, it is the melody of the human heart, expressing the inexpressible. Within its coda is the constant vigilance required for compassion and thus, for coexistence.

Peace is not passive but like compassion it is alive, an aria to overcome what we have yet to accomplish in twenty-one centuries: to live with one another in the harmony of acceptance sans the labels of race, creed, color or any dissonance that divides rather than unites.

Since we began composing the story of human existence, there have always been notes of hope. Perhaps the power of music and its ability to express what we cannot will one day lead us to a vigilant, vibrant life of peace and compassion.

It is and always has been to our great credit that we sing.

If memory serves, the video clip of Joan Baez singing “We Shall Overcome” is from the 1969 movie, Woodstock.  There was a time I would have recognized it immediately. Well, I still know all the words.

Other Bloggers for Peace Posts:

Grandmalin: The August Post for Peace

Rarasaur: One Little Candle Burning Bright

The Seeker:  Music That Will Make You Smile

Rohan Healy:  Alien Eyes

Electronic Bag Lady: Music and the Brain

Transformation Requires Refraining

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Often, we get caught up in transforming our lives. We decide that we will no longer assume an old way of being or an old way of doing. In other words, whether it is New Year’s or not, we make a resolution not only to do better but to be a better person. Just like that.

What we discover is that letting go of a habit or a behavior requires a lot more than filling ourselves with resolve. Letting go is a lifelong practice for we revisit old habits, old behaviors–neuroses we once cherished–often, we recognize them immediately but sometimes, they are disguised as something new and possibly, beneficial.

 The three difficulties (or the three difficult practices) are:

1.   to recognize your neurosis as neurosis,
2. then not to do the habitual thing, but
to do something different to interrupt
the neurotic habit, and
3. to make this practice a way of life

(Pema Chödrön)

Recognizing what we no longer wish to do or be is usually obvious but recognizing all that it has meant to us–how it has disguised itself in order to be an integral part of our every day– is a lifelong practice of recognizing neurosis as neurosis.

For a while, just rising above the neurosis is reward enough. Yet, life is uneven and the rise of the unexpected often dissolves our resolve whether it lasted for minutes or months. Thankfully, life is impermanent, and we get lots of practice in letting go.

What we get to do each time we recognize that once again we have invited in a familiar neurosis is to accept that is exactly what we have done. That is the first step in letting go, accepting what is. Think of it as resolving to refrain rather than resolving to deny.

Refraining comes about spontaneously when you see how your neurotic action works. You may say to yourself, `It would still feel good; it still looks like it would be fun,’ but you refrain because you already know the chain reaction of misery that it sets off.

 (Pema Chödrön)

Even if we have begun to set off the chain reaction, we accept that we have and refrain from going any further. We set our resolve to refrain because we accept where we are. Refraining allows us to halt and not go where we have gone before and unhook from the neurosis.

Resolve serves us as long as it is to accept that life not only changes but masks itself in new faces and different viewpoints, allowing us to experience familiar habits, recognized behaviors, and old relationships through yet another perspective.

Transformation is not a matter of discarding but an accepting of all that we are and were. Such resolve is the genesis of transformation, a lifetime practice of experiencing, letting go, and when we are ready, refraining.

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KMHuberImages

Dear ?: A Peace Letter

July’s Bloggers for Peace Post is to write a letter for peace, which was a real challenge for me beginning with the salutation. The forpeace6question mark is preferable to a mere blank as there is an acknowledged mystery in the question mark as well as an implied unknown and perhaps uncertainty. Yet, as mindfulness or present moment awareness reminds me time and again, it is in this unknown and uncertain realm where the infinite possibilities lie.

Dear ?:

This is a letter to existence, the life force that runs through everything on the physical plane. Deliberately, I have settled for a punctuation mark rather than a name, although there are many from which to choose, but more and more, I am convinced that putting a label on anything only excludes.

Now that I am past the salutation, there is the body of the letter that contains my current thoughts on peace. Like existence, peace is ever undulating, for peace is not a destination or even a goal but rather, a way of being.

“Peace begins when expectation ends”

~ Sri Chinmoy~
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The onus is on us, where it always has been, yet the planet seems so much smaller now for we crisscross it on a daily basis through images and words on screens. It is reminiscent of when the world wrote letters, and the challenge still is to respond rather than to react. Pen and paper required more of us physically and may have delayed reaction time somewhat.

The ability to communicate instantaneously to almost anywhere in the world has brought us face to face with ourselves. Ideals, illusions, and even institutions have been shattered as we find ourselves in immediate relationship with so many voices from so many places. There are few gaps between thoughts.

Peace is not some sort of lofty ideal nor is it an illusion or an institution. Peace is not a finite but an infinite state of being. Peace is not a one size fits all but is unique to each one of us. The oneness of peace is the acceptance of all of us just as we are for then—and only then—have we removed expectation. The possibilities are infinite.

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As always, I am overtly optimistic, which is not to say that I am not aware of how taxed our planet’s resources are or how many species are either being pushed to the edge of their existence or are already extinct. I am only too aware that “the world is too much with us” to the point of making my head explode but then I remember:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has

~Margaret Mead~

We begin from within, putting our own house in order from the inside out, which is a lifetime task. And that is how the world changes for we cannot give the world what we do not have within ourselves. If we are not at peace with ourselves, we are not in peaceful existence with the world.

It is no wonder that peace eludes us for we look everywhere except where it resides, within our own existence. It may seem more practical to fix ideals or institutions but change—impermanence–is the nature of all existence.

Discovering our own oneness is how we recognize our connection to all of existence. When we love ourselves completely and compassionately for the beings that we are, recognizing our faults and forgiving our mistakes, then our house is in order for we accept our own existence, unconditionally.

It is the task of a lifetime and always has been.

Yours in Impermanence,

KM Huber

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