Working with Myself Rather Than Against

There is no returning to a blog. There is only the next post. I like that about blogging. I’ve always taken it seriously knowing every post requires a degree of vulnerability.

I’ve explored whether to continue this blog, after beginning AimForEven.com (AFE). It seemed there was a connection between this blog and AFE–at least in my mind–so, I let AFE grow into itself and discovered where and how the two blogs intersect.

As for this blog, it was a weekly blog until I had three major surgeries in less than two years, in addition to being chronically ill. I’m still chronically ill but having two “new hips” has dropped my pain level significantly. In response, my energy level has risen, although it remains limited.

Once again, weekly posts seem possible. They may turn out to be bimonthly posts but I’m aiming for weekly, initially. I am calling them the #LongerView, another look at an issue or concept published in an AFE post.

Originally, I hoped to post daily on AFE, and I worked hard at it but soon, I found I was working against myself. The purpose of aim for even is to do just that. It is not a daily grind but working with the energy I have to meet my responsibilities and obligations. It is far more practical to post on weekdays only.

Since July, 2016, I have published 175 posts on AFE. There is a pattern emerging; I believe there is a book in it. I won’t know unless I try, and I’d like your help, if you’re willing. You don’t have to do anything other than what you’ve always done.

Just let me know if there is something you like or would like explored more. I read every comment very carefully. Many times, comments have resulted in blog posts.

The idea of AFE may sound mediocre in a world driven by divisiveness and competitiveness but AFE is far from settling for average or a bit above. There is no settling involved, just the opposite. AFE is living with integrity by learning to live with the reality I have, not the reality I want. It’s eminently practical.

It brought me through these last two years of surgery, illness, and loss. Zen, of course, plays a huge role. Every time I frame my day for the experience that it offers, I accomplish more than I thought possible. Every. Single. Time. That’s what AFE—the book–will explore.

This blog has a steady readership, and I am grateful. For years, you have overwhelmed me with your loyalty and your compassion. Some of you have asked me about writing a book. I tried more than once but I was trying to return to a life I knew both as a writer and as a human being.

But there was no returning, no getting my life back.

Now, I work with the reality I have, often surprised by what I am offered. It requires an evenness of mind–equanimity–curiosity helps me stay open.  A sense of humor allows me compassion. It reminds me joy is available in every moment, if I will just “be” in that moment.

As Toni Morrison said, “I always start out with an idea that becomes a question that I don’t have the answer to.”  Exactly. I aim for even.

 

Right Down the Middle

KMHuberImage; St. Mark's Wildlife Refuge; Florida; USA

I often think of present moment awareness as a matter of balance, and whenever I think of balance, I think of Buddha nature: “The reason everything looks beautiful is because it is out of balance, but its background is always in perfect harmony” (Shunryu Suzuki).

The background balance of Buddha nature is the source of the infinite possibilities available to us in every moment we have. Our lives are up-and-down, in and out, and all the while, the balance of Buddha nature holds it together while we try this and that.

There are many names for Buddha nature— the web that has no weaver, God, Allah, the Tao— and underlying them all is impermanence, the pain and pleasure of existence. All the great traditions offer ways to accept impermanence, for if we can wrap ourselves around the idea that change is what offers us opportunities, we can live in the moment for all that we are.

There is no one way to present moment awareness but all the great traditions encourage living life fully present.  They offer prayer and meditation as tools but only we can find our middle way for balance is uniquely personal.

Thick of it 0313

Yet, the nature of impermanence is that balance requires constant adjustment. Just when we think we have found balance, a way to live that accounts for most possibilities, something changes. Sometimes, everything changes or at least seems that way.

Those are the moments of greatest opportunity but they often require everything of us. Our emotions rage. These are not moments to be passed off in positive platitudes or repressed in any way. These are moments to explore the energy beneath the emotion. Present moment awareness plunges us into the energy without the thought.

Many of the traditions define emotion as raw energy with thought or a story attached to it. Usually, many stories emerge with our emotions. It is the stories that bubble up and we attach to them. Before we know it, our thoughts have removed us from the rawness of what is occurring.

The result is we either stuff the emotion away or devise a strategy to control what we are feeling but regardless, we do not immerse ourselves in the rawness but impermanence is the nature of existence, so we will get another opportunity. What present moment awareness offers is a way to wake up and be in the rawness.

Single Path 0313

It is not surprising that we are resistant to being in the moment for it means accepting the unknown, yet we do not doubt that life is unpredictable.  We want a certain amount of unpredictability in our lives but we do not want to be uncomfortable.

When something outside our regular routine occurs, we get unsettled, and we struggle for balance. Whether the occurrence is as minor as not being able to get a cup of coffee or if it is life-changing, accepting impermanence as the nature of our lives gives us the power to deal with change. It is not approval of any event but acceptance of impermanence.

“So this place of meeting our edge, of accepting the present moment and the unknown, is a very powerful place for the person who wishes to awaken and open their heart and mind…it is what propels us toward transformation…the present moment is the fuel for your personal journey” (Pema Chödrön).

Meditation and prayer are two, sustainable fuel resources and always available. We begin within so that we may be all we want to be to the world. In finding our unique middle way, we awaken our hearts and minds to the ways of the world, able to adjust to its constant flux.

As Death Brushed By

Waverly Bridge; KMHuberImage
It does no good to make an appointment with death for death has its own schedule. In other words, death knows its moments. That said, death may give us a glimpse if we are observant and completely present.

Cooper James; KMHuberImageOn the afternoon of the winter solstice, Cooper James was jolted from his sleep by a spasm/seizure so severe and so long in duration, I thought death had stopped for him completely. Not so. Cooper was more than content to let that moment go and get on to the next.

I could not, however, let it go. With more ease than I care to admit, I abandoned the freedom that is in every moment and tried to secure every moment that remained for Cooper as if I could know when his death would be, as if I could make an appointment for it.

St. Mark's Refuge; Gulf of Mexico; KMHuberImage
I wanted to be ready but by looking to the future, I was missing what was occurring: Cooper was approaching his life as he always had, a little slower, perhaps, but with just as much interest. In fact, he took advantage of my rather dazed nature by sticking his nose into the cat box, something he hasn’t done since…well, I can’t remember when.

My head stayed stuck in the future, creating and re-creating it, as I cleaned up the cat gravel without giving it any attention. Of course, Cooper seized every moment in which I was not present and that included scoring extra portions of chicken and rice.

Cooper steadily improved but my head remained in the future because of what had occurred in the past. My head was trying to decide what was best for him while my heart went unheeded, as if it did not beat.Rose of Waverly Park; KMHuberImage

By Christmas Eve, my head was so restless there was no chance for sleep so I watched Cooper sleep and listened to an NPR broadcast of A Christmas Carol. His seizure/spasm had altered our lives but Cooper stayed present–it is all he knows—while I was stuck in the moment that death brushed by. Disregarding the present, I anticipated the future when death would make a complete stop.

As Christmas Eve turned into Christmas morning, I did not hear sleigh bells or angels singing on high but I did receive a gift. As my heart tucked my head under itself, the joy of being filled me with gratitude for what is.

I realized that my best is always in being completely present. That is what assures a future and heals a past. I have written about being present in so many blog posts but it seems I required a winter solstice event and a Christmas Eve carol to experience it completely.

St. Mark's Refuge; egret; KMHuberImage
The moment is always free, neither attached to the past nor future. What we are in each moment will frame our past and color our future. If we will tuck our heads under our hearts, we will not get caught within the ego web of our thoughts.

In keeping an open heart, we know joy, love, gratitude and compassion, the emotions the ego cannot know. This I wish for each and every one of you for every moment you have.

Blog Format Change

Beginning Thursday, January 3, 2013, I will begin publishing a weekly Thursday Tidbits post in addition to my regular Sunday posts. True to the definition of tidbit, these posts will be some choice bits of information that I find curious and think may interest you.

Often, I come across information that does not warrant or merit a full blog post but is worth sharing with my readers. Obviously, I am quite enamored of the idea of all of us connecting with one another—oneness meets technology—so my thinking is that Thursday Tidbits will provide us another avenue to do just that.

Other times, I discover blog posts that I would like to share but re-blogging has its issues so I’ve decided I would rather direct people to those blogs and blog posts. Thus, I will provide some introductory information and possible background information regarding the post and then you can decide whether or not to click on the link.KMHuberImage; writing

I may also include some videos and at times, these Thursday posts may be a forerunner for the Sunday posts. At times, I may ask for your thoughts on a subject before I write a blog post. Clearly, the Thursday Tidbits format is fluid.

This week, I am celebrating my one year anniversary of blogging. I have thoroughly enjoyed this past year. Obviously, that has a great deal to do with you, my readers, who have been so constant. I thank you and look forward to another year together.

A Change of Habit

Autumn is my favorite time of year, in particular the week before Thanksgiving. For some years now, this is the time I assess the current year in preparation for its final toast on December 31. I love the season; it’s such a time of good feeling. There were years that I watched all the holiday programming television could provide. This year, I’m marking the season by not subscribing to any television programming for one year, perhaps forever. It’s a habit I’ve wanted to change for decades, and it seems the season to do so.

For me, most television programming is noisier than any form of social media on its worst day. And my limited engagement with social media is more free than not. Frankly, I can “click out” of either one quite easily but the television has held sway over me–admittedly, attachment–that social media does not have, yet. Television provides hours of images, day and night, and all I have to do is watch, mindlessly.

Cooper’s TV Reaction

Yet, for all of 2012, I have been exploring consciousness–being aware of being aware–by studying various ancient traditions, including the practice of meditation. Since July, I have been meditating daily, having missed only a handful of days in five months. Meditation is yet another change of habit that is a long time in coming.

In the posts I have written about meditation, specifically about being “in the gap,” I acknowledge my difficulty in learning to accept what is. Yet, it is that acceptance, the moving away from duality–not labeling a moment as this or that—that has allowed me to connect to consciousness, producing changes in my physiology as well.

The benefit of any habit is its consistency; in fact, that is the power of habit. Nowhere is this more apparent than in meditation. My daily connection to “the gap between thoughts”—where stillness or consciousness resides—always provides moments of calm, even relaxation. The more that I practice meditation, the less attention I pay to the constant chatter of my mind. Without attention, my thoughts do not attach.

Early on in my meditation practice, there were days the chatter was almost nonstop but there was always some point where I connected with the stillness.  And every connection affected my physiology. Frankly, when I was in the gap, I was not aware of any discomfort. In five months, I believe my discomfort level is significantly less, and while I do not yet fully understand all that may mean, I know it to be true.

There are other reasons for my improved physiology, including a healthy diet and exercise, but if I had to single out one aspect in the last two years it would be a change in consciousness. In other words, my reality has changed because my consciousness has changed, not my attitude but my awareness. It is not a matter of positive thinking for a change in consciousness has nothing to do with thinking and everything to do with being aware of being aware in every moment.

Autodidact that I am, I have sought out the ancient traditions and continue to do so but when I began my meditation practice is when I noticed the shift in my consciousness that affected my physiology. There is no doubt that the cumulative effect of the change in so many of my habits over the past two years is finally being realized–recently, I added a few fruits and legumes to my diet as well as sweet potatoes–but beyond the increased energy I receive from extra carbohydrates there is a hardened resilience born of acceptance.

I assure you that nothing in television programming can compare with all the realms I have yet to explore.

“In one atom are found all the elements of the earth; in one motion of the mind are found all the motions of existence; in one drop of water are found all the secrets of the endless oceans; in one aspect of you are found all the aspects of life.”–Khalil Gibran

 

Freedom in the Unknown

For a while I have been residing with two, well-worn nemeses, the past and the future.  I am deliberate in my use of the terms future and past rather than a specific moment, incident, or person for what keeps the past and future ever present is what Deepak Chopra calls “the conditioned response” or the known.

Each one of us has a myriad of conditioned responses for every situation that arises. Regardless of whether or not there is a replica of a particular situation, the mind enthusiastically emits a thought barrage of past experience and future possibility. Both future and past are attached to what happened or what might happen but not to the moment that is. Living in the moment is the unknown, free from past or future.

Essentially, every moment is free. We choose between the known and the unknown, between what we have always been and what we have never been. It is that basic. What is not free is the situation surrounding each and every moment.

Situations reside in the past or in the future–they have strings–and where there is attachment, there is ego, a constant chatter of what you already know. Only when we practice what Chopra calls “choice less awareness” (Moksha), are we in the unknown of the moment and truly free. It takes a lifetime of practice and ceaseless awareness.

For without awareness, we get comfortable and our practice becomes what we know and not what is. Increasingly, my enthusiasm was on the wane, whether for the revision of my novel or for my nonfiction manuscript on consciousness. While I love what I am doing, I could not deny a familiar tug of weariness. Briefly, even the malaise of lupus loomed as I turned more and more to the known of the past.

Mindless television is a tried-and-true response of mine to whenever “the world is too much with us” (William Wordsworth). Some would argue that I could not have picked a better time than the broadcasting of the two major political conventions in the United States. There may be something to that. For completely opposite reasons, both conventions made me weep but as I reached my saturation point for both weeping and politics, I discovered my enthusiasm for republic and democracy.  Both are messy, completely life-like, wherein lies the sliver that is hope.

No matter the moment of life, hope is always the light of the unknown and may be the heart of risk as well. In hope lies enthusiasm, the total immersion into life, “the ripple that follows the stone…[as] we are each faced with the endless and repeatable task of discovering or uncovering our enthusiasm, which means in essence being at one with the energy of God or the divine” (Mark Nepo). Not surprisingly, God and the divine are within the political whirlwind of the United States while the world watches.

Regardless of how we perceive our relationship to one another–Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance,” the Tao, the Universe, the Source or quantum physics–we are all connected to consciousness, which is so much more than a mere pinprick of light. Consciousness connects us to existence, transcending all we have ever known; it moves our heads under our hearts so we may hear one another. When we listen, we observe. We make a response within the moment.

In observing the political conventions I listened, dropping my decades-long conditioned response of ranting and raving. Rather, I was grateful for living in a republic brave enough to reveal the messiness of its democracy to the world, at considerable risk perhaps.  I immersed myself into the enthusiasm that is the noise of life, the unpredictable but eternal moment.

It is such a small step from the known to the unknown. In the unknown resides the “choice less” awareness that is the freedom inherent in risk, the heartbeat of hope. It is neither the past nor the future but only the moment, which is all we ever have yet is always more than enough as long as we are aware. “Despite our endless limitations, it seems that the qualities of attention, risk, and compassion allow us to be at one with the energy of the whole and the result is enthusiasm, that deep sensation of oneness” (Nepo).

(All Mark Nepo citations appear in The Book of Awakening)

In the Moment

Reading up on Ramps

Cooper and I are ramping up—and down–our daily outings.

As always, he is unruffled when being requires an expansion of our routine.  If I am honest, my “Beagle Boy” is an exemplar of being, a trait that has run strong in the beagles I have known and one to which I aspire.

Cooper is progressing through another aging phase as his vertebral disks join his joints in degenerating—it is a condition we share–heightened by the dripping, Florida humidity that hails spring’s slide into summer, silent but steady. It is a fully body experience for both of us.

A week ago, Cooper’s front legs gave way as he stumbled, searching for a way to stay standing. His back legs held while both front legs were indecisive when it came to a simultaneous up or down.

We had not met this moment before.

Cooper kept calm—clearly, an anthropomorphic observation on my part–for an animal’s survival instinct is to cloak injury or weakness. I like to think I played my part in the deception as I kept talking in a tone he knows.

The moment seemed to require it.

Most of Cooper’s vocal responses are like a lilt, whether as a question, agreement, or his observations irrespective of mine. Infrequently, he sighs a low, gravelly moan that seems to signify resignation as well as contentment.

In this moment on the ground, however, he offered no comment.

Rather, he focused on breathing that was not panting, and I found myself breathing with him. We were in no hurry as we were within the confines of our apartment complex, and we had a sunset if we needed it, which we didn’t. Eventually, Cooper’s legs found themselves and a familiar rhythm, although forever changed.

For awhile, we confined ourselves to the area just outside our apartment, which is woefully inadequate. A day without an outing to a park or at least a ride in the car is like a day that never seems to start, as if we are willing to let it pass us by. Admittedly, that is how it feels to me, but if I read Cooper’s keening correctly, he concurs.

He is his own beagle, a definite advantage in being, as is having a portable canine ramp.

Can I Drive?

Cooper has always used the ramp to stroll onto our adjustable Tempur-Pedic bed, which sits too high for any access with ease. The ramp is also adjustable, shrinking to half its size and sporting a side carrying handle.

With medication and rest, Cooper stabilized. We moved into our next moment.

I carried the ramp outside and secured it while Cooper “waited” just inside the apartment door, trusting in the fact that he was wearing his harness, which was actually attached to his leash–both good signs. Yet ever aware, he kept his nose to the door, only backing off to let me proclaim that “bye-bye” was a go–Beagle Boy found his grin, again.

Even with disk disease and deteriorating joints, Cooper strives for the handsome gait that has all but left him. In seeing his ramp with his car for the first time, he took that in stride as well—allowing me to guide him in—bearing the grace of the being he is.

Once in the car, I buckled us into our seats.  With hand and paw on the gear shift, we moved into yet another moment.

For those of you who want to follow my ROW80 progress, you may view it here.