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.

A Place Not Far Away At All

I once believed peace a place far away, a land I would never know. I had too many bad habits, too many questions. How could I find time for peace?

Turns out peace is available in every moment, always an option. My choice. No two moments are alike so accepting and accessing peace lasts a lifetime.

I choose Zen as my practice but peace is not picky. There is no one way to peace and for every way there is an open shore.

Initially, I thought if I meditated every day for five minutes, 15 minutes, or an hour I would know stillness. Not exactly. I was still assigning peace a label.

Sometimes, I sit in stillness but the whir of thought–chaos–is more my meditative state. Mine is mindfulness meditation rather than transcendental. I meditate in the moment just as it is.

Remnants of that meditative state are what I bring into my day, sitting in the seat of self, as the emotion of the day–the chaos–plays out. Rather than judging, I find strength, something I once sought outside myself.

There is peace in such trust of the self. It takes the fear out of emotions. Within, I let them rage until I discover what it is they are really about. They are remarkable tools, emotions.

To let the storm rage is to sit in the safety of the self. Then and only then am I able to make a mindful response rather than getting tangled up in self-righteousness. The world does not need any more of that.

I have an increasing appreciation for the singularity of the candle, its flame stands brightly no matter the odds. At some point every wick gives way to a puddle of wax.

That doesn’t sound very reassuring or peaceful but it is, I suspect. To find stillness in the middle of chaos–to sit in the eye of the storm–is to know peace.

It’s the hardest thing I ever do, living in the present moment. Maybe it’s the only worthwhile thing I’ve ever tried.

Fear gives way to mindfulness. It puddles up. It simply is no match for mindfulness. I am not sure what is.

From what I know of history, worldwide mindfulness is one weapon we have not leashed upon the world. If we had, we would know.

Albert Schweitzer wrote, ”We cannot continue in this paralyzing mistrust…another spirit must enter into the people….” Exactly.

Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön said if we ”want to effect change it is not through self-righteous anger.” No, it is not.

What might this other spirit look like? How else to navigate the chaos that is the life experience?

It is not as if the demands of the day line up neatly. They sail in from everywhere. Some are arrows that wound deep. Others are boomerangs, visits from previous poor choices, demanding yet another decision.

It is up to me decide every day, confining myself to what is and not what might be or is no more. That is the focus of trust–peace–perhaps lasting no longer than my next breath.

It’s not how long it lasts but that it is always available. For me, that is Zen—easy, uneasy.

Safe for Anyone?

Why not be content with a slice of life? Why is a moment not a sufficient feast?

Experience has taught me the moment is all I have, and it is more than enough. Yet, my ego remains suspicious. It believes there is more.

Byron Katie said, “when you want nothing from anyone else, you’re safe for anyone to be with, including yourself.”

Michael A Singer wrote that when we understand the world is merely something of which to be aware, then “the world will let us be who we are.”

In other words, go groundless, as Pema Chödrön calls it. Trust in myself and get comfortable with “getting tossed around with right and wrong.” Sit down in the “seat of self” (Singer).

I do manage to do that, from time to time, and when I do, my view of the world is completely changed. Whether in or out of the meditative state, in these moments I am who I am, and the world responds in kind.

It’s not pure, this awareness, just an evenness of mind. The banquet laid before me is more than I could ever imagine. This state stays until I try to hold onto it. The mere attempt at attachment and it evaporates.

My mind returns to ping-pong between the future and past regarding this and that. It whirs, images blur. What was clear and calm is chaos. And I begin to want, again.

Trusting in groundlessness seems impossible, yet how can I not?

Experience has taught me there is a point of balance in each day, no matter how pervasive the impossible. It is mine to find the fulcrum and respond with adjustments.

I have a greater appreciation of the unique, accepting that no day ever repeats. I’m grateful for that. Somehow, it lessens my fear that I am not enough.

With that confidence, I sit in the seat of self and open my laptop to Facebook for uniqueness in both the moment and in human beings.

We are born to difference, related to the stars by dust.

Some of the best Facebook threads are missed by those who comment without regard for reading. Often, that’s a source of irritation, resulting in much asserting of who is lacking. Soon, the original context is completely lost. So many are found wanting, and some demand it.

Social media context is easily misread yet what better opportunity to practice awareness, to get comfortable with “tossing around right and wrong.” It seems impossible, increasingly.

Sometimes, silence is the point of balance in my social media moments. The seat of self offers observation– allowing me to read—to listen hard for the tone. Selecting an emoji signals that I heard.

Sometimes, that is all I have.

 

The Long View On the Small Stuff

Increasingly, curiosity gets me through difficult moments, especially when equanimity seems impossible or at least incredibly difficult.

I start with the small stuff. Like when I begin my day. That may be at 4 AM or 10 AM. The issue is not the clock but that my day begins. There was a time that if I had not meditated or completed my yoga practice by a certain time, my day was doomed.

Who knows what I missed on all those “doomed” days.

Some time ago, I began practicing “a routine of no routine.” I had no idea what that might mean but I decided to let curiosity lead–no matter what.

Working with the day I have and not the day I planned is as much a discipline as is meditation and yoga. More often than not, I accomplish more. Rescheduling is less necessary. I open myself to different ways of accomplishing a task.

Curiosity gives me that creativity. And it requires my complete presence. It is more than not pouring coffee in my oatmeal. It is appreciating that preparing coffee and oatmeal is each its task.

Staying within the frame of my day—each moment its own scene–keeps me from being daunted by the obstacle that is that day’s path. Mine is not to ignore but to immerse myself in the experience.

It is the small stuff that enlarges my awareness.

I think less and complete more. Even when revelation drops in, I do not attach to it. I notice but I do not engage. Revelation, like every other thought, returns.

There was a time—not long ago–I would have rushed to capture revelation on screen or with a recorder. Who knows what would’ve become of my coffee or the oatmeal.

I was so afraid of losing the brilliance of one thought who knows how many others passed. Each in its time.

So, yes, it’s the small stuff even in days of cold sunshine. For me, these are days when the temperature is low and there is a stiff breeze. There is so much light but it is a cold one.

Physically, it is difficult. I am immediately aware that the roller coaster is mine to ride or not. I can rage or sink into the slough of despond. I aim for somewhere between the two.

Sometimes, I skate on the slough, my mind frozen in attachment. A solitary thought plays over and over as the ego skates freely on the mind that is fatigued. Still, time thaws all thought, no matter how dark.

It is the way of life on this planet, in this physical dimension, that we know darkness. I’m not sure that’s without its purpose. Each day ends in darkness only to dawn again. It is not all light all at once.

For me, a sliver is sufficient. There is just enough joy in it. Like light, not much is needed. As Brene Brown says, “Joy, collected over time, fuels resilience.”

Joy is a peaceful resistance to any action that adds pain and suffering anywhere to anyone including me. When I learn through joy, I cease to struggle (Sarah Ban Breathnach ).

Pema Chödrön says trusting in our “fresh, unbiased nature” is all we need to do.

At the beginning joy is just a feeling

that our own situation is workable.

We stop looking for a

more suitable place to be.

(The Places That Scare You, Chödrön, 2009)

When we work with the reality we have, we find the extraordinary in the ordinary. It takes practice. Start with the small stuff. Trust your gut.

Reflections on a Seesaw

“Maybe, maybe not” is a phrase I’ve carried with me since first reading Robert Fulghum’s Maybe Maybe Not: (Second Thoughts from a Secret Life). If memory serves, Fulghum focuses on the certainty that anything can happen. In maybe (and maybe not as well), lies the wonder of certainty.

Some 20 years later, I still do not disagree. After all, existence is ever-evolving, never given to any absolute except change. For me, certainty lies in change.

Maybe this is hair-splitting, maybe not.

It is only recently I realized that “maybe, maybe not” is my catchphrase for equanimity. I do not know when that happened but it did. There is an evenness of mind in the seesaw quality of “maybe, maybe not”—at least for me–an ongoing balancing act in meeting life’s experiences.Winds of Change 0214

As Pema Chodron says, “cultivating equanimity is a work in progress.” Indeed, it is. Yet, I find a kind of certainty in creating an environment of equanimity. If anything is certain, it is change; perhaps that is the permanence in impermanence.

Maybe impermanence is the heart of Fulghum’s belief in wonder for no thing ever stays and anything can happen. Maybe, maybe not.

Cultivating equanimity means we respond rather than react to the emotional and physical storms that make up the drama of our lives. If we meet the storms with an evenness of mind, we learn the nature of our pain.Storm Clouds 081913

To open one’s self to the fury of any storm—to sit in its eye–is to accept the promise of impermanence, the certainty of change. In acceptance comes the realization that one’s life changes forever. No storm is without its pain yet every storm has its eye.

I am reminded of the Buddha’s words, “I teach nothing but suffering and the end of suffering.” For me, equanimity provides the evenness of mind to accept that pain will always be part of the life experience. But I do not have to suffer. The choice is mine.

We suffer when we are becalmed, wrapped up in our pain, wearing it as our identity. In aversion, we also suffer, trying to outrun or outmaneuver the storm— we may actually do more than once — regardless, we will meet it again, may be different circumstances and perhaps when least expected.

In equanimity, we brave the storm, accepting it will forever change us. We sit in its eye, safe in knowing the storm state always passes, and in its aftermath, we rise once again, buoyed by the energy of existence.

With every storm, there are lands lost to us, yes, but if we sail with the current—an evenness of mind— there are so many new shores to explore, so many experiences yet to come. There is always another sea to sail.

And all the while there is the wonder of maybe, maybe not, a seesaw balancing act, certain to change.

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Reflections: A Stitch in Time

Every moment we experience is a stitch in time sewn into a series of scenes. This is the tapestry of a lifetime, a collage of experiences on what it is to be human.

Meraki MomentIf used wisely, this rich and precious fabric is a remarkable reference. The tapestry reveals the scenes that made us who we are. In reflection, we discover who we might become.

Each single stitch in time was once as fresh and new as the one we are experiencing right now. Our lives pass in the permanence of impermanence.

Look at the rich tapestry that is you. You are not one moment, a single stitch, but a series of experiences, stitched as scenes.

To reflect upon scenes now sewn is to view one’s life in progress: scenes lived, scenes being lived, scenes not yet a single stitch. To reflect is not to relive but to reveal perspective, perhaps possibility.

It is the life changing scenes—the ones that nearly break us–that send us to the tapestry for reflection. It is quite human to want to re-stitch, to undo what cannot be undone. However, the stitches are taut, sewn with a seemingly unendurable sorrow, permanently part of the tapestry.

In reflection, we are reminded each stitch is unique to its time–it cannot be undone or relived—whenever we are ready, acceptance awaits.

In the meantime, we live through one stitch in time after another. It is with the first stitch of forgiveness that we begin to mend the rich and precious fabric of our tapestry.

What you are is what you have been.

What you’ll be is what you do now.

Buddha

 

The Rhythm in a Routine of No Routine

Of late, I am pursuing a routine of no routine. As much as I would like to do away with all artificial constructs of time,  the best I can do is settle into 24 hours, immersing myself in the amount of time most assured to me, a single day.

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Within these hours, I am not pushing, shaping, or molding a future outcome. Rather, I focus on the rhythm, the beat of the moment and what it requires. I cut up vegetables to put into scrambled eggs, slice ginger root for my daily tea.

There is also the daily revising of words, working a single sentence round and round only to realize its moment has not yet come—or has.

More and more I am aware of the flow in being. It is all but palpable. There is a rhythm in a routine of no routine, momentary and impermanent. Labels float by, never overstaying their welcome.

Often, it is only when I stray from the moment that I sense its flow. The past gives me a sense of the present. As Mark Nepo reminds, it is not that we stray from the moment that is important—that is part of being human—what is imperative is that we return to it.

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Regaining a sense of the present through the past is valuable but I have noticed it also opens the door for my ego. And as I recently discovered, my ego is like the Hydra, the mythological beast of many heads and thus, many voices.

Ego can take many different forms and shapes. It is like the hydra.

You cut off one head and another head replaces it.

You cut off that head and see a third head and a fourth head ad infinitum.

This is because in the manifest dimension, ego identity is the root of life, and if the ego identity is lost,

then life as we know it no longer exists.

It exists as light; life becomes light.

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Val Boyko introduced me to this metaphor in a post on her wonderful blog, Find Your Middle Ground. Far too often, I strike at my ego, as if I might actually conquer it once and for all.

In cutting off one head, I only create another.  As Val advises, what is the point of that? She reminds that the new ego may be even more deceptive.

It is a powerful incentive to float on the rhythm of a routine no routine, allowing the moment to reveal its rhythm. There are fewer heads, fewer strikes.

The rhythm of a routine of no routine encompasses body sensations as well as the emotions of the mind. They are signals, physical points of light. Their intensity varies but sometimes a signal is the total experience of the moment.

It is not for me to escape or suppress it. Like not cutting off the head of the hydra, I observe the sensation. It will only still if I sit with it. It is the well of energy available to me.

Some days, the bottom of the well seems close; other days, the well seems bottomless. Either way, if I sip and do not gulp, the available energy will sustain me.

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Every day, there are requirements that must be met for a routine of no routine is not without its responsibilities. If and how I meet those responsibilities depends on whether or not I sip to the moment.

If I take large gulps–as if to anticipate the day–I will be back at my well sooner and more often. These are days frenzied with energy, brimming with new Hydra heads. They are laid waste, unproductive and exhaustive.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of a routine of no routine is that it is available in every moment, as close as the next breath. It relies not upon expectation but upon showing up.

It is a rhythm in which the mind does not squeeze itself; the body does not constrict its vessels. Always, there is the breath that will release as well as renew.

There is no reason to cut off the heads of the Hydra. It is just as easy to allow them to nod to one another.  After all, they are my identity, the life I have as a human.

When I am without identity, I am light.  In this moment, I am human.