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.

Upside down 0414

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.

Watercolor 0815

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.

Watercolor II 0815

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.

Watercolor III 0815

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.

 

Ponding: Pooling of Unwanted Thoughts

Sometimes, rather than practicing mindfulness, we engage in an exercise in focus. We are casting about the past and future rather than “living richly in the present” (Sylvia Plath).

I call such an exercise ponding. In nature, ponding is the pooling of unwanted waters. In being, ponding is the absence of mindfulness, the pooling of thought outside the present.

As Plath reminds us, to live richly in the present is the “hardest thing” to do.

It is a lifetime practice.

Spending days kmhuber imageI grew up in a high plains desert where rivers rush, streams gush. Ponds are few. In the Rocky Mountain West, water is on the go, impermanence on the fly.

Now, my home is the meandering rivers and ponds of the Florida panhandle, subtropical lushness.

That both the West and South offer life opportunity opposites—mile high to sea level—once occupied much of my thought and time.

Then, it was location, location, location rather than living richly in my present. I spent years pooling unwanted waters for the future, trying to re-create past ponds.

It never works, even as an exercise.

This past week I found myself at Chapman, a pond I once visited daily as my life in the South began.

I missed the rush of water, having little consideration for the life that teems within a pond.

All that changed within the comfort of Chapman, contained under canopied, moss-draped oaks and towering Ponderosa pine. Daily, I focused on the peace I attributed to Chapman pond, unaware the peace was within me, always available.

Of course, I was ponding, unaware of my life as I was living it, pooling up thoughts, the unwanted waters of my past and future.

I was fishing, a practice I began in childhood.

Always, I searched any and all waters to see if they supported fish. I had to know if there was life. Fishing would occupy me for decades. I practiced consistently.

KMHuberImage; Wood Stork Fishing

As I aged, casting a line with no hook replaced catching a fish. With each cast, I did my best to imitate a fly afloat to tease a fish.

Whenever I went fishing, I was living richly, completely confined to the cast of the moment.

Perhaps it was the beginning of a mindfulness practice; perhaps, it was just fishing.

I gained a sense of the tide of time, the fisher and the fished, impermanence at its best.

There was no ponding, no thoughts of bigger or lesser fish or even the one that got away—only, the energy of the experience, the sensation that never stays.

I have not owned a rod and reel in years but still I fish.

On Birthdays, an Advantage of Aging

Laziness 010514I do not mind growing older. I do not believe I ever have nor do I remember wanting to return to a previous age in the belief it was the best time to be alive. As a friend said not too long ago, “it has been pretty good so far.”

And it has. This third act of my life presents new challenges—as did the other two—it seems to be a natural progression.

Do the challenges fit each act? In retrospect, the answer is yes, unequivocally.

What has been true with each act is that aging has its advantages. That assurance keeps me curious. And the handmaiden of curiosity is often celebration.

This past week I marked my 63rd birthday. It was a week of gifts–each thoughtful, unique. It is humbling, this great exchange of good feeling. The joy lasts more than a single day or week. It is what fills the years of a lifetime.

Every birthday reaffirms how fortunate I am in the life I have. The older I am, the more advantages I have. Aging is a list of gifts. Each year, some are unique to that birthday while others are forever.

Unique to the age of 63, I am now past the pregnancy test protocol for women who still have a uterus and have not had a tubal ligation. This surgery protocol may be unique to where I live. Nonetheless, it is on and off my list.

While the number of my chronic illnesses seems to have increased, I have finally accepted the great advantage they provide: I can sleep whenever I am tired, eat when I am hungry no matter the time of day or night, and write when I have sufficient energy, when my mind is clearest.At Rest 0215

What chronic illness has given me for the rest of my life is the routine of no routine. It is a lifetime gift that I finally recognized in my 63rd year.

Many people fear retirement for the lack of routine. I am here to tell you do not fear it. It is up there with the greatest gifts you ever receive. You will never be more present in your life. Mindfulness gives you all the time you need. You need not wait for retirement. 😉

As one day slides into another, the trappings of time that we have contrived—calendars, alarms, agendas– appear for what they are, our attempts to box up and label each moment.

Life is impermanent and neither boxes nor labels will hold.

Perfect Shell 0514I no longer am concerned about being awake during the dark hours that begin each day. It is a great time to listen to a recorded book. I do not disturb the dark with unnatural light. I do not disturb the day turning into itself.

These night-morning hours of opalescence are also prime “hunting” hours for feline EmmaRose. The prey is a catnip-filled “mouse” that is as easily airborne as it is grounded. The chase is a vocal one, high-pitched meows and a growl that seems much too large for a 5.5 pound cat.

The “hunt” was my birthday eve present from EmmaRose and later in the day, dear friends called and sang the birthday song. Both of these birthday eve gifts are unique to my 63rd birthday.

My birthday dawned as I sat on my favorite bench in Waverly Park, my first visit in many months. I shared the moment with three geese.

Animals, it seems, would mark my birthday in ways I could not have imagined.

Unique to this birthday was the gift of becoming a foster for an older elephant named Kora. Regular readers of this blog may remember a post on elephants reading hearts. The post featured the Sheldrick Trust in a video. Kora and I will age together.Kora older 2015

The same thoughtful friend made sure that another animal was part of my birthday, my favorite pit bull. I was treated to a video of Frisbee catching and happy birthday dancing. Ever available for viewing, it is a lifetime gift.

Also unique to this year, just before my birthday week dawned, I was given a surprise, living-room concert by my favorite local singing duo, Hot Tamale. All I had to do was sit back in my recliner and listen. For an hour, I immersed myself in their story songs, sometimes reminiscent of the ’60s, sometimes just great blues but always Hot Tamale.

Every gift I received— food, spirits, cash, and so many words of joy–was its own card, offering its unique celebration of a day. Ageless, the day resides in memory, celebrated as an advantage of aging.