A Life of One’s Own

Wood Stork 0214The life we have is a singular strand in the undulating web of existence. Each life has its own tensile strength, the maximum stress point before it is pulled apart. The actual experience of living stretches us into a life of our own.

Yet, to live the life we are given is more than undulating with the ebb and flow of existence. It means remembering each experience is unique, even if the situation seems familiar. No two moments in existence are exactly the same. We have not “been there, done that.” Not precisely.

In fact, lulling ourselves into the familiarity of a situation may just get us to the maximum stress point for we are not meeting the moment but escaping it. We believe there is nothing new in a situation that is so familiar and the tension grows.

At some point we release the familiar, put down the past for the present, drop the known for the unknown. We take “refuge in the Buddha”:

Every time we feel like taking refuge in a habitual means of escape, we take off more armor, undoing all the stuff that covers over our wisdom and our gentleness and our awake quality. We’re not trying to be something we aren’t; rather, we’re reconnecting with who we are.

(Pema Chodron)

Often, denial runs parallel to the ego-mind and around certain bends they dump into one another before separating into their own meanders. Both are rivers I traverse frequently.

A few months ago, I volunteered with a professional team, offering work that once defined me. It did not seem like I was escaping but rather, opening to a new moment—which it was—yet I opened to the new day clad in ancient armor.
Storks and Egrets Waverly 0214

My administrative abilities were essentially intact but I was heavy with haze, out of sync. I persevered, taxing my physical strength as I have done for decades in order to escape the life that is mine for a life that is not. My body responded with a resounding “no.”

Give your real being

a chance

to shape your life.

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj~

It is the tensile strength of a life to stretch without snapping. In these last few months of working with the team there was a niggling, an actual yearning to be somewhere else. I wanted to walk away—leave the armor to a life past–but doing so felt like fear so I lived in-between.

Nobody else can take [our armor] off because nobody else knows where all the little locks are, nobody else knows where it’s sewed up tight, where it’s going to take a lot of work to get that particular iron thread untied. You have to do it alone.

(Pema Chodron)

It is in vulnerability that we trust completely for all armor is removed, and what is left is who we actually are. It is then one claims a life of one’s own.

I began by cleaning some of my neglected writing tools. All the ink cartridges in my fountain pens were empty, and the nibs were clogged with dried ink. My writing bag was in total disarray–I had not even replaced my daily journal—I tossed memos, meeting notes and added a soft, Virginia Woolf journal embellished with notes from “A Room of One’s Own.” The journal is a gift from a thoughtful friend.

Anhinga Waverly 0214

On an overcast, humid morning I went to Waverly, welcomed by a noisy chorus of snowy egrets, wood storks, and anhinga. There was much flapping about as a lone hawk swooped and circled even alighting for a moment. Having thought better of it, the hawk had somewhere else to be. I understood.

That I am able to hold my own physically again in a relatively short period of time indicates the incredible progress my body and I continue to make together. That some joints are too well-worn for some activities does not mean there are not other ways to live.

All was as had always been, and all was as had never been. Such is living the life that is one’s own.

(Regular blog posts will resume by March 2, 2014; recovery is assured but always at a pace of its own.)