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Archive for the ‘awake!’ Category

My essay In Falling is published here, through the Shambhala Publications 35<35 project, personal essays from Buddhist practitioners under the age of 35.

http://www.35u35.com/submissions/in-falling/

PS’s & dedications:

*so so so much gratitude to the lovely Ms. Meredith Arena for loving me through this madness

*loves to my sister Cindy for listening out loud at the EXACT right moment

*congrats to my brother Chris for the courage to share and be himself in the world

*and always to OWL, for saving & enriching my life

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Here is my one sentence, written now, at 2 am.

Sometimes you have to bloom on accord of your own light, no matter how dark the endless midnight hour, to find that the sun was always shining, waiting for you to open your eyes.

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I light incense on the shrine in gratitude of these recent experiences and chose a lotus stick as a reminder of non-attachment, to reconnect with my Thursday yoga practice where it unfolded again and again in my heart space, rising pink and cream from the mud. Then without even a tiny bow I promptly retreat to the kitchen where I don’t have to see it or think about it or breathe it in. I chop the drained tofu as the zucchini simmers in butter. The lingering touch of kissed lips held for days fades quickly. I dig out a leftover red onion wedge, slice it and add it to the pan.

Funny how openness applies to the potential of beginnings but not to the possibilities of a short life, the arrival of an ending.

I add the sauce and tofu, stir and season, set the lid in place and reduce the heat, and walk into the living room, the air heavy with the scent of my life in motion. OWL quietly watches the PBS NewsHour from his mushroom perch at the foot of the couch, giggles at me and nods his head as I walk by. A small smile cracks in my tightness. The sweetness of sadness without a storyline, the joy of OWL’s happily crinkled nose, of coming back to the simmering food on the stove, the rising smoke of the lotus. The sweetness of Practice.

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Intellectually I know that the world is neither for us, nor against us. But damn, it would be nice to feel like someone was on my side.

I often take myself too seriously, and take too many things personally. There are times when it seems like the stars and the universe and the moon are all aligned with the sole intention of totally fucking me over. A karmic twist of the knife for a life lived long long ago?  Who knows. I’m just saying that I can make all this worry and questions and suffering for myself, and don’t care to put it on other people or be their source. I’m not in the mood to be judged and I don’t have the energy or authority to judge. I’m not in the mood to argue or pretend to be someone or something that I am not. All I can do is own my own shit.

I don’t know what the fine lines are, or how three or four sentences – words that didn’t even garner much thought in my head and were gone not long after saying them – turned into judgement, or someone feeling judged. I could say things differently. But there are no rehearsals. Then again, it’s not the first time I’ve heard this sort of thing….

None of this is making sense without the details, but there’s no reason to repeat them and I’m sorry to lead you to nowhere. And like I am sorry for so many things, that’s not an apology but rather an acknowledgement of the unfortunate nature of reality at times. I’m pulled in a million directions and really feeling it – a mama holding a great wide space around my son to grow & thrive, a woman trying to restart, to live and carve out happiness and connections, both with mixed success. And tonight, what I really wanted was the company of a friend, a person to comfort and hold. Because being there for someone else is how I hold myself and how I find compassion for myself. It’s a mama’s way, and a woman’s way. And totally unfair to everyone involved.

In the passing hour, I read this passage:

Survival psychologists have since discovered that the people who are most likely to live through extreme, life-and-death challenges are those who open their eyes to the wonders of the world around them, even as their own lives hang in the balance. To appreciate beauty is to experience humility – to recognize that something larger and more powerful than oneself is at work in the environment. And humility, it turns out, is key to recognizing that in order to survive, you must adapt yourself to the environment, that it won’t adapt to your needs.

The Indifferent Starts Above (pg 285) by Daniel James Brown

This settles me down, takes me out of bewilderment and frustration and disappointment. It reminds me that I have a practice. That I’m not always perfect. That in some ways my life is hanging in the balance, and in so many ways it is not even close to life-and-death. (This book is about the Donner Party.) It reminds me that things are basically good, that my smallness is a gift, and that through the thick & thin and ebb & flow of all this crisis that has been my life this past year, I still marvel at red leaves waving in the sunlight, the crusted snow under my boots, the light of the full moon through dark clouds from my window, the warmth of hands & lips, and the scent of simmering beans on the stove. I can still lose my reference points in the sound of heavy rain. That I feel and sense these things, that I take note and awaken to the tiny miracles embedded in everyday, is a signpost that I’ll get through this. Cross the mountains as a mama and a woman, with OWL at my side.

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*day one.  flying.  25 Sept 10*

Wet sadness held court just behind my eyes.  Brushing my teeth.  Shaking rice crumbs out of OWL’s pjs & placing them in his overnight bag.  Picking a half chewed piece of beet off the bottom of my rough foot.  Hiking him down the hill to papa’s nest, to his nest with his papa.  Watch them play.  OWL asks for keys & inserts one (likely the same one each time, which he does with my keys, always choosing the apartment key over the others) into the cabinet with a missing knob.  Take one last picture, his new “I LIKE TRAINS” tee-shirt tight against his full tummy.  Cry & laugh & kiss my goodbyes for the next 6 nights.  Fall into the ex’s hug in fear & sadness & longing.  Never afraid of flying until last night.  If something happens, how will he know how much I love him?  How will he feel the mama’s love I know he’ll need every day of his life, good and bad and sad and everything in between?  Wipe my eyes walking to the bus.  On the bus, my lower eyelids a dam ready to spill over the edge.  From the train I text my girlfriend, a super-mama with a 10 week old, and ask her to keep up with OWL if something happens.  So he knows what a mama is like, what she sees and how she loves like no one else.  The dam breaks.  My life these days measured in the time between tears on public transit….

Fly eye to eye with Mt Rainer, blue magic walls coated in snow, holding the view steady and strong as the other mountains move behind it and away.  It amazes me. I know someone who’s summited, stood at this very peak and looked back out at the world.  Something I never really wanted to do, but sitting there, staring at eye level, I understand the desire.  I know I’ve been climbing my own mountains lately, but damn.  I bet that one has a better view.  Fly over Wyoming, over the Tetons on the opposite side of the plane so I cannot really see them.  It was here that OWL became his living swimming pre-self.  Where I felt so indescribably alive and energized by the air & skies & moons & starts.  History floods and cuts through me like the canyons chiseling the landscape.  Ledges and buttes giving way to hills green and rising like the folds of a soft blanket giving way to puckered earth.  I have to get back here.  Soon.  Next fall, I decide.  With OWL.  (Who’s up for an amazing road trip?) Fly into Colorado, the setting sun rests on the western slopes of the Rockies, reflecting a pink-tinged yellow, casting deep shadows over entire valleys.  On the Denver ground I recall a phone conversation, then-husband still driving through Kansas (which he was doing when I took off from Seattle a few hours before).  I feel and see the open  atrium where it occurred (on my end) before I reach it and when I do it is with a sinking heart.  This is where it began.  That trip.  The end of that summer.  The one that changed everything for better or for worse.  I turn my phone back on.  Picture comes through of OWL and his papa, snuggling on the fake fur blanket.  My little family.  But not really a family.  Just my piece and his piece of our now separate families.

I slow down and name the sadness.  And the fear.  This trip, in this moment and not 2 years ago, is about a new beginning for me.  There is no immediate decision to make.  But the next few days are about my eyes & my feel & my questions.  My future.  My potential.  My next steps.  If I love it, how can I make the choice to leave?  To pull OWL away over miles & mountains & a days drive?  And if I don’t love it, will there ever be anything out there that fits?  A place for me to grow & learn?

*day two.  wandering distractions.  26 Sept 10*

Morning & early afternoon lost to the drone of wheels against highway.  Full of heat. Low blood sugar.  Hitting reset only to wander the streets and shops in blindness. Picking up a few needed things here & there (like a new hat, which my fortune a few months back suggested I do, for a “new look”).  Sushi alone.  The wasabi and the maki pull me out of daydreams and back to the present.  Realize I spent the entire day distracted by art & soft things & beautiful fabrics & books & debit cards.  A way of walking without really looking or feeling.  “Good information,” I hear my therapist say.  “Great to get the message,” I hear my Monday night MI say.  Second reset. Need to let this place in, let it penetrate.  I need all the information my wisdom can gather.  This decision needs a place of clarity to come from my heart. Wisdom I need to see the direction my path twists and turns at this point.  Note these distraction are nothing new.  Some are fun & exciting, like my new hat. Others sad & destructive, like feeling ganged up on and put down by the people there to help when I was in labor.  And I let that go too, same as my day of distraction.  Back to the moment.  To the cheap chewy unagi on the end of my disposable chopsticks.  In coming back to the moment, there is no traveling forwards from the past or backwards from a fantasy.  I just arrive.  The weight of the fish in my hand, my breath disintegrating into the room all around me.

Driving back.  Exhausted by the day.  Catch a glimpse of a gold sphere emerging briefly from behind a grove of tall trees. Disappears.  I wonder aloud if it’s the Great Stupa (which, I still mistakenly think is in Boulder instead of 2+ hours northwest), majestically lighted in the dark September Colorado sky of 8:30 pm.  Crest the hill and find the waning harvest moon, so low on the landscape, like a building rising out of the earth and not a mass hovering and rotating above it.  Laugh at loud.  This is the essence of a moment.  Being surprised & taken not only by the light of the moon (which is ordinary even when putting on a show like this), but also being surprised that it is the moon in the first place!

Back at home base I look up directions to the Shambala Mountain Center.  Discover it is in Red Feathers Lake, not Boulder.  Over 2 hours away.  After my day of distractedly doing nothing, with a full schedule of “real” events starting midday tomorrow.  I should have been hiking the land and meditating my ass off in the stupa and….  So so so much is rising up in me.  So much without words.  After putting the pieces of three harvests moon together, there is so much behind every thought & movement.  Behind every landscape.  In every shadow & highlight.  A quality of hot hot heat and remembering.  Aching and moisture I cannot spare in this dry air.  I need desperately to go.  My super-mama friend assures me that is worth the drive for even a short stay.  Agrees it is a great space for me to visit now, after my day of distraction, a year after my husband left, two years since dawning OWL’s existence, in this part of the country, nonetheless.  Set my alarm for 6 am.

*day three.  the great stupa & a school.  27 Sept 10*

So much in this day!  Cook scrambled eggs and steep green tea.  Eat standing up. Slice an apple.  Pack walnuts, dried mangos.  Wash my dishes.  Honey for the tea. On the road.  Hard place to be the driver.  So much beauty in the mountains and bales of hay.  Horses flipping tails.  US 287 N to CO-14W.  Poudre Canyon Highway. A miracle.  Driving through this canyon, the river running seamlessly alongside, hugging the curves of the road and the looming formations, greenest of green hills ahead.  Bob Dylan singing Knocking on Heaven’s Door comes on NPR.  A song I’ve never liked all that much, so perfectly timed & inserted, so perfectly sung….  A new favorite.  More songs pass through the background without notice.  Cellos come into focus as I turn up the narrow dirt road leading up & up & up.  Remarkable sound. Quaking yellow leaves.

Hike under morning sun, among hoofed prints and chipmunks, distant birds, a brief visit from a pileated woodpecker.  Open the door to the stupa, empty and unlit, and say, out loud, “Holy shit” at the 18-foot buddha sitting on his lotus, vitakra mudra. Cold floor glides under my feet.  Eyes fixed ahead and upward.  Shrines & photos & guest book &….  Ground rolls and moves underneath my toes.  Awake!  Nice touch, this feeling of the earth I stand on every second of my life with little thought or effort.  Like a good student, I sit in Shamatha for at least 5 minutes.  Contemplate the weeks’ assignment, again.  Is there anything that does not change?  Is there a stable ground or foundation of all things & all experiences? Recall my recent revelation that I have nothing to do with who OWL is – he just amazingly is who he is.  Think of the parallel to basic goodness.  Birds & bees & trees & canyons & streams.  Summer fading.  Onset of Fall setting the stage for Winter.  Spring flowers digging in and waiting for their time to re-emerge.  Unchanging essence.  I have nothing to do with that either.  Just a part of it.  Same way I am part of OWL & he is part of me.  Indistinguishable, really.  My mama responsibility lying in creating and holding that space for him to flourish & grow & become his best self.  An active idleness.  Not engineering hopes & fears & story lines.  Letting him be in the world, working through it, teaching & helping & loving.  Providing tools.  Knowledge. Sharing wisdom.  And so too it is, with this home we all share.  With each other & birds & bees & so on.  In this current state of the world & affairs & the planet, I have the responsibility of stewardship.  Letting things be in the world to work as designed requires action.  Intervention.  Restoration.  That is my place.  My part.  Where I fit. This is one of those things mamahood & OWL were meant to teach me.

Nighttime open house.  Walk among small cottages, a greenhouse with foliage spilling out.  Small speeches and information.  A manuscript in poems.  More poems in a different voice.  Drinking in that cool mountain air & elevation like Kool-Aid.

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The days are roaring by.  The rain feels like it’s setting in for its seasonal stay, with bursts of afternoon sun allowing for barefoot puddle splashing and early evening strolls to the bookstore.

There was a moment late this morning where the rain held a rich presence.  Laying down shaped like a C snuggling around OWL’s sleep resistance, listening to two new shastris, the rain making the most intense sound.  Like beads falling from the sky in perfect formation.  Intentional.  Life giving.  Like auditory oxygen.  Thirty seconds of pure sound where there was nothing separating me from the rain from the empty zabuton from OWL’s wiggling torso from the cherry trees and their yellowing tooth-tinged leaves from the acres of spider web from the sleepiness that was descending from friends & strangers from the chickens we visited on our walk to the morning’s festivities….  A moment of sheer awake.  OWL’s resistance wins as he crawls his way from my arms and I sit up to my sister’s tears saying how much she misses her mother.  Just felt her in the rain.  It is that kind of rain. Taking my first oath, with OWL’s left foot plunged down my shirt as I read my commitments aloud, and the rain, alive and pregnant, dancing around us all and dissolving the boundaries.  A glimpse of life without a top.

And then there was sun.  Beautiful and glowing and high.  69-degree sun with a sky speckled in white clouds.  OWL splashing barefoot & pants free in the patio puddles as we eat and drink champagne.  He nibbles bites of beets & quinoa & pears & bread & cheese between the puddles and the rocks, between my lap and running free.  He climbs up his first step on his own two feet and still crawls down backwards.  He walks in the long grass, imitates passing airplanes, visits the trees and their raised mossy roots.  And, when it was time to go, he signs “socks” as I slip his warm stained feet into the striped cotton.  We walk an urban trail through an alley restored with wood chips and tall native vegetation until we come across a laboring cat.  He smiles & giggles & shrieks meows.  We drink homemade lemonade from a styrofoam cup purchased for $1 from a corner stand staffed by 2 very serious little girls, a small river flowing from the corner of his lips to the folds of his neck. Walking up to the front steps of our apartment under the glow of sun, a soft, full and steady rain drizzles down.  Quiet like a breeze.  OWL toddles the incline, hands on his head, growling in delight at the sensation.  The cat, left outside all morning, is not so delighted at OWL’s slow pace in climbing the hill, crawling each step with the effort of a long day with little sleep and a wet diaper.

Inside, I watch him devour book after book after book, pulling each one off his shelf in the living room. Toting more out from his walk-in-closet-turned-bedroom. Delivering, with such clarity, Dr. Seuss’ ABC The Amazing Alphabet Book to the kitchen where I am preparing his afternoon snack.  We sit on the floor.  I read this book aloud for the 23rd time today (and not the last), and bribe him into the highchair by placing it on his tray with two slices of avocado.  I turn to finish grating the cheese, and by the time I’m sprinkling it on the corn tortilla in the skillet, he is signing (new since yesterday) and saying (new new at the moment) “more” and staring down at an empty plate.

During dinner I scratch down a laundry list of things OWL did today.  New things and funny things and heartwarming things.  Those lines, in all the beauty and love and living they entail, also show a loneliness.  It is hard to bear sole witness to so much. Heartbreaking.  I call the ex-husband to arrange tomorrow’s exchange.  To report the new and share information from OWL’s doctor.  He answers on the first ring.  I hear a familiar ache in his voice.  A deep sadness.  A sadness that I want to wrap myself around like a warm blanket.  Like a safety net.  Like the same way I want to turn my head and ask, “Did you just see that?”  and catch one of OWL’s new tricks at the same time, bear joint witness in the same room.  The changing of the seasons, he says.

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