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Archive for November, 2009

Well the suitcase story is in the final stretch. Today I took a fistful of Macy’s coupons (anyone who has a Macy’s charge card knows their reputation for sending bundles of coupons with itty bitty print restrictions that only the sales staff can see or decipher), breathed and paced through the last moments of separation anxiety and bought a new suitcase. I bought the same brand, same size, in black.

The review of the story is that after years of looking for the perfect suitcase, I found an expensive, strangely colored green suitcase at Macy’s. I found the same suitcase, along with a matching carry on, at Overstock.com for a lovely and exciting price. I felt rewarded for my long wait, bought both and took the large one on one trip.

I loved, loved, loved both the suitcases and their strange color. I spent much time patting myself on the back for having found such fantastic quality at such a fantastic price—and no one else in baggage claim would have that color! The attachment increased with each expertly practiced back pat. I told my family and friends that I would have this beautiful and matching set of suitcases for the rest of my life. Then a cat peed in the big one. It was permanently stinked, and no one in the universe had another one in my beloved color.

I had been presented with the opportunity to work through attachment, major attachment. I took the opportunity, then I took it again, and I took it again. No matter how many times I declared the suffering over the suitcase over, the attachment gripped on for another round.

But now, even though I had to pace the suitcase section of Macy’s for one last painful hour of suffering and attachment, tonight I have peace and a new suitcase.

(Here is a secret—the green one is still in the bathroom. Garbage day is Wednesday.)

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As far as I can figure, flow is the term that many folks use for the state where the meditator merges with the object resulting in a heightened sense of contentment and timelessness. I have always called this state absorption, but now I am thinking there may be a difference between absorption and flow. Maybe I tend to call it absorption when I am sitting, concentrating on the meditation. Then I may think of it as flow when I am moving, concentrating on an activity such as walking or washing dishes. I am unsure why the washing dishes activity appears so often in discussions on meditation, but here it is again.

This morning, after deciding that something on the To Do list had to be accomplished, I had a bit of time of with flow while washing a sink full of dishes. In general, I resist washing dishes, but once the momentum switch is flipped, I don’t mind. I like that no decisions need to be made. I like that once clean, every dish has its place. I like that for a piece to be put in place, it needs to have one state—clean. I think flow settles in when there is movement and no decisions. Today it is just the repetition of lifting, swiping, rinsing, setting to dry. It doesn’t matter what is being cleaned—casserole, knife, pie plate, garlic grater all accomplish flow. Then when they are all clean, the state lingers on. Maybe the benefits of this ritual only come to those who are dishes piler uppers. If I washed them in little bits, as they were used, I may not get the larger opportunity of practicing flow. Hey, good rationalization.

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Today is technically Thanksgiving. Tomorrow is the family Thanksgiving. The date change is this year’s result of flexibility bred from the cascading effects of generations of marriages and divorces. More people are available tomorrow.

In addition to the date flexibility, the menu is also flexible. My sister announced that there would be no turkey. To me, turkey and its related fixings are Thanksgiving. Actually it is gravy that is Thanksgiving. Sage stuffing with gravy. Thanksgiving is the only day of the year that I eat gravy. So in my emotional world, tomorrow is a family gathering, and today is gravy day.

I have known about the date change for a few days. During that time I have been a bit worried about feeling lonely on the actual holiday. I have been alone on holidays before, and even though I always went into those holidays thinking that I could make it just like any other day, something about the collective energy of day would be different, and I felt lonely during the actual day. In preparation for today, I did my best to just watch the fear. Not engage in it. Not let it get the best of me.

So gravy and fear of loneliness have been in play. I could do something about the gravy. I thought about going to one of these really good chef-driven restaurants to eat turkey dinner. All of the restaurants were offering it. They sounded wonderful in the advertisements, and they started at $25. I thought about going by myself. I was OK with the idea. I did hear an internal voice say, “Would I look stupid sitting in the bar eating my turkey?” Another voice said, “Maybe you would meet someone very interesting.”

In the end I did not go anywhere. The day had dissapeared effortlessly as I wrote and read and figured out how to work my new camera. Also I was still in the luxurious black jersey pajamas that I had been wearing for two days. If I was to leave the house, I would need a shower. (Last night, I put on a big sweater and went to Whole Foods in my pajamas. My sister gets after me about going to the grocery store in my pajamas.)

So instead of going out, I moved my contented little NPR radio listening marathon from the computer to the kitchen and put chicken breasts on top of huge slices of onion and topped it with slabs of fresh poblano chili and olive oil. I baked the chicken and made gravy. I heated up the dressing that I bought at Whole Foods. Man was it good.

I had been fearful of loneliness and lack of gravy, but it all turned to joy. The joy of the noticing and relishing the contentedness of aloneness with the absence of loneliness. The joy of yearly gravy.

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Wow, this is the 100th post. I am amazed. Really. I would not have known, except the blogging software tells me the count whenever I enter a new post. I want to look back and evaluate, but the idea of this project is to stay in the process without evaluation for six months (about 200 posts). The no evaluation rule is in there because I evaluate too much. I evaluate and wind up stopping because I doubt. So in the spirit of process, on we go with no attachment to outcome.

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I had two successful moments of being totally in the moment today, not planning for the future, not hashing over the past. Two perfect in the moment moments. The first was in yoga when the teacher led us, step by step, into a Virabhadrasana III pose balancing on the right leg. The second was balancing on the left leg. Hmmmm…this is what it takes for me to stop the voices and feel the expansion of staying in the moment.

graphic from Yoga Journal

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Some days are lessons in impermanence. Luckily meditation somehow breeds acceptance of impermanence. A work project that I thought was gone is back. Vacation plans that I thought were final started changing. Both situations needed immediate attention, requiring what was planned for the day and evening to somehow not happen, which could affect what was planned for the tomorrow and tomorrow. My mind can quickly go to the cascade of who and what may need to be pushed out or cancelled. It can just as quickly invent two or three possible story lines on how each event may proceed. The result can be an avalanche of possible repercussions with my body reacting as if those invented stories are actually happening. I can be caught in a whirlwind of my own making. Instead, I stop, breathe, center, and tell myself that all things are as they should be. I start to believe it. I tell myself that all moments, good and bad are impermanent.  Accept each moment. Watch it and feel it. If you pay attention, and do not react out of fear, appropriate responses become apparent. Yep, it is all looking better.

There is a definition of enlightenment that says an enlightened being is one who never overreacts and never underreacts. I think that ability must come from truly knowing that each moment ends. I’m thinking that someday we can get there.

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Meditation is focus. Meditation is repetitively paying attention. Meditation is tending. Tending can be sitting, watching the resistance and opening in your thoughts or body. Tending can be outward with the repeated tasks of caring for yourself or others. 

I was tired today, so was Boris. He slept in his basket next to the computer, while I struggled to keep working. He woke up, rubbed his nose and sneezed. He does this many times a day. Boris keeps me focused on life in my living space. He lives here. He sleeps here. I feed him as many times a day as he asks to eat. He sometimes goes to the apartment upstairs to visit and eat another flavor of cat food.

During the day Boris sleeps in his basket. The basket has a kitty heater that warms to 104 degrees when he lays on it. I bought the heater this year when he lost enough muscle mass to have trouble keeping warm. Boris weighed 7 lbs for 18 years. He is now at 5.75 lbs. The vet says he is losing muscle mass with age. Otherwise she says he is healthy. Quite healthy. Remarkably healthy for 18.75 years.

Today I tended to Boris. I brushed him and and arranged his basket. I rinsed and changed his water bowl. I opened a can of his favorite food, chicken soup for cats. I gave him his medicine for his bit of arthritis. He ate then slept. He woke and is now sitting in my lap. He is tending me. I am tending him. It is quiet. The phone is not ringing.

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