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Archive for the ‘Buddhism’ Category

One form of meditation is to notice the blank spots instead of the activity. One phase in meditation changing your life is noticing that in any change we have two lives, the old and the new. The two lives take time to merge. In the middle time, we live them both alternately and simultaneously.

I am trying to live in the moment. At the same time, I cannot help myself from noticing what will be missing when sitting hospice is over. Boris is feeling well tonight. He climbed up on my bed and went to sleep on my pillow an hour before I decided to go to bed. What has been common, automatic, and unconscious all these years, I am now noticing just because it is there. I notice it is there because it was not there on Friday, or Saturday, or Sunday night. I am noticing it is there because his past and future absence feels close enough to create an aura and color the experience. It is not wrong. It is not right. It just is. It is just different from last week, last month, last year. Where I have always let him wander and do whatever he wants. I now notice his every move. I also notice when I stop noticing his every move, when the absence moves.

I figure that if I was a totally enlightened being, I could truly live in the moment. My guess is that I would be able to experience every moment of his and my life without the aura of past and future bleeding over into the experience or interpretation. Ah well, I just haven’t gotten that far yet.

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Boris in his winter basket with his wool sweater and kitty heater

The crisis has averted, and I am sitting hospice for my dear, sweet kitty companion of almost 20 years. Boris has been the only constant in my immediate space for those years. The house has changed, the state in which the house resided has changed, a marriage went, the couch is a different couch, the bed is a different bed. Only a few books, five treasured antique wine glasses, and an old workbench stored in the spare room are pre-Boris. Boris was rescued from a kitty mill in Nebraska. He was taken to a pet store in Tucson, Arizona. My then husband and I had just moved to Arizona with no money and a few possessions tucked into a tiny trailer. I picked Boris out of the lot of milling kittens. He was quiet and stoic and made me feel wise and safe when I held him. The pet store paid for a visit to the vet. The vet did not think he would live. He was four months old and only half the size he was supposed to be. He was diagnosed with a tape worm, treated, and doubled in weight in a month. He grew to his full weight of seven pounds and held the safety of the world in his tiny body. Despite an empathic fear of needles that borders on nausea and swooning, I have learned to use a hanging bag and needle to give him subcutaneous fluids once a day. He is alert, mobile, and not in pain. If he was eating and did not insist on lying in the safe cave of the litter box for hours, I would think he was fine. But he is not fine, at least in the long run he is not fine. But in this moment he and I are both fine, and quiet, and calm, and the air outside in not too hot, so I can open the windows and hear the birds in the 100-year old black walnut tree whose arc covers most of the back yard.

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The biggest benefit of meditation practice is then having the skills to stay in the moment during the times when it is almost impossible to do so. Beloved Boris is dying. It may be today. It may be in a few days. He is more than 19 years old. I am told that is about equivalent to a human being at 100. When I spin stories about imagining life without him, I remember that is in the future, not this moment. At this moment, he is here. I know there is pain now and there will be pain later, but suffering now will not alleviate pain later. The best is to feel what happens when it happens. When I think of memories, I get the same hollow feeling as spinning stories of the future. That too is not this moment. At this time it is only adding suffering. This moment has no hollowness. Coming back to this moment is a matter of gathering in the edges of the past and future until they merge with now. Such an exercise takes all of my energy, but there is peace in now. There is calm and comfort.

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It took 27 hours for the ringing to stop, although my stomach, which hurt all day, still hurts. Ice cream for dinner.

Over the 27 hours, I hope I was successful at not creating any new disasters because of the emotional discomfort caused by the painful ringing and vibrations. It is easy to create new disasters in these situations. They are born of a naive attempt to squash or hijack the pain. They show themselves in stories of blame, injustice, and righteous indignation. I try to remember, if I allow myself to spin these stories, I will believe them. They will become true.

It is the stories that cause suffering. The trauma is pain. Everything added to it is suffering. Adding to the suffering creates a diversion. The diversion feeds the pain while it cleverly circumvents the mechanisms that take care of releasing the trauma. Creating stories has a powerful function. They keep us stuck.

In order to support allowing the pain to run its own course, I saw only people who would listen without adding to story. At the same time, I tried to say as little of the story out loud as I could possibility stand. I tried to let the energy just run, no matter how painful. Then I slept. They tell me when we let the energy run, let it run its life out, that it will never come back in that way again. That would be a blessing.

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May 6, 2010

I got an email. The sensory deprivation float tank place has closed. I referenced the sensory deprivation tank experience several months ago, but never wrote about it. So here is the story. A friend had been telling me about his experience floating in the tank. He kept telling me how much he liked it. I heard about it for several years. So finally, a few months ago, I agreed to try. I figured that with all my meditation experience, some time floating in the dark tank would be a piece of cake. It would be totally relaxing. It would be what we all dream meditation to be. It would be rejuvenating.

Well as you can probably tell by the set up, I freaked. Before we get to that, I have to tell about the woman who ran me through the introduction. She told me to shower in the beautiful river rock shower next to the beautiful white clam shell tank. She showed me the tank. 600 lbs of Epsom salts in the floaty water. She showed me the the three buttons inside the tank. One for closing and opening the lid, one next to it for turning the lights off and on inside the tank, and one, a red one, on the other side of the tank. The red button was in case of panic. “I will be able to hear you at the front desk,” she said. Should have been my first clue.  

So I took the shower. Incredibly relaxing under the large, gentle rain shower head. I climbed in the tank, closed the lid, and freaked. My chest constricted, and my breathing was shallow. I remembered, I tend to avoid small spaces and the edges of high balconies. This was the small spaces end of what sparked complex stories where I could funnel out some anxiety.

The tank lid was heavy. It required electricity to put up and down. “What if the power went out?” I thought. I put the lid up. It was warmer with it down. I put the lid down.I decided that I would use all the meditation skills that I knew to keep myself calm. “But what if the electricity went out?” thought was back repeating on a continuous cycle. “I am sure this is all regulated and there has to be an emergency generator and an emergency switch so they could get me out,” I reasoned. I decided that I would choose to focus my attention on listening to the second voice. The voice of safety.”But what if they are all dead? What if nuclear winter happens and only I survive because I am in this monster heavy clam shell floating in salt water?” Yep, I went there.

“Breathe. Breathe,” I said. At this point, I said all the positive thoughts out loud in an attempt to give them more power. “Stay calm. Remember they would not be in business if they did not follow the regulations, and there must be safety regulations. There has to be.”It was rough. It was emotionally uncomfortable. There were unrelenting thoughts of nuclear winter. There were a lot of practicing how not to let a story run. Practicing cutting the story off before it got to the following plot line—what would happen on the slow starvation path after nuclear winter.

I couldn’t seem to prevent the nuclear winter thoughts, but I could control whether the story went any further. After I was fairly calm, I realized that I did not make the reservations. I didn’t know how long I was scheduled to be in there. After an hour, the lid went up on its own. I took a shower. Got dressed. Went out to the front desk. It took me three days to return to normal. At least the new normal, for I was changed in some way, because after deep fears arise, and we allow them to run their course as best we can, they lose a little of their power. And like a retreat or a long meditation, something was released. Forever.

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April 25, 2010

The fabulous and wonderful yoga teacher has decided to turn up the heat in class. That is literally turned up the heat. This has turned out to be a problem for me. As it stands,  I am having huge trouble gathering up the gumption to simply observe my reaction to the heat and chalk up the memory of the nice, cool room to another element of impermanence in life.

You see, at about the point in class where all the twisting poses happen, the point at which she says, “twist to your left and wring all those toxins out of your body,” well I got nauseous with the heat, and I got pissed.  

So I decide that I am going to talk to her about it, and I spend about half the class not paying attention to the moment and the pose, but rehearsing how to word my complaint so it doesn’t sound like a complaint—a real challenge. Well we did have a chat. I told her I was getting nauseous from the heat, and like a true Buddhist, she lit up at the opportunity for me to work through my discomfort. And the nausea, “working out the toxins,” she said. Ah well.

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I spent the week as the only non-actor in an acting class arranged on the spur of the moment by a local theater group and taught by a visiting director from across the pond. The email had read; “for actors, directors, singers, dancers, writers, and anyone interested in better understanding the connection between the emotions of the body and the physicality of the spoken word… come one, come all.” Fifteen actors showed up. Then there was me, walking wide-eyed into my most unnatural form of exploration—movement—to explore my most undeveloped element of writing—character development.

Unlike actors, bringing my awareness inside my body, paying attention to the moment, radiating my presence, and then moving is unnatural to me. In fact, in a misguided search for safety through invisibility, I spent years training such behavior out of myself.

So I knew when I signed-up, that although I am trying to learn about character development from many angles, this angle could release a Pandora’s box of ancient and nascent traumas, each with their own particular stabbing qualities of abject rejection from my most intimates and isolatory flavors of exposure beyond nakedness accomplished by sheer strangers.

It is a particular child’s life that sets her up to hold her breath and individually store each selected trauma through the fractures of divorce, threat of physical violence, and weeping fear that there is no safety. It is a particular child who stops each traumatic event mid-arc, expertly bundles like events, then seals and buries the rawness in deep and individual locations thorough out her small, smooth body. Each placement builds her personality to the world.

Now, years later, on the non-moving side, I can challenge anyone of these actors to a two-hour power sit, and boy I can cream them in that competition. But ask me to be in my body while moving, and the movement breaks into what is expertly sealed.

I am grateful for what I learned from sitting meditation. I can allow the arc of the damped down energy to release and run its course. I know how to do this. I can remember this is only a moving meditation. Because I have practiced allowing  it, paying attention to it, the result is no longer the carpet getting pulled out, leaving me to fall, unaided, through stories of years and events. These days, the landscape only turns to a block of baby Swiss cheese, a foundation of reverse land mines, where falling is quick, incomplete, and recoverable. Not to say that there have been side effects. Tuesday evening, I left a burner on the stove on for an hour. Wednesday, I swore that I did not receive a handout in class, yet discovered it later in my notebook. I still cannot reconstruct the moment of receiving. These are some of the small current events wiped out when old, escaping arcs of energy eclipse random moments or hours. The secret is to keep oneself from danger when it is happening. Little driving. No major decisions. Limited use of the stove. At least the releasing is always a good thing. It is why we meditate.

photo: Now is the Hour directed by Tom Cornford at the Hill Street Theatre, Edinburgh, August 2008

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