I was feeling disappointed this morning. I had just finished meditating, the whole time during which my lower back ached. I injured it a couple of weeks ago and it was hurting. A lot. So much for my plans. I said to my husband that I probably should take it easy today. I felt kind of disappointed because it would have been fun to go on a jaunt with him to the big park by the river to enjoy all of the young goslings parading around as they followed their parents.
“Well, you never know, maybe if my back was fine and I went out today, something horrible might happen, so having a hurt back is good”, I jokingly said. I grinned at him.
And then I remembered. One day many years ago, when I still lived in Toronto, I phoned the train station to find out the time for the first train heading to London in the afternoon on my preferred date. The man who answered the phone gave me a time. I thanked him and got off the phone. Later, after having already bought my train ticket, I discovered that he had given me the wrong time. I needed the train before the one I had booked the ticket for. Needless to say, I felt more than a little peeved.
The day came for me to head to London and I climbed aboard the wrong train. Or at least that’s what I still thought. The train made its way out of the station. Not too far into the ride the train came to a full stop. This never happens, I thought. I wonder what’s up. After what seemed an interminable wait an announcement was made. Holy crap! Our train was being rerouted due to the fact that the train before us, the very one that I was supposed to have been on, had derailed. Even as I write this I feel in awe of the error made on the phone that day, an error that saved me from being on the derailed train. I felt so grateful to that man who made the mistake. Talk about a change of heart. And all dependent on unforeseen events. I don’t think that I was ever so glad as I was that day when I arrived at my destination, hours later than I should have. I must admit though, that as the train clacked its way on its circuitous route to London, my mind went into the “What ifs” more than once. What if that man had given me the correct time? What if I had been on the derailed train? What if I had been injured? What if….
In retrospect, I love how the universe or Creator or God presented me with such a wonderful demonstration for just being with what is, with no judgement call that “this” is bad and “that” is good. I think back now to the anger and frustration and angst I felt at the time that that man goofed. Wasted energy. I am so glad that every so often something happens in my life that is a wake up call to just be content with, and accept what is.
I want to be clear here though. I know only too well that there are things that happen in our lives that are definitely not good, events or matters that demand action. Having lived through years of abuse at the hands of my ex-husband I am certainly cognizant of that fact. I was right to get out of that marriage. Ironically though, it is not lost on me that if not for having lived with my ex-husband, I would never have met my current gentle, and caring husband. But that’s a story for another day.
So much of our suffering in this life comes from aversion to the myriad of life events that we consider to be negative. I’m glad that I don’t know what the future holds. It really can be an interesting ride this just going with the flow without attaching to the “I want it to be this way” or “I want it to be that way”, along with the accompanying suffering that we are so good at creating.
I am so lucky. I hurt my back two weeks ago.
This morning at 7 a.m. I was startled by some pretty heavy knocking on my apartment door. My husband threw on his robe and opened the door to be greeted by a paramedic. The man needed the key to our neighbour’s apartment in our building; he had been informed that we had a spare key that would let him in. I watched as our neighbour was carried out by four paramedics. Poor Keith. I know that he has had a brain tumor for many years; I also know that those kinds of tumors grow back, or at least that was what I was told. I hope that he is okay. I don’t have a tumor. How lucky is that.
I got to connect with Bob, another neighbour who takes care of our apartment building’s garbage and recycling blue boxes’disposal; I was watching out for his truck when he made his daily rounds. I let him know what had happened to his friend so he could let Brent, another friend, know too. Brent will take care of Keith’s pets as he always does when Keith is away. I am glad that I knew about Keith’s cat. Bob let me know that Keith also has a fish tank. I am happy that I was able to help Keith in this way. How lucky is that.
This morning I sat in my neighbours’ back yard meditating. I pick up their mail when they are away. They have invited me to feel free to enjoy their back yard and front porch while they are gone. Since I live in an apartment it is quite the treat to enjoy their generosity. I have awesome neighbours. How lucky is that.
As I am enjoying the silence while I meditate I am disturbed by the loud sounds of two other neighbors, friends also of my friends in whose backyard I sit. I smile to myself. Just being with what is. With life: birds flitting about, the smell of the lush plants of Spring by which I am surrounded, noisy lawnmowers, friendly neighbors…How lucky is that.
I just answered my door to the second knocking of the day. A parcel. I opened it. The expression “It took my breath away” took on new meaning as I gazed at the beauty before me. Thank you David. Thank you for being my fun loving, warm hearted friend. Thank you for sharing your gift with us all. Thank you for this painting. How lucky is that.
I am off to see my chiropractor in a little while; my back feels better after a visit. How lucky is that.
Betty Rose, someone who I have only known for a few months died last week. I will miss her. She was 93 and left behind a loving daughter and granddaughter. To witness the love between the three of them over those months was a gift. How lucky is that.
I hurt my back two weeks ago. Here I am with a body that walks and talks and thinks and cares and loves and acts and heals. I am alive. How lucky is that.
As the earth gives us food and air and all the things we need
May I give my heart to caring for all others until all attain awakening
For the good of all sentient beings
May loving kindness be born in me.
I am so grateful for these words, words that I say at the beginning of every day at the end of my morning meditation. They are kind of a wake-up call. A call of compassion. A call of compassion for every single being. A call of compassion for my daughter. My daughter who, more often than not, does not acknowledge me on this day that our society dedicates to mothers. And sometimes I really need that wake-up call. I certainly needed it this year.
Mothers Day. A day I dread. Every. Single. Year. Every single year I get caught. This year was no exception. It started the day before actually. As evening approached I recognized the closed feeling starting to take over my chest. Shutting down. The tightening of my abdomen. The slight nausea. Yup. Mothers Day warning signs. My body doesn’t lie. It’s funny you know, even as I write these words my body is doing its Mothers Day thing. No escaping it.
With the arrival of Mothers Day, before I even got out of bed, I felt my gut clench. Nausea. Fear. I thought: I hate Mothers Day; I hate that I have to go through this every year. I tried to shut off my thoughts. Didn’t work. I should know better. If there is anything that I have learned through my many years of meditating, it is that you can’t stop your thoughts. They just arise as they will and go as they will. I know they are not real. I mean: Where do they come from? Where do they go to? Yup. Definitely not real. Did that help? Not as I lay in bed, dreading my day. And so it began.
As per usual on this day, depression threatened to take over. I crawled out of bed, did my morning ablutions, and made my way to the kitchen. With coffee in hand I headed to the meditation cushion situated in front of the big picture window overlooking our backyard. One thing that I always do, no matter how I feel, is to get my butt onto the cushion.
Grant your blessings so that my mind may be one with Dharma
Grant your blessings so that Dharma may progress along the path
Grant your blessings so that the path may clarify confusion
Grant your blessings so that confusion may dawn as wisdom.
I quietly repeated these words of the Tibetan Buddhist lineage I follow, words that have been repeated over the centuries by countless others before me, all of us carrying forward a tradition of peace and compassion.
And so I sat. Eyes open. Doing a kind of meditation where I bring my full awareness to the sense doors: ears, eyes, touch, smell, taste, thinking… Feeling the rise and fall of my chest with every breath. My thoughts taking over. Noticing my mind doing this. My emotions reeking havoc. Kind of a loop really. One feeding the other. Still I sat. I kept coming back into the present moment. As I sat there I felt hurt. I felt angry. I was caught. Oh, was I caught. Still I sat. Bringing my awareness back into the present moment, again and again and again.
I noticed a puddle. Raindrops splashed in the puddle, disturbing its mirror-like surface. I heard the piercing call of a red bellied woodpecker. I felt the silkiness of my coffee as it washed over my tongue with every sip. I watched a squirrel munch on something white it had found. I wondered what it was. What a scrawny tail it had. Shifting my awareness from the yard to the window ledge directly in front of me, I noticed the leaves of the Christmas cactus, their spines a foil against the shadows cast from the light coming through the window. A pink flower barely hanging on to its stem on the fuzzy leafed hanging violet. As I listened to the raindrops patter against the window and noticed the sky darkening in the distance, I realized an hour had passed. My meditation session was coming to a close. What did I feel now? What did I think? I felt sadness. I thought of how my daughter, like me, was a victim of abuse. At the hands of my ex-husband. At the hands of her father.
As the earth gives us food and air and all the things we need
May I give my heart to caring for all others until all attain awakening
For the good of all sentient beings
May loving kindness be born in me.
I do what I can when I visit to brighten her day, arriving with a couple of our favourite cranberry orange scones to nibble on as we chat, a book of cute pictures of Weimaraner dogs that we ooh and ah and laugh over, a book filled with pictures of the Queen Mother through the years that we enjoy together, and an interested ear to listen to her wartime stories.
Please don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t try to change a thing. What is, is. Life unfolding just as it’s meant to be. But you know what? I am grateful. I have been given the greatest of gifts. When I give her a hug and a peck on the cheek as I prepare to leave after a visit, I can hear the love in her response, see it in the warmth of her eyes, and in her words to be careful that I don’t slip on that icy patch on the sidewalk beside the house. And, as I mentioned before, she still knows who I am. I’m not going to look ahead on that one. Why worry about what hasn’t happened yet? Conjecture isn’t helpful here. That’s a trap I don’t want to enter. I am also not going to get caught up in the mom who no longer is. What’s the point of that? How do I feel when I keep going over, again and again, how my mom used to be? Nope. Definitely not helpful.
I squeezed his arm because I wanted him to know that I cared. I had never done that before. I felt shy. We weren’t a demonstrative family.
I have often thought about the fact that I really don’t know what is going on in another human being’s life, especially when, in my perception (and that is all it is: my perception), that individual is behaving in a negative way. I am grateful for this post; it is well worth sharing. Peace to you all.
We can never know what’s going on for someone else.
I was at the Tuscon airport a couple of days ago, preparing to fly back home here to Montana. I sat down at the terminal, in close enough proximity to a woman who’s cell phone conversation I could hear very readily. She was an attractive woman. Shoulder-length blonde hair, middle-aged. She was sitting at the electronic port station situated in front of a large window overlooking the tarmac. Although there was little I could do not to overhear her conversation, I felt badly for eavesdropping, so I quickened my pace in getting the music going on my iPod. In the meantime, however, I learned that she was leaving her 20-something-year-old son behind, to return back home, after situating him into a rehab. He was not at all well – detoxing, incoherent, unable to care for himself. His girlfriend would be…
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Life: Unpredictable. Changeable. Impermanent. When I gaze at my reflection in a mirror, the image I see is very different from the one I saw ten or thirty or forty years ago. From month to month, year to year, and decade to decade, what I bear witness to, not only in the mirror, but in my head, heart, and on the roller coaster ride we call life, is always changing. Thoughts come and go as do feelings. Impermanence is a fact of life and a good reason not to take things for granted. From the moment we are born until the moment we take our last breath life is always in flux. With that in mind I’d like to share a page from my life, a page taken from when I was thirteen years old:
You can get polio from garbage. That’s what my parents told me when I was younger. I look at the debris scarring the hill before me: the familiar red and white colors of the empty Campbell’s soup tin, its jagged-edged lid hanging on by only a thread; a flattened Alpha Bits cereal box; moldy coffee grounds; a moving white mound, maggots enjoying an early afternoon meal of rotting cherries. I try to imagine some invisible menace lurking there. It still seems as unreal as back then. Before the vaccine.
“You may play baseball there, but stay away from the side of the hill.” I can still hear them with their stories of iron lungs and crippled people and death.
“Aw Sandy, get out of there,” I say, suddenly jolted back to the present. Sandy ignores me. He pushes his snout under the decaying meat-covered bones into the dirt. Dogs can be so disgusting sometimes.
“Sandy. Out.” I wear my best angry face. Sandy picks up on my tone and looks up at me with black encrusted snout. Dogs are also easy to fool.
I look away from him and sprint across the grass toward the crumbling old flour mill at the other end of the hill. I smile as he flies past and disappears over the rise. It works every time. Sandy loves to race around when we go on these treks through the fields behind my house.
Arriving at the crest of the hill, I glance at the mill nestled amidst the trees just across the road at the base of the embankment, turn right, scramble down the slope, and start across a second field. The sun beats down. I slow to a walk. As I look ahead I can see Sandy in the distance at the end of the grassy expanse.
I scan for rocks as I go. Whenever I reach one I stop, pry it loose at one end, and carefully raise it a little. I only find one snake this time. A big two foot one though. A garter snake. Usually I manage to find two or three grass snakes by the time I make my way across the field, hardly ever a garter snake. They seem to like the woods better. Once I find a snake, I return the rock to its original position, and continue on to the next rock. It’s fun just to find them. I like the way when you look across the field it appears as though all there is is grass, but really it’s home to all sorts of creatures. I like to pretend that I am the only one who knows about this secret that the field hides. It’s just me and them.
I meander along this way for about half an hour, alternately checking under rocks and keeping an eye on Sandy.
Eventually I arrive at a spot about halfway across the field overlooking a dirt road and the woods beyond. I sit down with my back to the road.
I have my writing pad with me. I love spending an afternoon like this, surrounded by nothing but green. Just me, Sandy, and my poetry.
I started writing poetry after I studied Shakespeare in my grade nine class last term. When I was in grade eight, all the older kids warned me about Shakespeare: You’ll hate it. It’s boring. It doesn’t make any sense.
They were wrong. After reading Romeo and Juliet I fell in love with Shakespeare. I am still in awe of how he can turn ordinary language into such beautiful natural sounding verse.
Soon I am immersed in my writing. I am working on a poem about death. I write about everything, but today it’s death:
It hovered near, steadfast, foreboding
Like a cloud of the cumulus sort,
Never wavering, to darken all within range.
Suddenly the heavens opened…
My grandmother took a long time to die. I can still see her with her bright intelligent eyes, looking down at me from her hospital bed, comprehending everything and able to say nothing. Somehow I knew that the grandma who used to give me Taveners Fruit Drops and let me watch her clean the budgie cage was still there, trapped behind the warmth in her eyes. I felt so sad for her. I loved my grandmother. She loved me too; I could see it as she spoke to me through her eyes.
I used to love it when dad took me to visit her. It was a time when everything seemed larger than life: the hospital with its huge entranceway, the long halls with the nurses rushing along to places I was sure were scary and not places that little girls would want to be, even my grandmother’s pale green room with its high ceiling and window ledge that barely reached the top of my head.
I look up from the page and smile as I catch sight of the streak of gold to my left. Sandy is chasing a rabbit. I watch as the rabbit bounds and Sandy scrambles. No use yelling. He’ll never hear me. I hope the rabbit gets away.
We had a pet rabbit once. The two of them loved to play chase. Thumper would wait till Sandy was asleep, then creep up to him and thump him with his large hind feet before taking off through the house. They would race through the rooms until Sandy caught him. Thumper would go limp; Sandy would release him, and they would start the game all over again. I really don’t know what Sandy will do if he actually catches the wild rabbit he is currently chasing.
I watch Sandy for a moment longer, then look past him until my gaze comes to rest at the top of a small hill where the road disappears as it works it way toward the houses at the far end of my street. I trace the ribbon of brown with my eyes as it winds its way down the hill and around the bend toward me, finally reaching the foot of the embankment just a few yards behind and below where I am sitting. Hardly anyone ever drives down this way because the road comes to an abrupt halt just on the other side of the woods at the edge of the river. I like it that way. Occasionally I’m disturbed by a car, fishing poles visible in the back seat or poking out of the trunk, but outside of that, I pretty much have this place to myself.
Returning my attention to Sandy, I scan the field. The rabbit has disappeared. With the rabbit safe, I resume my writing. I love poetry. It makes me think about things in a different way. I often find that there is something strangely beautiful, or refreshingly novel, in the way some poets write about the everyday world.
“Sandy, you silly old thing,” I say affectionately as the cocker spaniel bounds up to me, stops, and proceeds to push his head against my arm. Putting my notebook down and grabbing him by the scruff of the neck, I pull him toward me, give him a big squeeze, and then bury my face in his fur. I sit there holding him, breathing in his scent. Sometimes I just can’t get enough of him: his doggy smell, his warmth, the smooth tension under his fur.
Hearing the sound of a motor, I look up just long enough to see an older-looking black car come into view from the top of the hill on my left. Releasing Sandy, I turn around and face the road. Pulling up to the foot of the embankment directly below me, the car comes to a gradual halt. I can see two clean-cut young men sitting in the front seat of the car looking at me, smiling. Smiling back at them, I wait as the driver lowers the window. It won’t be the first time I’ve given directions to a couple of fishermen. You really can’t see the river from this vantage point. It is pretty well obscured by the woods.
I suddenly freeze, the color draining from my cheeks. In front of the still friendly face smiling up at me, I look down into the black barrel of a gun. I can’t believe what I am seeing. This can’t be real. It has to be a joke.
“I’m going to kill you,” says the man, looking directly at me, the smile no longer friendly.
My every instinct screams at me to run, but I sit glued to the ground, my stomach lead. I sit helplessly as the scene playing itself out in front of me is replaced by a series of slow moving pictures of myself getting up, turning around, and running across the field away from the man, a gun going off, and my body dropping to the ground. No, I want to scream. Not now. Not me. I’m not ready to die. I remain quiet. I look once again into the nose of the revolver pointed directly at me, and then at the now unsmiling face of its owner. This is really it, I think, as nausea threatens to overcome me.
Suddenly I’m furious. No. Way. You are not taking this from me.
That’s when my whole world changes forever. I feel a tranquility descend upon me, envelop me, alter me. It’s unlike anything that I have ever known. I have never felt such peace. Not ever. My fear gone, I now know with every fiber of my being that dying is no more important than living. They’re the same. With the blanket of calm also comes the knowledge that I will not turn and run. If this guy is for real, this will be my death. I can’t stop him from shooting me, and there is no way he’s going to miss. If this is to be my last moment on earth, I want to experience it fully. Dying is as much a part of life as being born.This is my life and my death.
I try to imagine the moment of being shot, of seeing myself being hit, and seeing myself die. I’m fascinated. Excited. And so very curious. I’m going to experience something that every human being must go through and I’m going to be alert as it happens. I just wish that I could live to remember what I’ll feel when I die. Maybe I will know with whatever comes after. I wonder what does come after. Somehow that doesn’t matter. As long as I don’t miss this part of my life. Calm now, and utterly at peace, I raise my eyes to meet the gaze of my killer as he shoots me.
I sit there, motionless. The peals of laughter coming from the front seat of the car pierce through me like a knife.
“Just kidding,” says the man with the gun, looking straight at me and grinning.
I watch in stunned silence as the men look at me and laugh uproariously. Before I can even react, the driver, still grinning, wishes me a nice day, rolls up the window, and speeds off.
It was a blank. There is no bullet.
I shiver in the warmth of the late afternoon sun. I clutch at my stomach, trying to control the wave of nausea that again threatens to overcome me. A little way down the embankment a snake sits sunning itself on a rock. The song of a lone bullfrog in the distance cuts through the stillness like a canoe through a glass lake.
I stand up. The snake is gone. The song has become a chorus. I turn, whistle for Sandy, and head across the field toward home.
I wish to share this post with all of you because not only do I believe that it very much resonates with the theme of this blog, but is of great importance. This post saddens me. When will we ever learn? I like to believe that, bit by bit, more and more people are becoming aware of the need to not only respect the rights of indigenous people, but to see and embrace their wisdom of the earth in relation to all that is. I pray that the right actions are taken to protect them and this precious planet that we call earth.
[Penobscot chief, Kirk Francis, speaking at the rally] Yesterday, I went up to Bangor for a Penobscot River Sovereignty Rally. This was in response to a recent Appeals Court ruling that stated that the Penobscot River is not a part of the Penobscot Nation–despite the history, despite the fact that the water has never been ceded by any treaty. This description is from the Event Page:
On Friday, June 30th, the First Circuit Court of Appeals sanctioned the State of Maine’s territorial taking of the Penobscot Nation’s ancestral waterways, by ruling against the Tribe in the Penobscot Nation v. Attorney General Janet Mills, case.
We will not accept this decision. We now call upon ALL of our friends to come and stand with us during this critical time, to say no to the State’s continued infringement upon Tribal rights. Their attempts to violate standing treaty rights and the Maine…
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