What I’m Doing

November 15, 2012 § 25 Comments

Busy day, again.  If I start to catalog my tasks and responsibilities, if I allow my busy mind full rein, it all comes crashing in. Too much to do, too little time.

I can feel it starting to hum.  That anxiety machine up there.

So here’s what I’m doing.

First, I’m turning the stereo to full throttle. Driving pop music.

And then I’m taking my dog for a long, long walk in the woods.

After that, we’ll see.

That’s what I’m doing.

Only Love

November 13, 2012 § 46 Comments

I used to believe that love was a form of relationship.  I love you; you love me.  That’s our deal.

I would diligently monitor my love relationships.  Feeling hurt or wronged, I would ask- was that an act of someone who loves me?  If she loves me, how can she not see my needs?

Or I would turn this judgment on myself.   Why have I been filled with anger towards her?  Why have I been so cold and distant?

When the ledger got out of balance- and it always did- I called the deal into question.  Does she really love me? Enough?  Or, looking inward, I’d ask whether my conduct suggested the absence of love?  And in either case, I doubted my commitment.  Perhaps time to back out of the deal, I’d think.

All, all, wrong.

Love, as I now seek to live it, is not a relationship or a deal.  There is no ledger.  Love is not earned or maintained.  Love exists in my simple, full, and caring acceptance of the other person.  It resides within me.  It doesn’t depend on what you do, or fail to do.

If she is angry, I love her in her anger.  If she is depressed, I love her in her depression.  If she hurts me, I love her in her very assault.

This is the love that I seek to embody.  I often, maybe most always, fall short.  Sometimes hideously short.  But now I know.

Seeking to love others in this way, I also know that I must begin with myself.  Suspend self-judgment.  Never wish to have done this or that.  Cherish who I am.  Only from that foundation can this sacred and abiding love for others come.

Just love.  Only love.

 

My Watch

September 28, 2012 § 25 Comments

I sit in the diner waiting for my good friend, Dan.  I look down at my wrist and see the watch.  It’s a vintage Omega, from the 1960’s.  Susan, my treasured friend, gave it to me.  It was her father’s watch.

I look at the watch and think of Susan, and her father.  I think of my children, imagining that someday one of them will wear the watch.  I recall my father who, like the man who wore this watch before me, was a fisherman.  I imagine the early mornings on the water with my father, picturing the way his wrist snapped as he cast his line.  And my imagining just spins out from there.

In Buddhism we say that we die, and we don’t die.  That which exists cannot become non-existent, we are taught.

Like all great wisdom, it’s simple, enduring, and true.  In the things that we do, in the way that we exist in the world, we set in motion ripples of feeling and thought that collide and connect with other ripples and become part of the same cosmic field that Buddha walked.

We change the world, each of us, by our presence.  And when we die, when our bodies return to dust, even that dust may enrich the soil, feed a living thing.

On and on.

We cannot possibly trace all the interconnected ripples that bring us to where we are.  But we surely feel the presence of those who are with us now- and those who came before.

A half century ago a man walked into a store and bought himself a brand new Omega.   And here I am, in this diner, waiting for my friend.

The magic of life.

Effortless

September 25, 2012 § 22 Comments

I grew up with the surf and ocean as part of my life.  My mother used to say that the first day of each summer season, I would always run screaming directly into the surf- full sprint- undiluted joy.  I still feel that way about the ocean.

In my adult life, it is my sanctuary.  A place of peace, a spiritual place.

I now understand that the ocean is also a great teacher.

When you are trying to paddle out against a strong surf, you soon discover that you can’t just bust through the big waves.  You must learn to maneuver yourself and your board to create the least possible resistance to the wave and allow it to wash over you.  Even the strongest surfer cannot bend the wave to his will.

And when the surf presents itself like a roiling cauldron, as on the eve of a great storm, and you go out without the board, you must give yourself over to the surf.  You swim and struggle to get out but once in the midst of the raging surf, you’re best off just letting go.  Letting the crashing and ricocheting waves bounce you around, push you under, and have their way.

The ocean is a mighty thing.  When it rises up, resistance gets you nowhere.  But letting go, accepting its power, can bring moments of great bliss.

This is true in life- everywhere, always.  We do not achieve our moments of transcendent bliss by wrenching them out of the cauldron of our busy lives.  Effort, thrashing about, resistance- not the path.  Those blissful moments come to us only when we are open to the wonder and energy that surrounds us.

So I try to live the lesson the surf has taught me.

It’s effortless.

Unsteady

September 13, 2012 § 40 Comments

I sometimes feel like a fraud in this work.  Peace, strength, presence.  Who am I to speak of such things?

These past few days have been like that.

I’m going through a period of what I call feeing “unsteady.”  Like walking across an icy sidewalk in dress shoes.  Having to consciously hold on to my balance.

The thing about feeling unsteady is not so much the risk of falling.  Nor is the pain really in the fall itself.  The great cost of the feeling is that so long as I am feeling unsteady, I cannot be at peace.

I say to myself- you’re okay, just breath.  And I pretend that the calm this induces is peace.

There are long stretches where I’m not consciously anxious or bereft, where I’m holding myself together.  And I think that in this effort I have found peace.

But all that time where I am watching where I step, where I project calm and composure, where from the outside all looks well, I am not well, really.  All that conscious effort blocks any hope of real peace.

And so as these unsteady days roll on, I sometimes wonder what I am doing writing about peace and strength.  Someone who lives the lessons with such inconsistency.

I have no pat answer to this.  But I do believe that anyone who seeks self-awareness and to live an authentic life will struggle.  And I know that among my great teachers have been those who struggle, who battle their demons with awareness and honesty.

So I’ll just have to feel unsteady until it passes.  Then I’ll regain peace, the true peace that is natural and effortless, not falsely manufactured, just lived.

Struggle, peace, struggle, peace   My life from here forward, I imagine.  But a real life, not a fraudulent one.

Sanctuary

September 6, 2012 § 41 Comments

I step out this morning just before dawn. I notice first the air.  It feels cool and rich to my skin, a mixture of the cold night and the warmer, humid advancing day.

I look to the sky.  A bright half moon, stars emerging to my vision.

In the dim light the towering trees that encircle my house appear nearly black and two-dimensional- like abstract paintings propped up against the sky’s gray backdrop.  As I turn to the east, I notice that in just that moment the pinkish blush of dawn’s promise is starting to push its way in.

Birds calling to each other, a staccato interruption of the hum of night.  The silent dark houses of my neighbors.   And just then the distant sound of a truck starting up in the valley below.

Before I step back in, I close my eyes and feel that place and moment one last time.  All of it- the air, the moon, the stars, the sky, the trees, the birds, the silent houses- existing for me right then.

 

In that moment between night and dawn, the awareness filled me up, leaving no room for worry, doubt, or fear.  No space for anxiety.  Quieting my busy mind.

I know that this awareness and peace can be mine at any moment, in any place, not just that quiet sanctuary where I stood this morning.

If only I can live what I know.

Against the Cabin Wall

September 3, 2012 § 34 Comments

I am not sure what it means to believe in God.  I cannot offer any clear definition of spirituality.   But this I can say.

***

Thunder Lake sits in a bowl high in the Rockies.  It is a natural amphitheater, ringed by peaks.  Breathtaking grandeur.

That day a storm had blown in.  Deep snow.  Nearly whiteout conditions.   Howling winds across the lake.

The small wooden patrol cabin locked.  No shelter inside.  I huddled against the cabin wall on the side away from the wind. As I pressed my body against the wood, I felt fear.  Alone.  Isolated.

I looked across the lake, through the swirling snow, and saw the mountains, rising up into the gray sky.  In the next moment, the wind died, its howl drifting down into the valley.  The quiet came.  A dim, filtered sunlight pushed its way into the bowl.

Fear left my body like a sweat.  Washed away, gone.  In its place came a sense of well-being, a preternatural calm- the sense of safety and security that I can only imagine last belonged to me as a small child in my mother’s arms.

I felt no anxiety.  I wanted for nothing.  I was right where I was supposed to be- still huddled against that cabin wall, still hours from the trailhead, still deep snow ahead.  Still alone.  But not alone.

***

These words are as good as I can do to describe that moment.  But they’re not good enough.  That feeling that day was more.  Beyond words.  Not to be pinned down with language or explained by reason.  Just to be felt- and to be lived.

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