Post 3058: Five things

These last few weeks have been full of things to do and I’ve had to seriously prioritize in order to get all the required things done. These are five things I am trying to do every day regardless of what the schedule and the to-do list look like:

  • Meditate
  • Two or three sun salutations
  • Sing one song
  • Put some stitches in something (knitting or sewing, crochet, weaving – whatever)
  • Walk a minimum of 8000 steps

Bonus: Read five pages of a book.

 

Post #3057: Works in progress

Going into this year, I had three main things that I wanted to get through. I have now completed two of these objectives – getting elected as president to my union local (which happened on schedule), and finding some job stability in my current position (which happened much earlier in the year than expected). My third “major project” of 2017 is to be completing the work for my lay ordination which will take place later this month during a Jukai ceremony, and where I formally take Buddhist vows.

That work is 1) completing my rakusu, 2) sewing the pouch that holds the rakusu, and 3) completing a lineage project in which I describe my path and influences – my personal lineage. The photo above is my work on the lineage piece – I plan to trim and machine stitch those pieces of printed canvas together, and then write my lineage story along the path of the labyrinth. Basically, it’s just a canvas to write on – and then if I have time I’ll add some colour embellishment to the border areas. At the moment, my biggest challenge is writing the actual lineage piece, and I’m wondering about visualizing it with scraps of fabric in addition to writing. I need to set aside time for the writing piece and aim to do it in one single flow (with editing afterwards) – which is the only way I will get it done. Getting less literal about things would help also.

I’ve been sick recently, which has put me in a low mood. I’m starting to come out of it, though not as fast as I would like – and I’ve got tons of piled up work and projects just begging for attention (including house and yard work – it is spring after all, right?) Having some focused project work in preparation for my ceremony is helping to stay level with my current priorities – and also keep me attentive to the fact that I am still recovering from a cold. More soon…..

Post #3056: Sitting on the edge of winter.

I am going to fess up here (because I know I seem so normal and well-adjusted all the time) and let you all know that I am having some serious apocalypse anxiety these days. I think it’s been building steadily for a couple of weeks – starting with a strong compulsion to make all the things in the studio – and as of yesterday I am officially checking in on my food stores and thinking about getting the cistern piping fixed in case we need to draw water off it sometime in the near future. Right. So now would be the time to remind myself that I am not a prepper and pull myself back a little from the edge. What the hell is going on?

I suspect it is something like the effect of a ferry trip that Brian and I took on Friday on our way back home.  It was a pretty unremarkable ride – Vancouver to Nanaimo – the ship was about 3/4s full and left approximately on time….. But as we sat on the forward deck, we noticed that there was an awful lot of movement around us on that particular day. Overwhelmingly so. Everyone around us seemed slightly agitated, the children’s playroom was full of crying toddlers, and no one was really settled into their seats for the whole ride. Without really noticing why at first, we felt stressed by the other passengers, commenting to each other as we returned to the car that it all seemed like *too much*. It was only on some reflection that we realized that the ferry had been bucking and bouncing quite a bit on the ride, as it was a windy and choppy day, and while we didn’t feel phased by the boat’s movement, it was likely that the amplified feeling on the ferry were the result of the general unease being shared by many of the passengers.

It is probably also much like a day on the float plane three months ago when a nervous passenger got on and started loudly proclaiming that he was nervous and scared and sure the plane was going to crash. He continued this patter throughout the entire twenty minute ride (on a beautiful and sunny morning, with no real turbulence to speak of) until we touched down in Vancouver, at which point I was thoroughly annoyed. I pride myself on being an unflappable flier on small planes – I have flown to all corners of this province in small craft, and I don’t worry, get nervous, or ever get sick – but on this particular day I found myself stressed with the possibility of disaster at every bounce and bump.

Which is to say – I am living in a world in which the panic levels have risen with the election down south, the wars in the middle east, and the potential for war everywhere else; where the hands on the doomsday clock have been moved thirty seconds closer to midnight; where my social media feed screams of the end every single day. I have watched old anarchist friends recently become anti-Muslim racists, I am aware that my old political models no longer work. And as it turns out, no matter the trauma of my past life life, no matter the balm of my present security or meditation practice – I am not immune to the transmission of fear. I am not outside of the organism that wants to fight or flee.

So here I am on an island in the dark sea. My power went out last night after I wrote most of this post – so this morning’s breakfast and coffee were cooked in the silence of the forest while the woodstove creaks and groans with dry arbutus wood. My computer battery is still up which means I’ve got another couple of hours to wait out Hydro and the restoration of power. I remind myself that even if we are preparing for a big ecological/political/economic showdown, there is no need for the panic part of things – my island is a fortress and I’m getting lots of practice at living without power. I’m getting lots of practice at meditating in darkness as the dawn breaks through.

Post #3055: Wanting to do and be.

I would call it a problem but I don’t think it is one really. I suppose issue fits – so I can say, my biggest issue (conundrum?) in life is that I want to do everything and I have a hard time getting it all done.

By everything I mean (at the moment), I want to be writing, weaving, working, trade unioning, meditating, restoring my loom, working out, going for walks, doing yoga, sewing, knitting, making art, being in community, gardening, cooking food, working, playing music, writing songs, and reading – every single day. And it’s just not possible to do everything – not when 8 hours are already taken up with work, and another 8 with sleeping. That leaves just 6 hours when you subtract life stuff, or maybe only 5 – and it’s just not enough.

These past few days I’ve been experiencing the desire for voracious reading. Of the book a day kind – over the weekend I read both Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel) and Birdie (Tracey Lindberg), and then started The Curve of Time (M. Wylie Blanchett) which I’m now halfway through. I’ve got a few more books on the stack (including Barkskins by Annie Proulx), and have gone ahead  and ordered several more. I’m not sure what it is that has spurred on this re-emergence of significant book interest – except perhaps a very deep need for escapism at this particular juncture, and also a tug that I’ve been feeling towards writing again.

Which is what brings me back to my everything interests which is not a problem unless I think it is one, and that only happens when I am not fully present in the task I am currently doing. It’s this lack of presence in the moment, the forward planning of life that leaves us with the bad feeling of “too busy” or “not enough time” because really, you can only do one thing at a time and in that, there is no being too busy. You are just doing what you are doing in that moment. The problem for me starts when I am writing, but then I think – I would rather be weaving. Or I’m restoring my loom, and I long to sew instead. As none of these activities are requirements in my life, there is no need to feel hemmed in by them, as if they are crowding each other out – for each of them can be done in turn, as long as I stay present to the finish of each thing before turning to the next. Even work deadlines, which bear more importance, are not that fixed as I’ve bought enough good will in my career that I can let a few slip – not to mention the fact that feeling hurried doesn’t help me achieve them anyways.

And so, as long as I am comfortable with long finish times, and can move from one thing to the next without flitting (that is, staying with each thing long enough to truly sink into it), then I can do all the things.

At a zen shuso ceremony I participated in a couple of years ago a student approached the teacher and asked: “There are so many things in my life, I have this commitment and that, I want to do so many things but I feel so busy. What should I give up?” to which the teacher answered “Give up feeling that you are busy.”

And that is why it’s not a problem, or an issue, or even a conundrum. It’s just a state of mind that allows the generalist in my to run free.

Post #3052: Recognizing the countermarch!

I have to confess something here and now:

When I bought my floor loom last February I had no idea what I was buying. I mean, I thought I did, but really I didn’t.

For months now, I have been circling this loom and trying to figure it out. I’ve moved it twice but never gotten it set up to weave on – partly because I want to replace all the cordage, but also because I just wasn’t *getting it*. I thought it was a standard jack loom because that’s all I really knew about, and I reasoned that it looked so different from other looms because it was hand built in Nova Scotia in 1973 (by a draft dodger and his wife) which made it unique. I figured that I had the treadles on upside down which is why they did not hang properly – I thought once I replaced the cords and tied it up, I’d get a warp on no problem and it would all fall into place….

It turns out that all of that was wrong.

Since November when I started weaving again after getting the J-made up and running, I’ve been consumed by weaving websites and discussion forums and books. It was while perusing some forum a couple of weeks ago that I found a picture of what looked almost identical to my loom…… The Glimakra Standard – and it was upon poking around some more that I realized that my loom is not a jack loom at all — but a countermarch!

While jack and countermarch looms have many things in common, they do not operate in the same way when it comes to tying them up. The weaving process is the same, but the set up process is not. No wonder I was confounded!

Now that I know what I have, I’m feeling a lot more confident about getting it up and running over the next few months. It is a beautiful piece of work, this loom – likely made of maple, with hand-forged metal fittings — a good cleaning will bring it right back again, not to mention replacing all the old string heddles and the clothesline cord before even attempting to warp and balance it for weaving on. Countermarch looms are supposed to have easy treadling and be fairly quiet – once you stop swearing while attempting to tie them up that is! So I’m eager to compare it to the little loom I’ve been working on for the last few months.

I’ve taken a bunch of photographs and created a gallery of the details here because one thing I’ve found is that there are not tons of countermarch resources on the Internet, and my pictures might help someone else ID their loom later on.  Bit by bit, I’m going to figure this one out!

Post #3050: Meditating the morning of….

I’m not going to say what it’s the morning of, because we all know, and many of us are unhappy about it, and the world seems inching closer to the edge as a result of what will happen later today.

And yet.

And yet when I rose this morning I got on my knees to meditate in the dark dawn of 6 am. I took refuge there in the stillness, the cushion supporting me, the trees of my island breathing in and out alongside me.

Towards the end of my sitting this quote bounced up into my mind:

Acceptance does not mean fatalism. It does not mean capitulation to some slaughtering predestination. Those who follow Tao do not believe in being helpless. They believe in acting within the framework of circumstance…. Acceptance is a dynamic act. It should not signal inertness, stagnation, or inactivity. One should simply ascertain what the situation requires and then implement what one thinks is best. As long as one’s deeds are in accord with the time and one leaves no sloppy traces, then the action is correct. Deng-Ming Dao

I take refuge for exactly this reason – so I can get up and face the world as it is, while still holding faith in the capacity for compassion, renewal, sanity. This is the only practice that stops me from becoming paralyzed by the grief held inward like a breath that can’t be properly expelled, decaying and stale.

I will not watch the news today – acceptance does not also mean that one must stare at the train wreck. I will knit a silly pink hat and plan to join in the collective of women around the globe tomorrow. Knitting, meditating, chanting, and changing. This is my world. The one I accept. The I take refuge in and from. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Post #3049: Colour theory in weaving

This here (above) is my most recent project on the loom. A wool-silk scarf with multiple twill patterns, threaded at 24 ends per inch. I did not choose the colours or the draft, it is entirely a project straight from a book (Next Steps in Weaving) because I’m still in beginner stage and I wanted to make something using suggested materials to get more of a feel for my loom and the weaving process.

img_20161219_162249932This scarf here (on the left) is my second scarf. It has very subtle shading in the weft that does not show up nearly as well as I had hoped. I gave this to my step-daughter for Christmas because what it lacks in colour-popping beauty, it makes up for in luxurious warmth and softness (sport-weight  merino). It’s got some quirks, but they aren’t noticeable when worn. One of the things I love about making things for M. is that she is always roundly appreciative and I’ve noticed over time that she uses them all (she is what knitters call knit-worthy).

Since I got my little loom up and running last month, I’ve been a bit obsessed with weaving – I don’t think the loom has been without a project on it for more than a day at a time, and each time I am mid-way through one project, I gather the materials for the next. This level of obsessiveness is pretty much a requirement when I learn anything – – I have to engage so thoroughly that nothing else interests me for a period of time.

One thing I’ve really started to understand about weaving is that colour works quite differently than it does in crochet or knitting or even sewing – because the colours don’t just lay beside each other, they work with and through each other. It’s a little like painting in that way – how things blend is more important than how they look side by side, and *value* becomes much more important because the contrast between warp and weft is so important to the overall effect.

Colour theory is something I was never exposed to in my younger life, because I took no visual arts in junior high or high school (it was impressed upon me that I did not have visual or manual dexterity and that I should leave visual art alone – I now realize that I suffered from a lack of patience and self-confidence mostly, and the same dexterity I use for playing the fiddle adapts well to pretty much everything else that requires fine muscle control in the digits).

When I choose fabrics or yarn for a project – it is entirely intuitive and with no actual knowledge about why I might pick one thing over another. This lack of understanding about colour has lead to some disappointing results in my sewing life. Such as this quilt:

Finally! This quilt has a home!

Finally! This quilt has a home!

Which turned out just fine, but was not the effect I was going for when I started it. Because I did not expect the colour to come together as it did – I ditched this quilt top for the better part of a decade before finally finishing it last summer. While all the shades “go together” what I hadn’t factored in was colour values. I had wanted the feature squares to be the dark green ones with the leaves, but because the batik four-patches were so much brighter, they dominated the quilt in a way I did not expect. On the other hand, my colour intuition is pretty good without any book-learning, so most of the things I make turn out alright.

I am now at a place where I would like to do more than alright, and approach colour theory in a more systematic way – though I do not have the time or means to drop out of everything and go to art school (and I missed the boat on Jane Stafford’s weaving workshops for this year). So I’m working with a few things I’ve picked up in the last couple of years to choose new palettes for weaving.

A couple of years ago I took a creative skills workshop where the instructor showed us how to make palettes using nature photographs – picking up the shade, tone, and colour elements by mixing watercolours which could then be applied to another project. I was fairly interested in this process, as I had never thought much about the colour symmetry in nature until doing a few of these exercises and creating a beautiful array of choices for applying any number of ways.

Thinking about that over the holidays, and inspired by some photographs from the Hubble space telescope – I decided to run a few of the more spectacular ones through Color Palette FX which allows you to plug any photograph in and then select five shades to create your palette. From there I grey-scaled them to help determine the value balance among my choices – because, as noted in my above quilt example – value is as important as hue when putting colours side by side!

As an example, this is the photo and palette I have decided to experiment with (with the greyscale for value analysis below):

colortheory

From this palette, I selected 5 shades of 8/2 cotton from which I plan to make plain weave towels – using the lightest value (ivory) as the background) with the darker values striped through the weft. We’ll see how it turns out – I was trying to get away from “typical” tea towel colours – though my finished product will be nowhere as spectacular as the hubble photo that inspired it!

As I have a weaving on the loom at the moment, I won’t be able to warp again for at least a few days (I’m hoping to weave the scarf off this weekend, and set up my dish towels after that) – so until I do, we won’t get to see how my colour play works out – but I promise to share here when I am warped, and again when I am finished. There is nothing I like more than a hand woven dish towel so even if it doesn’t turn out to be the perfect blend of value and hue, there will still be a usable item at the end.

Post 3048: Learning how to talk to myself

Recently, my partner asked me to stop being so hard on myself as in — “please work on this, it’s not helpful”…. and so now I am in a state of noticing. Noticing all the times I stop myself, second guess my responses, think mean things about myself in the back of my head. Let me tell you, this noticing is annoying. Really annoying.

For example, just the other day, my fellow blogger over at Small, Delicious Life, posted a partial article he is working on and then went on Facebook to solicit feedback on the thoughts therein. First of all, I was flattered – because isn’t it nice that someone thinks I’m smart enough to comment on their smart ideas? And then I decided that responding was just going to get me in trouble because all those other smart friends he tagged were sure to be smarter than me. But of course, I can’t help myself – because I have thoughts! And so I quickly drafted up some of them, deleting them twice before finally posting them (and removing a link back to an article on my own blog in the process) – and of course qualifying all of them by saying that they were “not cogent” and “draft” just to underscore how much I don’t think my ideas matter very much.

Right, so you get the point. That is fucking exhausting. And it’s pretty much how I live a great deal of my life. If I go for a jog (as I did the other day for the first time in ages) I spend most of it internally commenting on my out of shape, middle-age body. In work meetings where I am the subject matter expert, I find myself constantly apologizing for having an opinion even though I am one of probably about two people who have my specific expertise in all of North America (and my opinion is more than welcome). I am critical of myself every time I purchase something to the degree that I have (at least once) had a breakdown over the purchase of a new pair of shoes. And then there is the fact that I pretty much avoid looking in the mirror as much as is possible without becoming slovenly because I have *never* learned to like the way I look (fat or thin).

And it’s not like any of that changes my approach to things or betters me in any way – my internal anxiety about buying things (for example) does not make me more green than other people, just more miserable about spending money.

Here’s the thing. I know I am smart. I know I am not lazy. I know I am actually very good at what I do professionally, and that I have the capacity to write and make music as well as anyone – and yet I go out in the world pretending that I do not think any of those things. And worse than that, I tell myself that I do not think any of these things even when I am busy demonstrating to people how much I can do so well (make money, knit scarves, bake bread, run significant projects on behalf of the federal government, pickle beets, represent as a union advocate, sew garments, make love, play the ukulele, write personal essays on this blog, put on fabulous parties, etc. etc.)

There’s a part of me that wants to hate on myself for this one more thing thing – this internal critic – but I’m pretty sure this is mostly not my fault. For when you are good at things, when you are opinionated, a little bit loud, and possibly even show some leadership capacity *and also a woman* – there is a whole world out there ready to put you in your place from childhood on up to middle age. There are younger men who will get jobs you are 10 x more qualified for. There are women who will pull you aside when you are a young union leader and tell you that you are arrogant (or – heaven forbid – they will just whisper that you are a lesbian) just because you stand up and know what you are talking about. There are all the people (especially family) who will diminish your accomplishments because you don’t have children (and that’s what really makes a woman, right?) Or if you do have kids, you will constantly be criticized for how you raise them, 10 million times more than their fathers will ever be. (If you are a stepmother, for the record, it will be assumed you are a homewrecker with no familiar relationship to your step-child).

Most of all, you will have to develop a million deflection strategies so that no one feels threatened or diminished by your competence – and that’s where the bad habits (of self-deprecation, internal criticism and so on) set in.

The other day, I read this celebrity does a triathalon article in which America Ferrera relates her own battle with internalized negativity and how she confronted that while training for an athletic event she didn’t ever think she would do. This piece isn’t unique, because this is such a common part of the female landscape, but it landed with me at a time that I was already thinking about this self-destructive defense tactic and how much it makes me unavailable to enjoy my own experiences and successes. Her strategy for combating the voice is really just the cognitive behavioural trick of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones – enough so that those become the habit of self-reference – and it’s pretty much the only thing I can imagine would work. External validation has nothing to do with it – obviously – you can have heaps of that and still hate yourself. It really is about deciding that we don’t have to be “sorry” for being who we are.

Now, I want to qualify – this doesn’t only apply to women. Tons of people suffer from these same ingrained responses due to class, gender, race, and other social status situations – it comes up all the time in people around me who have vastly different experiences of the world than me….. But the fix is probably the same for the most part. We have to start with taming that internal voice. We have to take our rightful place at the tables where we belong and not take the external criticism of the world in. And once we can do that, then we are far more equipped to dismantle those external barriers and start building a society that doesn’t tell so many of us that we are inferior all of the time.

So 2017 is going to be a year where I work on that. It didn’t really show up in my year compass as a big focus, but in the last few weeks it’s been on my mind.

I started practicing yesterday when I was in Vancouver for meetings. A co-worker stopped me in the hall and told me that she thought I would be a good president of our union local (the election is only a month away). Instead of qualifying my response or trying to be funny about it – I simply said “Thanks – I think I will be a good local president – I’m the most qualified person to take it on right now.” It is the truth, and it felt pretty awesome to say it out loud.

Post #3047: A pitch for self-planning

This morning I’ve switched the dial on Google play from my regular –  moody and mellow – music channels to something called “Handclapping & Footstomping”.  After three nights in a row where my sleep wasn’t the best, I need something to pep me up a bit and this seems to be doing it. I’m counting down until work holidays which start for me next Thursday – not because I’m that interested in the Christmas season, but because I’m at the point in the year where I’m pretty disinterested in work. Bottomline – it’s break time and I need a few sleeping in days. I’ll have twelve of those between the 22nd and the 3rd and I can hardly wait – especially since Brian and I are now on island(s) together until the new year. There’s been a lot of time alone on the dark island recently, owing to weird work schedules on both our parts, and I’m ready for some steady company now.

As we near the end of December, I find myself marveling at the fact that a year ago this month – we still had no idea that we were moving town and house. It was a decision that didn’t come until the end of February- and yet it seems like years since we set our sights on this island. I suppose that’s because we have planned for somewhere rural ever since we first met nine years ago – and we were just waiting for the right time and place to occur to us. The fundamentals of change are like that, aren’t they? You float along thinking about things for a long time and then suddenly the opportunity appears and the change seems to happen overnight. It’s a bit like how my (amazing) yoga teacher moves us slowly, slowly into position, and then with a quick snap at the end we are into the final twist/bend/contortion….. I call it sneaky teaching because you don’t know where you are going as you inch along, you aren’t convinced you are ever going to get anywhere, and then suddenly! You are in a totally new-to-you place!

Which really just suggests that so much of what gets us ready to do anything is happening on a semi or subconscious level – which is something worth remembering when we feel stuck in a rut and like we aren’t doing enough to change that. Of course, there are times when action is obvious and necessary – but sometimes all we can do is have an idea about where we are going, and otherwise wait until we get there, or until circumstances around us change to provide an opening (that we have mentally prepared ourselves to slip through).

Last year at this time I did the Year Compass and although I don’t have a copy of it now (their online tool has disappeared), I know that my key words for 2016 were Move, Mobilize, Motivate – because our routine in the city had become a bit stultifying and I was ready for something new to happen. By the time I chose those keywords, I was clearly already one foot out of the city (and was also planning to purchase a decent bicycle), but I had no idea that we would so decisively jump that hurdle less than twelve weeks later by putting our house on the market.

Which is why I’m a convert to doing an annual planning/visioning process for myself. Even when we don’t know what we are planning for – revisiting feelings, values, and how we spend our time –  in some kind of structured way, helps us nail down the essence of who we are and what we deeply want/need (as opposed to what we think we want or need). It’s basically like arming ourselves for change – so that when it comes knocking at your door, or when you need to manifest something new – you have the basis on which to make decisions already sitting in your subconscious and ready to help answer the question that will arise. Don’t get me wrong, when I am deeply in a rut, I see the appeal of change for the sake of change – but given that none of us have that much extra energy to spare, it seems like a bit of future planning can help us move consistent with our values and our life path, as opposed to zig-zagging from one road to the next.

Although I haven’t finished my compass document yet, I think this year is going to be less focused on movement, and more on contemplative community and practice. That’s the deep need I’m feeling after three restless nights and a recently erratic schedule – but I’ll have to wait and see what comes up when I start digging in and looking at myself for another year forward.

Post 3045: Opening the windows

In my meditation retreat a couple of weeks ago, one of my teachers said, “sometimes we figure out what our retreat is about after a few days of it, but often we don’t know what a retreat is about for us was about until afterwards”. After five residential retreats (not many, but enough for a sample), I know that this process of discovery happens in layers – a bit of understanding in the retreat, quite a lot more in the week that follows, and then more later, perhaps on the next retreat when something comes round full circle again.

I cried a lot during my sesshin at Loon Lake this year. I wasn’t expecting that at all, but I discovered in my first two days of sitting that all of my body was noise and it wouldn’t simply dial down. Noise about the US election, climate change, the turn towards hatred, the outrage and rawness and exhaustion I was feeling from all the months of yelling yelling yelling. It was all in there, and when I started to get silent, it came up and danced in front of me. And so I went to my meetings with teachers and cried, I cried on my cushion during the Dharma talks, I cried in my bed when a particularly crushing childhood memory came back to me in a jolt. It was in no way continual, but it was the punctuation to each day of the retreat. It was confusing, because I am not a crier, but I became curious about what would make me cry next.

On the last day of sitting, I heard someone across the room sniffle. At first I thought “damn, someone’s got a cold” because if one person has a cold at retreat then it means there’s a good chance other people will get it and take it home with them. It’s not the most compassionate response, but I have become an ardent hand washer at communal gatherings because I *always* get sick otherwise. Anyhow – my ears were perked up to just such a sign in the zendo….. At first one sniffle, then two…. and after a few more seconds I realized that I was listening to someone cry, not have a cold…. and even more, in that room of 70 people, I could identify who it was. The moment I made that identification, it was like a channel opened up, and I began to cry also, but not for any specific reason of my own but because I could feel the clear suffering of my fellow sitter pouring right inside of me as though it were my very own.

After leaving retreat, I went to visit my family and then drove home to Gabriola. Over the week following (much of which I was separate from Brian due to differing work commitments – and so had lots of self reflection time) I noted that I was feeling a lot of my interactions with people holistically, through my whole body and touching my deeply in the way they normally don’t. I’ve been writing more since that time, I’ve been reading more zen, I’ve been more open generally with my time, and feeling more honest and generous overall, even as the implications of being open are also to feel more pain – to feel the injury of others continuously. This opening was authentic, not the result of thinking I should do one thing or behave some way, just a natural transition from the cushion to everyday life. It’s been remarkable to note it, even as I also feel that flow begin to ebb.

I have had such experiences before – following retreats or periods of intensive daily meditation. I have had great washes of universal love, or radical truth-telling, or changes of my relationship to time – as a result of this practice. Thus far these have been momentary, a few hours, a day at most. This time was a bit different – an opening in full form for at least a week, and still somewhat with me as I write this entry. But I know it won’t last – this state, like all things, is impermanent.

When we meditate, we watch our feelings rise and fall, pass before us and slip out the door. We learn that our emotional states are literally seconds or nano-seconds long, that even if we are having a really deep meditation in one moment, the monkey mind can start throwing bananas in the next, and that the breath is a tenuous anchor at the best of times. In our work towards living in the world more fully, there is no linear path, and no constancy in our responses to the stimulus around us. But what keeps us, or at least me, coming back to sit over and over no matter how tedious it seems at times – is these glimpses of equanimity, these cracks in which the shining self waiting to be revealed leaks through.

I do not have a cosmic relationship with the notion of awakening or enlightenment. As I’ve written before, I believe these are purely psychological states that come with deepening our relationship and understanding – and so I ascribe nothing mystical to these openings of feeling or awareness that come following a retreat. I do believe, however, that they are the guideposts to where we seek to go in the fullness of ourselves, and in the right time.

I will note that after a week and a half of this window open to compassion and connection, I have spent the last 24 hours in an outrageously angry state. I had a political argument today on Facebook (about Castro, of all things), I yelled at Brian last night because he wasn’t *as* pissed off at the government as I am about electoral reform. Basically, I am picking fights for no reason.

I believe this anger is intrisically connected to the channel that was opened in me following retreat. And so I continue to discover what fruit that period of silent meditation will bring to bear.

I came across this quote yesterday and it resonates – so rather than coming up with a pithy ending to this post, I will leave it here for your consideration. It’s a deep commitment required of each of us.

Many of us have set out on the path of enlightenment. We long for a release of selfhood in some kind of mystical union with all things. But that moment of epiphany–when we finally see the whole pattern and sense our place in the cosmic web–can be a crushing experience from which we never fully recover.

Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. You can not turn away. Your destiny is bound to the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.

To seek enlightenment is to seek annihilation, rebirth, and the taking up of burdens. You must come prepared to touch and be touched by each and every thing in heaven and hell.
Andrew Boyd