Post #3065: A weekend of practice

Let me start off by telling you that things last week were a bit crappy. I have a lot of work stress right now and that was compounded by 3 days of union-related meetings which made me feel frantic and behind at every step. On top of that, I was disrespectful to someone in a meeting because I had lost my patience with them – which is not how I want to be as a meeting chair – and so that resulted in an apology to everyone at the meeting. (I always figure it’s better to apologize right away and meaningfully rather than dig in.)

So yeah, I’ve been pretty stressed lately about work – and last week didn’t help – and then I was even more stressed because I had to leave my little paradise of an island to go to the city for a weekend meditation retreat. Can you imagine this? Stressed and then getting more stressed about meditation!

Glad to say that my misgivings about the trip were relieved the moment I walked in the door to receive a big, smiling hug from one of my teachers! It’s been three years since I started sitting with Mountain Rain and if nothing else, I can always count on feeling right at home when I show up. That was what I needed, a feeling of being where I belonged without a lot expected of me. (A lot of my stress right now is due to overwork which is all about what I let people expect of me – I need to lessen those expectations because I’m not getting rewarded for doing *everything all the time*)

So, I sat for the weekend with my fellow meditators and it was good. I had meetings with my teachers, I did some tonglen practice focused on equanimity, I felt each step in walking meditation as a grounding and an ease of being supported by the earth – and in addition to the time sitting, I rose early both days for a long walk, and brought simple healthy food to keep me going without having to dip into restaurants or shops at all. I ate mindfully, without distractions, kept phone and internet use at a minimum, and didn’t even read any books! In this way it was the most intensive effort I have ever made at a non-residential retreat – though I can’t say it was any effort because it was what my body and mind were deeply craving – some time to be quiet and alone.

By the end of the weekend the bad feeling in my gut and the tension in my neck had abated, and though I’m not fooled into thinking that the stress is all gone – I feel like I’ve got some new strategies to work with the internal resistance I have been feeling around some projects. I am feeling a bit low and quiet today – processing everything after a long evening of travel that involved traffic jams and late ferries – but also filled with the deep gratitude for my zen community, those people who show up and sit so that we may all experience our full human condition together. Without them, I would just be sitting alone; in a retreat or meditation hall I am part of a large and supportive body and after weeks of feeling under appreciated at work and in my union – I really did need that positive contact.

When I rose this morning I didn’t meditate as normal for I was a bit behind my schedule – and instead I took time to sit outside and eat my simple breakfast while watching the birds flit around the yard. It’s still grey here, but not too cold – and eating outside always feels like a picnic doesn’t it? I had forgotten that until the weekend when I ate my breakfast outside on a different bench both days (one day on the beach, one day on the UBC campus). I think this will be my practice for the next little while – as much as the weather and my schedule allows it – to eat outside in the mornings without distractions other than birds and the occasional insect.

Suzuki Roshi says that to find still mind in stillness is the easy part – it’s finding still mind in choppy waters that’s the real mastery of zen practice. This work is long and subtle – but each time I encounter a rough patch I become aware that whatever I am doing, it is working. I am more aware of my mind states, I am calmer in the face of difficulty – but at the same time, I also recognize how very far I have to go before I can navigate without tipping the kayak every once and awhile.

 

 

Post # 3064: Continuity

A few months ago, a struggling friend asked his facebook contacts for general advice on how to get through a difficult time. One of my friends responded to him thusly:

Build another thing. Think about who will use it when you are gone.

This line has come back to me almost weekly since – a piece of spontaneous poetry that speaks the human condition so plainly. The drive to create, to make new, to build – and the fact that we have so little time in which to do it before we turn it into the hands of those who follow. As someone who is a builder of things (textile things), I understand entirely, the continuity that making engenders – the connection to the past and the future which is made in the moment of throwing the shuttle or placing the stitch. And of course, I am highly aware that there may be no one to pass these things along to because we do not live in a world where we think too hard about who is coming next and what will be their inheritance. So many of the made “things” of this world do not even last a single lifetime, plastics becoming the stomach lining of birds and whales instead, houses even – built only for the use of a single family one time before they are plowed under for the next incarnation. This is the breaking of the line between then, now and the future – the refuse that piles up and doesn’t break down into anything reusable.

The chair above this post is about 150 years old. I purchased it on Craigslist for $75 and spent a ridiculous sum of money having it reupholstered because I loved its shape and the hand carved wood. When we peeled back the upholstery at the refinishing place, it was clear that it had been redone at least twice since the original fabric when onto it – making this the fourth recovering in its lifetime. I expect it won’t need to be done for another 40 or 50 years given the wear that a chair like this gets – which means the next time it gets a new coat I will likely have passed on. The chair is really sturdy, though perhaps it will need to be glued at some point to keep its joints together – but still, someone is using it long after the maker’s death, and will be using it beyond my own temporary hold. Though I am not the builder, I am a caretaker of this thing that will be used by another when I am gone.

If we could hold this perspective on our world with each purchase, with each thing we build – how different this all would be. What is this thing I am making? Will it last? Does it have use beyond this moment? Who will use it and how? When we are done with its use, can it be returned to the ground with little impact?

And so, this little poem to help us remember:

build
another thing.
Think about

who

will use it when
you are gone.

 

Post #3060: Every day sitting

Brian cleaned up the shrubs in front of the zendo yesterday and now I have to decide what to plant – I had been thinking of a Katsura tree, but a friend online told me that they aren’t drought tolerant and now I have to decide whether to risk it or not. Our spot on the island is a wet one, but in high summer it can get pretty dried out.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my sitting practice has gotten more regular again, for the first time since last June when we moved. While I have sat lots since moving (3-5 times per week plus retreats) – it has not been a daily practice. In the last 33 days (yes, I keep track), I have managed to re-establish daily practice even with travel to the cities and a hectic schedule – which just goes to show that daily practice isn’t about how busy I am, but how dedicated I am to doing it.

If you don’t meditate, you might wonder – is there really a difference between sitting five times per week and every day? While to a seasoned practitioner of meditation (twenty years or more), perhaps there is no difference – in my nascent state (of only three years), I deeply feel the difference.

And I suppose that makes sense – zen isn’t something that we just practice when we feel like it, it’s something we try to embody in all our dealings every day – and as the core of the practice is zazen (sitting meditation) – it makes sense that sitting every day helps us to work with zen principles in every day life too. That means accepting and letting go of anxieties, being with impermanence and change rather than resisting, cultivating equanimity – and so on.

In one of Brad Warner’s books on zen he tells the reader at the outset “if you don’t have a daily practice, don’t bother reading any more of this book as it’s a waste of your time” – that’s my paraphrase because I can’t find the quote right now – but it pretty much sums up the feeling that you can’t really do zen without practice.

Another way of saying that is we can’t intellectualize our way to enlightenment.

For me, this is not dogmatic or about what I “should” do – but based in the fact that every day that I sit, my grounding points are strenghtened for that day. Morning practice in particular helps me step into a the day with awareness about my starting block. Am I more tired than normal? Grumpy? Giddy? Anticipating a heavy work day?

When I come to myself in silence for even a brief period – it brings the day into focus, my reactivity, what I am bringing to my work and my life off the cushion.

Which is not to say that I have some kind of horrible time when I don’t meditate for a day, but I’m just not as well integrated on the inside, and it’s noticeable. If several days in a row go by without practice, that’s when I notice a lot more difficulty – my old anxiety flares right back up, and I am quicker to anger and criticsm.

There are many reasons that I told myself my daily practice dropped off, but mainly it’s because I allowed it to happen in the flurry of uprooting and resettling. I take this return of solid zazen as a sign that I have actually landed back in my life and am settling on Gabriola for real. And now that I have regrouped in one place again, I see how free I am to leave it and take my daily exercise of silence with me, wherever I go – even if it means practicing on a crowded city bus on the way to work (as I had to early last week).

We are ten months here and I am just finding my seat again – and what a lovely little zendo to explore this in!

Post #3059: Introducing the tiny zendo

I was away from home for two weeks doing all the things (friends, jukai, work, training) in both nearby cities (Victoria then Vancouver). It was a wonderful break after being alone for much of the time this winter (not lonely though) – and I think in the two weeks of travel I saw pretty much all of my closest friends and was more than grateful for the many nice meals and visits (and all of that time spent with Brian as we travelled and stayed together in Van).   Though I returned home last Wednesday, it’s taken me a few days to come back to ground and reintegrate into my home life. Being “on the road” and at the city condo is fun and all – but for a homebody like me, it’s also a little unsettling. I am a person who creates a bit of a fortress wherever I live – from the days when I only rented a room in a house, up until now with our half acre and home – I tend to surround myself with the things of my life and then spend a lot of time in that space. It’s not the comfort of material things that I seek in doing that, but a sense of personal space and the arrangement of it that’s most important.

One of the things that happened while we were away, was some work on the outdoors of our property – including work on a little outbuilding that was here when we moved in. This 9×9 “shed” was dank and full of detritus when we moved into the house – it smelled so foul (from some rotting carpet in the loft) that the dog wouldn’t even go into it. But even so, we quickly realized that it was way too overbuilt to be a simple shed – with power (four outlets, two overhead lights), insulation, two windows, and a poured concrete foundation – it had all the makings of a usable studio building or guest cabin. Last summer Brian and I cleaned it out and he threw a coat of white paint over everything to freshen it up in time for friends to stay in it during our summer party – but otherwise it needed some finishing work.

Because we already have studio space (and lots of it for both of us), we decided that this would be our tiny zendo, or meditation hall – and also double as guest space when needed. While away in March, we hired someone to come in and put up some shiplap to finish the walls and the loft, and on our return this past weekend we whitewashed those walls and bought flooring and a new light fixture. Yesterday, Brian installed the fixture and finished putting in the flooring and I nailed in the finishing strips along the edges (minus one, I ran out of material) – and voila! It’s a tiny zendo!

There are a last few additions still to come, including a shelf, and a wall heater, and some loft finishing including a piece of carpet and a ladder that hooks on for stability. Plus, I plan to landscape the outside a bit more and bang together a rack for shoes by the front door – but I’ve got a sitting space that feels light and airy, and a pleasure to be in. It’s *such* a great space that even Brian might be tempted to meditate there with me – he’s feeling mighty happy with how it turned out also.

I haven’t had a chance to sit in it yet, though I plan to do so tonight after returning home from work. I have returned to a rock solid daily practice for the first time since moving, and am reminded of the unmatchable benefits of sitting every day. So if you come visit me, and would like a sit while you are over – I will always affirm that desire – for sitting together strengthens all of our intentions. More cushions will soon be on order to accommodate guests.

Post #3054: Life at low tide

I was a having a perfect little romantic walk along the beach at low tide yesterday afternoon, when we passed a neighbour with her reactive dog barely under control. Not a minute later, and that dog shot up the beach and jumped on our beautiful old dog, biting her and then running off again. We scurried up the beach together to get away because I was afraid the attacking dog would come back at us, so riled up it was, but we managed to get up to the road and home without further event. That’s when I realized that Charlotte was bleeding – only a little – but still, it made everything seem much worse. Fortunately I have many supporters on the Internet and even some on my little island – and with friendly online hand-holding and some firm instructions about cleaning the wound from my neighbour – I got everything cleaned up and still managed to get in the studio for a couple of hours last night.

Two realizations I had as a result of this:

  • At another time in my life, this incident would have sent me into paroxysms of anxiety and trauma. I would have felt isolated and scared (with Brian away), and sat inside those feelings quite willfully (not intentionally, but refusal to let go of a feeling is a powerful addiction). Yesterday, I got home with fairly little anxiety – some worry, but of a normal level – asked people in my community for help, got it, and then went on with things. I think that change comes from a variety of places, including aging, but I would pinpoint my daily meditation practice as the thing which has most helped me get less reactive over the last few years. One of my teachers told me early on that it wasn’t that meditating would change your immediate emotional reactions, but it definitely impacted how long you held onto the feelings afterwards – this came back to me last night when I realized that I quite effortlessly dropped the negative feelings once the attack had ended.
  • Like any abrupt or traumatic event, I am reminded that no matter what moment we are currently having, it can change in a nanosecond, and without warning. Which is why we can never get too smug about where we are, or how things are for us. It’s just luck that something hasn’t occurred to take it away yet (or luck that we were born into it in the first place) – nothing to be proud of, nothing to take for granted.

The dog and I are both fine this morning, she’s a bit more tired than normal but pretty much seems to be herself. I expect she’s sore from being jumped on, but the site where she bled doesn’t seem to be causing her any real pain, even when I run my hand over it. I’ll just keep it clean today with alcohol and watch for infection at this point.

My plan for today was to get back to blogging with a Dillardesque reflection on low tides and what they bring (birds! seaweeds! interesting rock formations normally under water!) but instead, it’s something else. It’s the real thing – the fact that life everywhere is changing at each moment, and if you don’t pay attention you miss so much of the unfolding, each second that is about to change the course of your life entirely.

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 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

Post 3044: Light time, night time

I don’t feel like working today. So much so, that  I briefly considered calling in sick, even though I work from my home studio on Mondays and arriving here is as simple as getting out of bed and crossing the driveway. I’m not really sick at the moment though, I’m just fuzzy and I would like more sleep, so I kicked myself out from under the covers and here I sit, watching the light rise around me. From my desk at home I have a clear view to the ocean, enough so that I can tell whether it’s a calm day out there or a choppy one, enough so that I can see the colour of the sunrise as it spreads across the sea.

Over the weekend it became apparent that with the summer foliage gone, we can glimpse the ocean from pretty much every room in our house during the wintertime. We can stand on our deck in the night and see the ferries sail by, lights blazing – and the cold air of winter carries the dark water in it.

When I moved here, a friend (who was about to get a divorce but didn’t know it yet), told me that the worst thing about living on Gabriola was the darkness of winter here. There are no street lights, and houses are set back from the road and surrounded by trees. The power goes off on the regular (it went out last night for two hours) due to windstorms and aging hydro infrastructure, and the coast is always cloudy in the wintertime. She moved off the island a month after I moved onto it, and I wondered then how much the darkness would affect me. Even in Gibsons, there was quite a bit of ambient light both from the town and from the city of Vancouver – which is not the case on our side of the island – it gets really dark here.

Thus far, all I can report is that I sleep more deeply, that a wool blanket has never been more welcome in my life, and that stocking the wood for the stove during daylight is essential if you don’t want to be scared by a raccoon in the woodshed at night. Granted, this is our first winter here, perhaps I will grow to dislike all these things immensely. Maybe the awareness of light or its absence will prove to be too much, and I’ll long for the city again. I’m  counting on that not being the case, but it could be.

Yesterday I went to a place called the Net Loft for a meditation gathering that happens every Sunday. An incredible spot, with windows to the ocean in a perfect and protected bay – I entered, bowed before the altar before sitting, and for an hour my knees touched the floor in the silence of becoming. It is true that the nights here are very dark, but the light from the water is always buoyant.

Post #3001: Moving toward moving.

Subsequent to my post last week, we are really doing this thing – and I’m feeling excited about it, after a weekend of looking at houses, and driving around the little island of Gabriola.

Up until this point I have been a bit ambivalent about the move, I have to admit. While the practicalities of the plan spoke volumes to me (get out of debt, live in a quieter place, be closer to family) – the reality of moving, leaving people behind, and having to pack and clean up our life in Vancouver was leaving me a bit torn in two. But after looking around homes, walking on beaches, and really connecting with Brian over the last few days about hopes/dreams/goals – I have come to a place of equanimity with the idea of moving, and true excitement about a new house and community to explore.

It doesn’t hurt that I came into work and received some good news about a new project that I might be tasked to for the next few years – one that would allow me to work from anywhere which means I won’t face having to work out of the Vancouver office for a good long time to come. That piece is still very much up in the air – but it looks like it will land firmly in my favour because I am so specialized for the proposal being made (and in some way have inspired it through my work – more on that in future post if it comes to fruition). Short story is, things are lining up in a way that makes this feel more possible than it did even four days ago.

There are two houses which we have in our sights at the moment, neither of which I am linking to here at the moment. The properties are both comparable in terms of house quality – with one having an incredible view, and the other being steps to the beach – with a large price difference between them. (Views are apparently more expensive than I thought they would be, and waterfront is downright unattainable). What we decide to do will depend on a number of factors, not the least of which is how much we sell our house for – and that we will likely know tomorrow night.

But what all of it – the selling and buying of real estate brings to mind – is how much it is purely psychological drama and nothing else which drives the prices on such choices. Or in other words – we find ourselves asking, how many tens of thousands (or hundred of thousands) extra is a view, or waterfront, or a super-fancy bathroom worth? And that question is only answered emotionally, because the practical *need* of housing (a place to sleep and cook) is served by far less than what is on offer in either place.

As both seller and buyer, I am aware of the heightened emotion that real estate purchases bring on. I remember buying our house on William Street almost seven years ago to the day – and how desperately I felt that I needed that house, the terrible emotional welling that occurred when it appeared that someone might outbid us, and how convinced I became that there was no other possible way forward than to get that, exact house. Likewise, when I sold my home on the Sunshine Coast, I dug my heels in over $5000 in the closing price and felt all sorts of terrible things towards the people who were trying to push the price down to something that would create more ease for them. There is nothing like the power we vest in land ownership to remind one of how in thrall we can be to our emotional states.

I might be speaking for myself only, but I find the energy around real estate to be hyper-charged, and unlike anything else I am aware of (except perhaps sex). And I wonder about that. I have felt more pride at “owning” a piece of land than almost anything else I have done in my life even though I rationally (and spiritually) know that there is no such thing as ownership when it comes to land and its living beings. One could say that its a symbol of hard work, and that’s what causes the frisson of ownership, but to that I would call bullshit also because there has been no hard work (for me) involved in things like the real estate market in Vancouver doubling in value, nor in the fact that I can get a loan from the bank. And while it is true that I have gone to work diligently my whole adult life, I recognize too that being born into the middle class and subsequently being university educated – is also a fluke, not the sign that I am more deserving than other people.

And so it is, that owning property is charged because in our culture we have allowed it to be so – to be somehow defining of adulthood and success – even though it is more likely an accident of where one is born and who they are born to, than anything else.

Back in November I had a very strong feeling during meditation retreat – which I can only describe as an overwhelming desire for merger with the natural world. The image that came to me over and over was the feeling of diving into a summer lake and the momentary sensation of being taken in by that body, fully enveloped by it, and losing the sense of the separation between one body and another. This drive for merger spoke to me of the artificial nature of the separation that we experience. My desire for merger was/is really just a desire for awakening to the true nature of being which is non-separation or wholeness – and the felt-experience on retreat was a glimmer, an inkling of that being state.

And so these feelings around the ownership of property, of land and beings – I have started to wonder if they have such power, because they replace our desire for merger and deep belonging. That is, many peoples of the world have lived easily without the need to *own* land, and with a sense of being a part of the land and its many creatures (that is, a sense of oneness) – is the loss of this oneness then replaced by another strong set of symbols which reside in power through control over/ownership of? Or to be simpler about it, are we so disconnected from the world that we no longer to be a part of it except through possession?

I will say that although I am aware of the feelings, the emotionalism, being present in this round of selling and buying – I am not as taken by them (at the moment) as I have been in the past. But I’m not immune by a long shot! And so I am working at remembering day by day – this desire for merger, and the delusion of ownership – in an effort to better understand and diminish the unpleasant roller-coaster of pride and anger and hope and frustration that arise in the process.

 

Post 2091: Sitting with discomfort.

If meditation has taught me one thing (or started to anyhow), it’s that sitting with discomfort is possible. And more than that, it’s often desirable. When we sit with discomfort without immediately trying to rectify it, we learn more about the cause, and we stop ourselves from doing more damage in the process of trying to fix it. I think about this a lot, both when I am successful at not responding to a trigger, and when I am not. Especially when I am not.

After two (plus) years of meditating through illness, exhaustion, and occasional distress, I’ve noticed bit by bit, that it’s become easier to be uncomfortable psychically and physically in my everyday life. I don’t mind being caught out in the rain quite as much, I don’t have to scratch every itch, I don’t have to respond to every hurting thing. It makes it easier for me to imagine riding my bike to work in the winter, I don’t care so much about letting go of friendships that have gone sour. Which isn’t to say that none of these things affect me – I am no master of detachment after all! But I am a little less impacted, and when any feeling (good or bad) arises, I am able to mind the state I’m in with greater attention. Not to mention with wider perspective. Which in itself is a kind of relief – this ability to get outside of my own state a little bit and just witness it.

And speaking of meditation – is there anything more zen than a heron? I think not.

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Photos taken at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Ladner, BC this past weekend.