February 10, 2011
Today I get an A in the mechanics of doubt. I found no peace on the bolster on the mat. The cars whiz by to get to their destinations, my dog snoozes, a gull cries, and I sit struggling with expectation. Maybe when I sit down, the whole world will open up. That's what I was thinking. Maybe, when I sit down and close my eyes, I will get some tremendous insight that will help me though this time in my life. But I sat down and all I got was a swarm of flies.
I have always had a problem with expectation. Perhaps this is because I have always been goal oriented. I set a goal and then I go to achieve it. This was a great attitude for school, because everything was in reach of achieving. There wasn't one subject matter I couldn't master. So I set my expectations that I would master a subject or a class and I went out and did that. It was difficult, but I pushed through and I learned how to extend myself that much further into the world of learning. My grades reflected my efforts. Not so in life. The first disillusionment: the workplace is nothing like school. There may be no learning whatsoever. The point here is to get the tasks done, as menial as they may be, on time, to get paid and to not make a stir. Most of the time there is no “expansion of the mind”; that doesn't matter when you're a cog. So eventually I found my way back to the world of learning and became a teacher, and then ultimately a professor. I would like to think I solved the problem of being content in a career, but I find expectation is spoiling things. My teleological attitude is getting in the way. What's the next goal? Where do you go from here? I'm always reaching. I don't know where I go from here. It looks like I'm here for awhile. What else is there to say?
I thought I would be married at 28. That was another expectation. I thought I would fall in love at the end of my twenties and live a life of connubial bliss. I would have children in my early thirties. Everything would be super. But life didn't turn out that way. Cliché, I know. And then my Dad died. And then I thought, what the hell is the point to anything?
The mechanics of doubt, back in full force. Expectation has been blown to bits. So what do I do with the wreckage? I have no other choice but to try and feel compassion for myself. Maybe that's a goal in itself, to pick up the shards and debris with an opened heart.
February 11, 2011
Pema Chodrin says “Not harming ourselves or others is the basis for an enlightened society.” This practice of non-harming is called ahimsa. When I first discovered this word, it was quite powerful for me. I realized I was harming myself left and right by putting myself in stressful situations trying to achieve, to get somewhere. My body would react with obsessive thoughts of fear and jolts of panic. When I learned the definition of ahimsa, I realized I was really missing the boat. I was also not getting any younger and with the cancer prevalent in my family, I was headed toward illness. So I restructured my life around ahimsa.
One of the primary components to ahimsa is noticing. This is where meditation comes in. When I started this process, I thought I was successful if I reached some sort of mini nirvana on the mat. Now I realize, if I can just notice my thoughts as separate from me and label them, I'm being successful, I am accomplishing something. If they get to be too much and I can't let go, I try to melt into the sounds around me, my dog's breathing, the heater clanking, the outside bird calls, even the acceleration of the cars. Sometimes when I have melted into my surroundings, thoughts shoot up from the depths of me. These thoughts are mostly visions of objects. They are the stuff of dreams; there is no “gear turning” particular to the mode of thinking I do during the day. Today I had some thoughts I labeled ego and a column rose inside me, a large cylindrical edifice of rock. This was ego. I had realized it was the pedestal for me to put myself on. I sat up straight with the column inside me until it gradually disappeared and I moved on to other thoughts.
My ego is a major source of harming for me. But I know if I can notice it's workings, I can get myself around it and make better decisions.
The last vision I had was of a small door in my chest, left ajar for my heart. I thought of the day where the Catholics expose the sacrament; you can sit in a room with it as a sort of vigil. So I thought of exposing my heart sacrament and sitting with it and being present with God. It was a nice way to start the day.
February 12, 2011
The Bible says God is love. The way I see it (or don't see it), as humans, we are given telescopes in our lives to look through. This is how we view the world, through small circles. We can use those telescopes to focus on aspects of the world, move them around to different things, but we never get to see the whole world at once, as God does. So we must exercise faith that God can see the whole picture. God can only be love if he is like this all-knowing parent who sees the glory in all things, who sees the glory we cannot see.
I sat today and experienced first, nothingness. Then, like a geyser, questions came from the center of me, are you love? Are you compassionate? I began to speak a language my ears knew not. I let the language flow upward. I waited. I went back to nothingness.
February 13, 2011
I want to know something else beside the mogul of ice over my head. Gray. This is the color of depression, that icy hill I writhe under. And writhe I do, at night, when my husband is in his recliner watching vacuous programs, flicking from one channel to the next, tolerating inane commercials. By this time, I have read enough and have written enough; I have done what I could to rouse this mood. Writhe, I do under the weight of still this and still that. I want to know something else besides the parked cars on the hill and the gray gulls perched on the roof, and the imperturbable houses and the ravens, a yang to the yin of snow. Something rushes up inside me and says, hey you, God. Can you be a little bit more than subtle and timeless? I want this geyser to rise up and burst through the roof and smack you in the face.
February 14, 2011
Oh just a fight this morning. No real insight, just swatting at flies and struggling to stay awake. The raging she-beast seems to have died away. After I wrote the above entry yesterday I felt like I should erase it because it could get me in trouble. But my anger at God and my frustration with God is real, so I kept it and I hope today a piano doesn't fall on my head. But this is all wrong thinking, old thinking that stems from sin and blasphemy and my Catholic upbringing. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
The other thing I realized is that I don't feel right using a pronoun for God. He doesn't seem right and She doesn't seem right. God is God, without pronouns because God is not a Him or Her, not a female or a male. This is what I've defined for myself. I think if we start to believe this, that God is more like energy that flows, is more like a shapeshifter who can be any one thing at any one time, and less the person who should give us goodies and scare away the bogey man, we might be closer to the truth.
February 15, 2011
Following the sound of the Tibetan bowl seems to cleanse my mind of its debris, random floating thoughts that belong to fear and ego and desire. The sound seems to align me somehow. I sit, with my bowl and stick and hit it in the deep, sonorous places. I listen as the sound trails off. I listen as the sound rises, blooms in the air before me. Once my mind is somewhat aligned, the visions come. The first vision I had was of a slippery slope. When I lived off Fayette Street, I used to walk my dog Ralphie to this park that was in a sort of valley. When it snowed, getting down into it was difficult because the slope often iced over. Ralphie could manipulate it fairly well because he had claws. But sometimes I couldn't even get myself down into the park. So I walked along the edge, trying to keep my balance. I think my life, with all of its unknowns, is a slippery slope. I feel as if it is treacherous sometimes, as if I walk along the rim of it, waiting to fall down the ice. I guess this is what happens when you challenge yourself, when you try new things, when you change the patterns and walk outside your comfort zone. I feel, these days, I am careful with every step I take and I can't truly relax because everything is so new...the classes I teach, the possibility of becoming a mom, my attempting to know myself through meditation. What if I fall down into a depression? What if my anxiety comes back and I must walk on eggshells again to avoid panic?
The second image that rose up was that of Treebeard. Yes, Treebeard, the talking tree in the Lord of the Rings. Treebeard can root himself whenever he needs to. He moves slowly and talks slowly and reigns high in the forest. Treebeard is a sign of mindfulness, of meditation, of learning to plant yourself where you are, even if its a slippery slope. So I shall take my slippery slope and my Treebeard and do the best I can.
February 16, 2011
I sit down and my thigh itches, so I scratch it. I'm tired, my dog had the runs last night and she woke me up four times. The night sky was lovely and in the morning, I recognized spring in the light. The second thing I realize is I'm tired from errands and demands. I could not meditate in the morning because of the momentum of things to do, so I sat down at noon. I read Pema Chodrin's “Relax As It Is.” She writes, “Milarepa, the twelfth-century Tibetan yogi who sang wonderful songs about the proper way to meditate, said that the mind has more projections than there are dust motes in a sunbeam and that even hundreds of spears couldn't put an end to that.”
My breath tends to quicken when I pay my bills or write down the errands for the day. I find this drudgery and resist doing it. So I drag myself through what I need to do. Would it be possible to relax with the resistance? To be mindful and not rush to get things over with? That's not a good way to spend your life, rushing to “get things over with,” but I do it a lot, pushing myself to where I feel more comfortable, like with my notebook in hand, writing. So the mantra for today is to Relax As It Is. The mind reacts less like a stinging bee and more like the flower who gently opens its petals.
February, 17 2011
Sometimes I can get to a place in my mind where I am literally staring into a pool, and images arise from the depths. A lot of the times the images are random and have no meaning, like a stick of butter, or the hinge on a door. Sometimes these random images have meaning and if I ponder them I can figure it out; other times they seem to be just my mind's noise. When I sat down today I reached the place of images, but I was more taken with the sounds of my dog's stomach. It gurgled and murmured and wrenched while she looked out the window to the passersby. I still felt the claws of a dream I had, as well. I was at my grandmother's house with my family and we were waiting to go to the beach. We took all day to get our things together; people were very distracted by doing their own thing. My dad decided to go for a run just before we left and we waited for him with all of our things heaped in a pile to be put in the car. When we finally got there, it was dark and the beach wasn't the beach at all, but the woods with tall pines. A boy I used to like in middle school was there and I went over to talk to him. I made sure to be eloquent when I spoke, so he could see I wasn't an idiot. We packed up to go home after a few minutes, and we all carried our belongings back up to the car and I woke up.
The feeling of this dream is that we were too late to fully enjoy the day because we all had our minds on other things. I can't remember what those things were, but that was the feeling I got. So when we got to the beach or the woods, or whatever, it was pointless, because the sun had already went down. Maybe I feel at 41, the sun has already gone down for me to have a child. It's too late. I'm too beaten down and exhausted; I've been busy with other things. Sometimes meditation gives me a renewal of sorts and most days I can feel this. But today, I didn't.
February 18, 2011
How do you know if what you feel is fear or a bona fide premonition of misfortune? I've spent a lot of time afraid, so I'm going with the fear and that what I sense is not a grim fate. Dread, you have become very familiar. I know your tricks.
Today I had an acupuncture treatment. I am hopeful, willing to try new things to find that wellspring inside me. I lay on a massage table with thin needles in my head, hands, belly, knees and feet. I went deep into a relaxed state and had many images. When I got up from that table I felt like life was possible again. I had a calm energy that propelled me forward to finish dinner and do the rest of my chores for the evening. The weight had been lifted. I had a sense of the potential of my mind, of its depth and its capabilities for rejuvenation.