Considering Connection and Lost Time

I woke from dreams yesterday, a bit confused, and lay in bed for a while to process the ideas and feelings mindfully, rather than hopping out of bed and forgetting them.

In an earlier dream, my family were all together, travelling, talking, and I spent time with my dad, catching up. A subsequent dream made the first a dream within a dream — waking up from the first, I remembered that my dad was gone, and my mom and sister were both completely lost, shattered, going through the motions of daily life, trying to make it through each one. My sister warned me not to talk to my mom about … something… and when I went to go talk with her, sure enough, she went rigid, cold, and mechanically started doing chores, almost knocking me over as she pushed forward in completing them.

This contrast and some of the associated emotional ambiance of the dream highlighted the emotional difficulties of grieving and letting go, how the process throws us out of our element enough to put us on rails of pain and heartbreak, and in my own case, it accentuated the abstract, almost surreal quality of disconnection. I mean — in my own processing of this event, recently, there have been times where something makes me think: “I can’t wait to talk to Dad about this.” Only a second or two later do I realize that that’s impossible. The few times this has happened have each been equally a moment of bitter realization; it seems the event is just too big, too much of a change of the structures of life for it to readily sink in at the new-normal operating level, even after a few months.

I think that this ultimately speaks to the one piece that I struggle to accept in losing him, the one thing that doesn’t fully digest: I regret not seeing him more since I left to college over a decade ago. There were years when I saw him not at all or only once for a few days. We were both too busy a lot of the time to readily keep up on the phone. Etc.

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That’s ultimately the problem with death, as the existentialists and Buddhists constantly warn us, it’s not operating on our time table. It can come out of nowhere, and it waits for us as soon as we are born. That’s why Heidegger sets the ultimate challenge as being resolute in the face of it, creating your life through your projects, seeing it coming, and knowing that it could pop up at any time. The mahayana path of Buddhism tells us to do similarly: start practicing now, in this moment, and be grateful for the opportunity of being alive and experiencing the truth of the Dharma. You have this one chance to lead a wise, compassionate human life. Don’t waste it.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t as mindful of this in my relationship with my dad as I could have and should have been. I feel like our relationship in the last few years is captured with “Cats in the Cradle” by Cat Stevens (I listened to a rock cover of it a lot in high school by Ugly Kid Joe). I’m sure my dad probably experienced me growing up and zooming off out of our small hometown at a more or less breakneck pace, and he was always just a bit too busy to be there as much as he would have liked, and when I grew up, it was the same for me — too busy doing other things and in places far away (so I experienced the inverse and see that now).

My point with all this is be aware and grateful of the connections you have in your life — both large and small. Try to make the time to be present for them. Reach out. You never know when your time or your friend’s/partner’s/colleague’s/acquaintance’s/family member’s time will be up, and if that time passes, there’s nothing that can bring it back.

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Gratitude in Difficulty

Here’s another passage from Morning Pages–a practice that I fell out of with a recent work schedule shift, but I’m making every effort to get writing regularly again. I just finished one of my Morning Pages journals, and in the first pages of the new one, I dedicated the efforts to gratitude, as it was the day after Thanksgiving. While I do not want to limit my Morning Pages and their creative openness, I’m taking a meditation on gratitude as a general inspiration for this journal, and this is the second entry with that spirit.


 

Look! Two days in a row! I’ll get back into this. Well, as I look at these pages, I think on gratitude. Perhaps, a general intention for morning pages is wrong, but I won’t let it guide my writing beyond a general mindset.

It’s hard to feel gratitude sometimes. Your mind can be compressed to a few square inches of mental space where it walks the same grounds of complaints and anxiety again and again. The trick is not to get trapped here and think that those thoughts are the mind. Getting beyond the focus on these gets the mind loose into its true nature–openness.

For instance, this morning, I can’t find my keys–which is a serious annoyance for me. I also have a headache and body pains. I’m hungry. I’m tired. As I focus on these other grievances come out and multiply. A legion.

However, if I take a moment, breathe, and relax into just being here–writing in this particular now–the thoughts slip past.

Here is one of the greatest gifts of mindfulness–setting the mind see and not confusing it with the thoughts that come and go.

Such openness allows the spacious embrace of gratitude to come in every moment, even when you have a headache. 🙂

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Right after I finished writing this entry, I read this passage:

It doesn’t matter what comes up. You don’t have to analyze anything when you are meditating. You can simply maintain your dignified posture and pay attention to your breath. The technique is that you look at the thoughts as they arise and say to yourself, “thinking.” Whatever goes through your mind is purely thinking, not mystical experience. Label it thinking and come back to your breath.

So you are there. You are thinking.You don’t try to get away from your thoughts, but you don’t stick with them or encourage them either. Thought patterns are just ripples on the surface of the pond. They come and they go. They merge into each other, and you take the attitude that they are not a big deal.

Bodily aches and pains and physical irritations also come and go. They may seem more problematic than your thoughts. But in meditation practice you regard physical sensations as also thought patterns. Label them thinking. Aches, pains, pins and needles–all thinking. This keeps everything simple and straightforward, so that you can appreciate everything as port of one natural process.

–Chögyam Trungpa, Mindfulness in Action, pp. 22-23.

May this inspire you to find gratitude even in difficult days. May you see that your thoughts are not your mind.

Gassho!

 

1 Year–100

A turn…

I started this blog a year ago, and so much has been unfolding throughout the 12 months since. Also, I just posted the blog’s 100th post in the last few days, a good place to mark the end of this year’s journey.

I’m grateful for all of your comments and likes. I am thankful for your companionship on the Way–searching for wisdom and a way of expressing it to all sentient beings out there. May we continue to dance along the Way together, and may these writings be to the benefit of all who read them.

Deep Gassho!

Z

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A Moment of Gratitude

My last post left some residual inspiration for gratitude, and I spontaneously wrote this opening to my Morning Pages this morning.


Thank you, journal, for all of these blank pages, and thank you for existing–thanks to all, from the person who made you, to the hundreds of years of history that brought about written language and the practice of journaling, to the millions of years of evolutions that brought about human beings with all of our wonders and curiosities, and to all of the myriad conditions of the universe that made these moments of writing open wide. I’m grateful for all of it, even the very painful moments that I write down at times. This moment is not those moments, but it would not have come to be without them.

May I continue to see all of these aspects of my journal with the diamond eye that really sees things as they are.

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May this inspire you in your own practice of gratitude.

A bow with hands together: gassho!

A Mantra of Strength and Acceptance

I am worthy
Of love, happiness, and fulfillment.
I am powerful
Enough to endure any hardship.

Everything will work out
In its own manifestation of change.
Through positive thought and action,
I can achieve *anything*.

Worry and fear bring nothing,
While faith and intention grow wonders.

I am but one infinitesimal speck in the universe,
But I instill my existence with gratitude and meaning.

Come what may,
I am flawed yet beautiful,
And so is the divine, changing nature of All.
Paradox—
Perfect as I am
AND
Benefiting from the work of self-development

Gassho.

Partnership

The lesson I’ve learned about love in the last few weeks is the wisdom of “love the one you’re with”.
You can either appreciate and affirm the partnership you have, or you can look for another.
The seduction of wanting another is in thinking that there are other people who complete you—people who readily match with you in all the important ways and with whom you have a deep connection as though the two of you were one twinned whole. This, however, is pure fantasy, the undying yearning of Aristophanes’ myth, yet human, all too human. It’s another iteration of the human desire for the completion of God, this time in the form of relationship.
Other partners, no matter who, will always have flaws, points of disconnection as well as connection, and all relationships will take work. None will be fully easy, and in my experience, even easy ones get hard over time – yearning for it to be otherwise is yearning for this easy completion, the twinned souls looking to become one. If you are looking for someone to make you feel this way, you probably need to work on your love for yourself.
Loving the one you are with, on the other hand, is not waiting for someone who will *make you feel* perfect, rather an engagement which acts out the feelings, acting your reactions—spilling them over into a hyperabundant embrace of the other person’s virtues and faults, warts and all. Only in enacting this embrace, this full, loving affirmation, can one truly see the beloved, enabling the ecstatic dissolution of I-You into real depth of soul. This is how one finds and enacts a deep soul connection with a partner. It’s not a passively felt emotion. It’s an ecstatic and compassionate act, not a feeling—an embrace beyond I and you, not a completion of you and me into one.

Narratives

The telling of our own stories—
we’re experts at this.
Narratives twist and unfurl,
in our minds and from our mouths—
Arachne’s weaving on an equally epic scale,
the scale of our lives.

Yet no matter how exciting,
dramatic,
or depressing the tale,
the big picture is the same—
All is.
All changes,
and I am not separate from All.

My life, like the waves in the ocean,
rises and falls,
ceases to be distinct
as it crashes down into the water of the whole.

No matter how good the yarn,
how dashing or clever I may be as a hero/ine,
such is life.
Such is the Universe.
I can either see this with gratitude,
affirming every moment of this eternal return,
or continue to wrap myself
in the blanket of story.