Friday, December 28, 2012

A Pledge to Live with Paradox

I am living in a layered world of paradox. Without goal, without limiting myself to definitive closed-end attitudes, how can I act with quiet certainty and follow a path in any direction at all? It is absolutely required of me that I let go of grasping onto my life as a product to be produced in a certain way, or as a specific thing, in order to experience the true possibilities I might have. The only thing that protects me from feeling myself to be continuously on the edge of the abyss of meaninglessness is to accept that meaninglessness is an idea, like any other goal or product of the mind.

So I come to weightlessness, a weird sensation where there is no gripping at all. It disappears in an instant of panic, or certainty. As soon as I allow myself to attach to a feeling -- any feeling -- I am on the ground again. Feeling every bone, missing those I've lost, wondering who I am. This state of illusion is not comfortable either, seems so heavy, never resolves, though sometimes settles into a groove that I feel as familiar. That's when the old tapes begin playing all my stories; the criticisms and praises, sorrows and joys line themselves up.  This is of no use to me at all.

The important part for me now is to also let go of this paralysis, a sensation easily confused with not knowing, or uncertainty.  No amount of thinking is going to create certainty, the more I close in and nail down the structure around an idea, the less likely it is that it will lead to my liberation. The clarity and depth of inquiry provide the path, not so much the bits that turn up as I dig.

A neighbor of mine in upstate New York handed me a long list of ignorant unfounded sound bites as a rationale for his political negligence, social belligerence and protectionist gun-toting perspectives. I felt myself circle the bait, mouth open, but I closed my lips and smiled instead. "Then shoot me first," I said, smiling. I didn't have the will to say, "you must be terribly afraid and disappointed in your life,  your community, the choices we have all made together," or even "then I must be the enemy since I do vote, feel responsible for others and I do believe in peace."  I felt that he did not want to talk about that, he just wanted to bluster his way through this moment and go home. It is a role that he often plays. Part of me couldn't wait for him to leave, but part of me wished I could hold on long enough to reflect his anguish and let him know that I am not dismissing him, blind to his painful condition. We all make misinformed or fear-based choices sometimes, ones that endanger ourselves or others. I am no better than he.

How do we live side by side, with ourselves and each other? Tolerating the paradoxes, accepting the gripping and the weightlessness, until we get used to it. This is what takes practice. Months and years  of daily, weekly practice, over time we learn to change our own shape and accommodate all the thinking in order to operate directly from our energy source.  I can see the abyss, I can see the snow flakes filling the space between the hill on which I sit and the ridge across from me.  Like a blind cat, I step and explore, seeking information from outside my body in order to live in my fullest form in my body as it changes constantly.

What kind of resolution can I make to encourage myself in the coming days and months? Perhaps it all comes down to allowing myself the space to practice. Can I do that? Can you? Yes we can.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

the mind of not all or nothing: just see what emerges.

Walking in the light powdery snow, I was bewitched by the transformations, leaves became cups and simultaneously appear as knife-like edges in the snow. Distances in the valley are aflutter with white flecks turning air and space into volumes. Definitions disappear. Here the submerged log emerged with its tinge of velvet green moss. What is the truth about the light snow, the maple branch below or the leaf litter? Can the surface be surface, while the depth is a huge mass of fallen tree, and the snow be falling too?

All bound up in thinking, I bind myself up with projections, goals, memories, ideas. Reaching for the shapes that I think, I practically block any sense of the real. I cannot pretend to give up thinking, nor do I want to do that. I am beginning to see that it doesn't take huge complicated tools though to loosen the tightness of the bind of my thinking. It is like the way I learn not to reach too hard to catch my own hand to bind an asana only to give up on my spinal alignment.  It begins with noticing that my thinking is confining me.

More and more I see how selective my letting go has been. I seem to release this grip, but not that grip. I believe this, but not that. I tolerate this, but not that.  Once I see this personal structure, this selective way of grasping at one aspect while avoiding another, I have the opportunity to be more fully. Truth and freedom, equanimity and clarity glimmer in all the levels of letting go. It is not an all or nothing proposition, like light appearing in the dark. It is always light.

In my snowy walk, the most striking thing happened as I turned to return to the house. I felt thrilled and surprised to the core to see the subtle impression of my own tracks:  a slight disturbance in the powdery snow with delicate crushing of the leaf edges into the powder. This evidence of my own steps seems most marvelous of all -- holding for just a moment all the wonder of impermanence and presence.

Monday, December 24, 2012


The plans have changed.
The weather shifted.
The gift did not arrive.
There was no solitary time to organize.
This didn't come out as hoped.

And yet, here it is, another morning.
Sky the color of reflected snow.
Enough water for a shower, and tea.

The guests are still sleeping.
The morning chores are done.
The gift is the moment.
Not waiting any more.

Friday, December 21, 2012

These tools remain accessible.

Where there is meaning, there is silence.

Sounds causing waves of reaction, interaction, conditions.

Words sink in so deep, all I hear is the space over them.

That rolling movie of my mind remains projecting on the wall of the skull, a light show.

The feeling of warm hand on thigh completes my form.

Exhales join the inhales in the air around me, no questions asked or answered.

Even the music of my heart runs into itself like water into water, indivisible.

This open to being, being opens,  understanding without tricks and illusions.

The candle flame consumed in continuous transformation.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Empty Attic: No Object, No Fix, No Problem

I am living in the lap of luxury, teaching and practicing yoga and meditating. I have heat when it is cold, I have food when I am preparing to feed my family, and various means to provide for holidays and birthday celebrations. I can walk to my work, which has become an offering from my essential self using my energy in ways that gives what I have to give and brings back to me what I need. This is not a manipulated view of my life, but one that reflects the truth of my daily experience.

People I love have deep on-going struggles, friends of mine are suffering with terminal illnesses and the attendant treatments, entire nations in the Middle East are losing the ground upon which civil government stands, and many people have lost their homes and livelihoods in New York City, Haiti and the Philippines. This is not a manipulated view of my world, but one that reflects the truth of my daily experience.
How to position myself to accommodate these truths? The first step is to stop attaching to a particular definition of what is good or bad about what I perceive; the second is to approach each aspect of that with an open heart that accepts what I perceive without assigning blame; the third is to nurture that open heart from a state of gratitude so that all the possibilities appear rather than a one-solution frame of mind (this includes allowing the feelings to arise rather than clamp down on this one and pretend that one is the good one).

I will not cure the causes of cancer, not stop the pain of personal loss, nor create a plan for civil society or dispel confusion even in one young sweet mind. I do understand that each of us has a life span, and that we cannot know its length or purpose. We use energy every day, turning towards goals, tasks and practices to provide what we imagine as necessities, satisfactions, support, and sometimes generosity. To a large degree, we do this in whatever context we find ourselves with more or less angst or joy.

Here in the last weeks of 2012 I see my operating fundamentals are: not attaching to, grasping at or hoarding meanings, goals or objects; seeing situations as causes and reactions rather than as a duality of good or bad; remembering again and again that gratitude in this moment will lead me out of confusion into clarity.

In this way I can enjoy my mysterious little part here on earth. Living in a human body fraught with its own foibles, applying my thinking as I have learned and relearned and unlearned, and surrounded by the context into which I stumbled by my birth, growth, and connections to other people. So easily we slip into the space made for us as the children of these people, living in this place, growing up here, and having these good and bad experiences.  Eventually I have come to see that all drifts away like mist, and while still honoring my ancestors and my own experiences in earlier contexts, I have much greater freedom in the moment than I ever imagined.  All the stuff clutched in my mind, attic, closet. barn, or basement can make its way back into the world without adding or subtracting from me.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Being Able to Feel

Building and Earthquake

How easy it is for a dream to construct
both building and earthquake.
Also the nine flights of wooden stairs in the dark,
and the trembling horse, its hard breathing
loud in the sudden after-silence and starlight.
This time the dream allows the building to stand.
Something it takes the dreamer a long time to notice,
who thought that the fear was the meaning
when being able to feel the fear was the meaning.

Jane Hirschfield, from "COME, THIEF" Poems, 2011

The practice is not one of dilution nor erasure. It is not curative nor corrective. Let's call it a practice of immersion and illumination. I find this is where life becomes a reflection of truth and broadens to let in all the possibilities.

It is particularly poignant to me that Hirshfield uses the framework of a dream here. I've been struck by how vividly dreams hold the mind and provide experiences even while we sleep. This is such a lovely way of noticing that the mind creates all of our experiences, even the illusions that we rely upon so deeply in order to go on about our lives.

The dream opens slowly to the dreamer, as witness to the mind's story. This, too, is a most remarkable moment when we see ourselves seeing, and are able to feel ourselves feeling.  

In my yoga teacher training at Kripalu we delved into the idea of meditation in motion that yoga offers. More than the placement of this foot there, or drawing a line in the mind from point A to point B; more than losing track of thoughts or feeling the rush of endorphins that bring happiness and loss of memory about the pain we walked in with, yoga is that space in which we can take "a long time to notice." It is the being itself that has meaning, not lost in the reactive, but able to take it all in.