Archive for the ‘Musings & Contemplations’ Category

I Don’t Want This Experience

In my twenties I would ask myself the question,’Why don’t I want this experience?’  At that time I really didn’t understand the importance of my query.  It seemed so obvious, the one I didn’t want was painful.  Why would I want to feel that?

The question haunts me now as I feel the pain of loss, the ending of my brief love affair.  This relationship felt like a miracle.  It came when I believed it could/would never happen.  I am too old, too particular – unlikely I would find another who would mesh with me.  Yet it did happen. I gave myself to its siren song and believed I could be in its warmth till the end of my days, but it was a shooting star illuminating the sky for only a moment.

My heart is hurting.  I feel anguish and despair.  I want this love! In clear moments I’m guessing it couldn’t sustain itself, would end at some point.  But right now I want more time, a chance to make it work, to believe I could have this.  To believe I am still loved and cherished.

I know enough through my Buddhist practice to look.  Look at my body sensations, look at the thoughts that arise, the emotions moving through me, and the story I assign.  My teacher tells me I have no choice which thoughts and feelings come.  I know this is true.  They come unbidden, unplanned.  Bubbles rising to the surface, propelled by countless cycles of birth and death.

I see how I grab them, fan them with the flame of memory and wish for the future.  I know in the moment they arise here is choice.  Viktor Frankl writes, ‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies the freedom to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and freedom.’  So what do I want to choose?

I ask myself, is it possible to celebrate the aliveness and not assign a value?  Can I let these thoughts and feelings come, abide, dissolve?  Here are the kleshas, the three poisons – ignorance, attachment, aversion.  I want to hold to my version of how things should be.  I don’t want the painful feelings.  My reaction rises in the hard-to-let-go habit which wants to repeat the story of abandonment, I will always be left.  This is my mud puddle.  I sit in it – a small child, a teen, an adult.  It is warm and familiar.  I know this place.

How can I hold this experience and not make it solid, give it room to be fluid, not reject nor make it an identity?  How can I see this is only habit and not a definition of who I am?  The Buddha says,’ Suffering exists but no one who suffers.’  I understand this intellectually and maybe at times know it directly.  Right now I am caught in the whirlpool of understanding and confusion.  Caught in the swirling waters of ignorance, of holding onto a self who is hurting, where the emotions and their body sensations feel solid.  I don’t see the moment to moment arising, the interdependence that brings this to fruition.  I don’t see how I freeze-frame it into my suffering.

NVC says that when we don’t experience choice we must reject or submit.  Hard to feel I have a choice.  I’ve hard-wired this stimuli into my personal heartache.

Another piece of wisdom, act as if you chose it.  I am kicking and screaming into this one.  The best I can do is look.  So I’m looking at my thoughts, my body sensations, the story I tell.  It is like walking on the crumbling edge of a great canyon.  I haven’t fallen so far that I can’t crawl out.  I’d like to think there is steady ground somewhere.  I suspect it is always balancing this edge and only an illusion that solid ground exists.

It’s good I get to work with my aversions.  I don’t want this experience, but without it, I’d have to use the ones I do want.

Love is Elemental

I carry you with me, wherever I am you find me.  You are space.  There is no where I am that you are not.

You are water.  Unimpeded by time, distance, you touch me.  Like a barometer my body measures your presence in surges of pleasure that take my breath, ark my spine and voice in small moans.

I am earth.  You animate me.  Shape me in desire.  Move me to receive and give love.

You are wind blowing the embers of my heart till I know I am fire – consuming and consumed.

Love is elemental.  Like moths in the night, we all flock to its light.

Crazy Making

I look at myself and those I am close to and I see how we are drawn to actions, feelings, thoughts that are crazy making. Habitual patterns that drive us from motivations arising before consciousness, where the groves are so deep we can’t even see that we are lost in the canyons of our own making.  Our view so limited by the walls we erect that we have no idea of unimpeded space being right where we are.  When I was in the Zen community we chanted ‘You are not near, you are not far.  If you do not see it, you are oceans and rivers away’. I am like that.  True freedom is right here, yet I chose again and again to not see it.  In the bardo of this life I go for confusion.

There is some comfort in seeing the folly of my actions.  Perhaps it is knowing I could in any moment chose something else, swim against the tide of my own making.  I think that as soon as I calm down from this latest craziness I will.  This sounds like my thought that I will change my habits next Wednesday.  Next Wednesday I will stop eating when I’m not hungry, be consistent in my yoga practice, not be obsessed with my new love, do my Buddhist practice everyday which is so nourishing.  I am not near, I am not far.  I am oceans and rivers away.

Now I should pull out the wisdom that makes me seem like I have it all together.  The words that smooth the edges and tidy up the messiness, cover over the insanity that lies in waiting like the panther so patient for its prey.  So fun and triumphant to tell the story when I have emerged as the heroin in my tale, stepping over the ashes of my craziness, waving the banner of victory. Fuck that paper-thin veil.  Fuck the sigh that escapes as I have once again skirted the pit of disaster, pulled back from certain ruin.  Fuck, fuck fuck!

I want to look my craziness in the eye.  Stare down the tunnel of my insanity.  Pull back the curtain of samsaric illusion.  This dance I do is like dipping a toe in the ocean.  Touch in, pull back, run away.  Why not dive into the wave and go into the underworld where there is no orientation, no self.

I’m afraid, that’s why not.  I hold to a sense of self like a life raft in the middle of the ocean.  The waves rise and fall.  I know they are not different from the ocean even though they hold form for a brief moment.  I am the wave.  I like how Leonard Cohen says, “A brief elaboration of a tune.”

So for now I’m singing this song of Linda, riding the waves of my own crazy making, and wishing to one day open my breast and pull my heart out whole.

I Want to See Your Face

I love to see your smiling face, where your eyes sparkle and the readiness of your smile comes effortlessly.  This is the face you like me to see.  I love to see your face when your eyes are closed, the softness of your features in repose.  This face that doesn’t seek to please me or look with anticipation.  I like it when I catch a glimpse of your face in ecstasy.  So unguarded and present to the moment.

I love to touch your face, hold it in my hands.  Brush your forehead with my fingers.  I want you to know I am here, with you. Here to love you, drink you in.  I want you to know I will support healing of past wounding.  Stand with you in the trenches of remembrance and offer my witness as the demons of deep psyche take shape.

Will you show me your face when it’s not all put together?  When you feel the flesh has been torn from the bone and you face me raw and naked.  This face that asks for trust, loving-kindness, and no help.  Will you let me see the eyes of sorrow, of shame and regret, of deep grief?  Will you allow me to look when you would rather look away?

I want to see your face for the window it is into knowing you.  I want to step through that space, run into things, get lost, get found, connect.  I want to meet you face to face.

I want you to see me, to know my face.  You tell me how much you like my smile, that’s the face you want to see.  I’m happy to give it, but not all the time.  I am not the carefree girl, the one everyone is drawn to.  I’m not easy.  I carry deep hurt and hold it so tight my face contorts and is not attractive.  My tears are not demure but floods of sorrow and grief.  My face shows the heart of a child wondering where love is.  Will you know this face?

Like sun breaks on a rainy day or rain in my yard and sun in yours, will we know each others’ face in any weather?  I want to see your face and you mine however we choose to show up.  I want us to see our buddha nature in all our faces.

Truth of Suffering

I read a book titled A General Theory of Love.  What I remember most was the authors saying that the perfect person could be right in front of one but because of our emotional wiring we would never see them.

I seem to have the perfect ability to pick a man who will never be really available.  My unerring prowess to find the flawed relationship might be harnessed for knowing don’t pick that one, don’t go that way.  Perhaps I could leverage this skill into a viable profession of what NOT TO DO.  I look at my history and see all the markers that when viewed at a distance are like the cones on a slalom race telling the skier where the course is, the boundaries to stay inside.  I’ve done a great job of keeping inside the lines of disappointment.  My path of choices is not worth mentioning as it only encourages me to self-pity which I would dearly like to wallow in right now.  You might have noticed how I am teetering on the edge of that bottomless pit.  Suffice it to say, despair and I are old friends.

The first Noble Truth is The Truth of Sufferingduhkha in Sanscrit.  To the uninvestigated view this seems to take a ‘Debbie Downer’ point of view.  In truth, it is the recognition of this that allows one to see that lasting happiness doesn’t lie in the transitory pleasures that are touted to be the answer.  Investigation further revels the all pervasiveness of this truth and leads to profound insight and the determination to walk the path to clarity and wisdom.

I’m not qualified to speak with authority on the Four Noble Truths (read Essence of Buddhism by Traleg Kyabgon for an accessible discussion) so I’ll leave that alone.  What I can say is how this truth has been validated in my experience.  I know it right now while I’m in the pain of unfulfilled love.  I also know it when I’m in the rapture of beauty.  I know it when I’m feeling the heartache of the human condition where we look, as my friend Art says, ‘for the consistent in inconsistency’.  I know it right now as my heart lightens from writing these words.

My love life may be a mess but I am always grateful for how it brings me again and again to the Truth of Suffering.  Perhaps my unerring ability is really to find the dharma in my life, my skill to lose the path in false refuge and then again find my way back to what is true.  My teacher reminds me that impermanence is on my side.  I’m hurting now but this will not last, I was in the bliss of love and that didn’t last.  Impermanence and the Truth of Suffering is what we get.

Jenni’s Birth

Remembering my daughter just before her 27th birthday.

22 March 1989

Jenni was a planned birth.  Before she was born there were signs that this child would be special.  I was 41 and had a tubal reversal so I could conceive a child.  If you have ever TRIED to have a baby the act of love-making can devolve into perfunctory action and test one’s resolve to conceive.  This was the place my husband, Neil, and I found ourselves.  One night I had a dream, an angel spoke to me and said I should upon waking make love to my husband.  I did this with enthusiasm for the next three days.  Thus Jenni was conceived within the first cycle after my operation.

Since I was an older mother many tests were done to assure a normal pregnancy and genetic viability.  With the first ultra-sound we knew we were having a girl.  I was told by my husbands Jewish parents I should call her Rose.  I balked!  One day at work I heard the name Jessica Rose and called Neil to tell him.  By the time I got home he and my son, Kris, had remembered it as Jennifer Rose and so she was from that moment.  The pregnancy went relatively smooth.  I found a woman I liked to be my OB/GYN and discussed at length my wish for a low intervention birth.

As the due date approached I took maternity leave and spent many a languid hour on the papasan chair with the new puppy we bought.  It was getting towards two weeks overdue and talk of an induced delivery were being voiced.  This was the last option I wanted so Neil and I took a long walk one warm March day.  The next day I thought my water had broken but wasn’t really sure.  I called the doctor and she told me to come in immediately.  Probably nothing to worry about.

When Neil returned home with the only car we had at the time, we left immediately.  I didn’t pack a bag as this wasn’t going to be it.  I didn’t have contractions so I couldn’t be in labor.  A test was done to determine if my water had broken and then my doctor walked me across the street to my labor and delivery room.

Having a baby is like getting on a roller coaster.  Once the ride starts there is no getting off till it’s over.  This little cart had crested the hill and we were on our way down.  I never did start contractions so I had a Pitocin drip to induce labor.  In normal labor the contractions start slow and build.  With Pitocin it depends on the amount delivered.  The hope was it would kick-start my own body to begin contractions.  No such luck!

We arrived around 5:30 pm and as the evening wore on so did my luke-warm contractions.  I had consented to a fetal monitor belt and eventually to one placed inside.  I don’t remember this too much but somehow think it is attached to the baby’s head.

Around midnight the nurses were concerned that her heart beat was low they called in a specialist.  He needed some equipment that the hospital didn’t have and so he placed a phone (old school) on my uterus and had the nurse call.  I asked, “Is this a wake-up call?”  He laughed and said “Yes”.  They decided she was just sleeping.  Jenni always does things in her own time!

Morning came and the Pitocin was increased.  I could watch the contraction meter and they were over the top with no breaks in between.  It is like being slammed against a wall over and over again.  My legs felt like mush.  I thought if I was in transition I would muddle through.  I insisted the nurse check me – four centimeters dilated with six more to go.  I gave up on my low intervention birth and asked for an epidural.  From there things went quicker till it was time to push.  They stopped the Pitocin.

Jenni’s head was turned sideways which is why she wouldn’t drop down and initiate labor.  It is also why I pushed for three hours.  At one point I was ready to give up.  There had been several times when I thought if I was a pioneer woman I would have had them shoot me and take the baby out.  Good thing I’m living now.  Both my doctor and the anesthesiologist were in the room.  I can still see them, leaning against the wall to my right.  The anesthesiologist said it was like a race.  Once I stopped, it was over.  He words spoke to me and I pushed non-stop till she finally crowned.

Neil cut the umbilical chord and the doctors checked her APGAR.  She was a little blue from the birthing process and so received oxygen.  Pink again, everything else was fine except the muscles on the side of her neck opposite to the turn of her head, they were weak.  In came the next set of specialist.  They made me think of ghost busters.  One was tall and the other short, dark-rimmed glasses, and they looked like nerds.  A good thing when you want someone who achieves on their brains and not their looks.  I think they gave her some physical therapy.

Two days without sleep and details are fuzzy.  It seems in those next hours there were more tests as I recall thinking she has seen more doctors in her first few hours than I had in my life.

Finally it was time to nurse.  Something low tech that women and babies have been doing for millennia.  My first child had been a breeze but again Jenni does things in her own time.  She wouldn’t stay latched on.  Just as my milk began to flow  (never a problem for me) she would pull away.  Years later when Jenni didn’t want to eat the food I cooked (if I made home-made chili, she would open a can of store bought chili) I remembered her nursing style.

True to this day, Jenni keeps her own counsel and does things in her own time.  As a young child Jenni joined the young Christian group at school (I’m a Buddhist), she loved fashion, make-up and hair products (I was a hippie and love back-to-the-earth ideals), and always preferred to eat out (I love to cook from scratch).  As she has matured Jenni has embraced the values I hold dear, but has made them her own.  Always unique to herself and in her own time.

No Cheese or the Unsatisfactory Nature of Cyclic Existence

There is a story of rats and humans. Put a piece of cheese down a tunnel and the rat will go back to the same tunnel looking for the cheese even when it’s never there again. The difference between rats and humans is that the rat will eventually give up but the human never does.

I see myself looking for the cheese in the same circumstances over and over again.

I’m feeling my deep sadness, rage. I wonder how we treat each other in such hurtful ways and skew our vision to make it jibe with our values. I can see how needs are trying to be met but at what cost? Friendships lost, marriages ruined – lies and secrets, hidden agendas.

Us humans, so confused. I’m confused. My highest aspiration is to work for the benefit of others. To only wish them good fortune, to hold their actions with compassion and have empathy for their suffering. Can I offer this to myself?

I want to be the victim in this situation. I don’t believe in victim. Confusion is boundless, where is emptiness of phenomena? I don’t experience this. My hurt feels so close. Betrayal evokes rage. I want to strike out and hurt back those who I feel have wounded me. What is it that I trust in another? Is it shared values that drive a code of conduct I expect? Why would I want to continue in a relationship that offers so little?

Look again.  Are my needs for love being met? My need to be valued by the companion I’m with. I want my gifts to be cherished. Endless cycles of suffering looking for constancy in impermanence.  I am standing on quick sand and wondering why the ground will not support me.  Almost laughable if I could see the uselessness of my actions.  There is no cheese here and never will be.

Old writing when my marriage was in tatters.

So now there is a new love after so long.  My hunger for giving and receiving, to feel the loving touch of another, to languish in the lushness of the open heart.  How sweet this is.  This moment will not believe in change.  Determined that the open heart will not contract from fear of loss, worry of inadequacy, or the unmet needs of wanting to be seen and heard by the beloved. Confidence that brooks no doubt.  Yet woven in this conviction are the whispers – not this time, this time my eyes are open. Perhaps.

Confusion blinds.  What I imagined could not fall victim to past patterns lies exposed in the under belly of my habits.  My belief that this time my wish to be transparent will protect me.  I can catch my demons before they take hold and I am falling into the black hole of my psyche.  Yet here I am again, so full of love and terrified of losing it. Terrified that I chose one who will never meet me.  Terrified that I will sabotage what could be possible.  Terrified that I will run, slamming all the doors behind me to avoid the hurt of loss.

Again I am looking for the cheese in the tunnel where I have made sure there will be none.  I am looking for the feeling of love to be constant.  Refusing to see that love like all phenomena is slippery, shape-shifting, moving in and out of the shadows.  New love is so blind.  It believes in itself and thinks it is immune to the insidious habits that lie in wait – exempt from the truth of suffering.

A human caught in the maze of cyclic existence.