• 2016

    Only two months since my last post –*whew*.

    My sense of time and what I’m running around doing with it, is a wee bit off.

    While refreshing my Twitter feed incessantly, waiting to see what will come of the mid-term elections, I began going through WordPress subscriptions, checking on blogs I haven’t really been following, and updating subscription settings. Although I’ve never been one to ‘keep up’ via WordPress, there are a handful of blogs I read somewhat regularly, and a few bloggers whose stories I feel invested in. I was also following several blogs that fell dormant over the last few years, and I let most of them go.

    One dormant blog I kept was full of beautiful photos I knew I’d want to see sometime again, and another was very plain, but the writing was straight-forward and honest in a way I admired. The thing about this second was, I wrote it?

    That question mark is not a typo. Here’s what I wrote about the blog on Twitter, since I was there:

    I just found an entire blog, many posts including more than a dozen memoir pages. I wrote all that, paused, then forgot about it? Entirely?

    Then again, it was 2016.

    It’s so strange reading pages like these, where I seem pretty clear
    about things I experience myself as having just figured out.

    I’m fascinated. This woman was wrestling with confusion over appreciating some freedoms of being deeply neglected in childhood, and how that seems to have made a link
    between cultivating being neglected and having freedom?!

    Haha, she’s pretty intense.

    She was planning to be better to the people in her life, to explain herself more clearly-rather than blaming others for not seeing/knowing the obvious and acclimating to being misunderstood. I’ve done that, somewhat, but she still feels like a different person.

    She’s a person I know, but not me.


    I wonder who will understand what I mean by placing importance on the year 2016. What happened that year that might have shifted the blogger’s course so much, so suddenly?

    I wonder if she would have finished the memoir if she’d kept going? Do I think it’s great, reading it now? In some ways, yes, it has strength and place. In other ways, I see she wasn’t ready.

    Perhaps I should write and offer editing services.

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  • great love

    Reading Gesture of Great Love, the newest book from the Time Space Knowledge series by Tarthang Tulku. Striking quite a different tone from TSK itself (still my favorite), it’s Immediate and refreshing, beginning with the necessary urgent tone for our times. Yet, there’s a friendliness too, which pervades the book, similar to one given to me earlier this year, Radically Happy. Both books focus on greeting life with openness and ease day-by-day, and both could be given to a person who isn’t on a Buddhist path necessarily.

    I can’t see yet whether the text will sustain the urgent tone, but in an early portion the author zeroes in on that narrow-minded and critical scriptwriter I’ve mentioned before, who in my case had become adept at mimicking my inner guidance system. Here, that scriptwriter is called “the regime.”

    I’m fond of stories full of sword metaphors and Taoist themes. Events can happen to offset characters’ energies, affecting whether their skills remain capable. A culprit could be a fragrant poisonous smoke that fills the air, or a tune similar to a soothing one, but with an imperceptible deviated variation. Parsing out said deviations, exposing them, could be one plan of action, but might take countless eons. The book so far suggests parser and loop as entangled.

    Image of Lan Wanji (played by Wang Yibo), a character from The Untamed I like a ridiculous amount.

    So what about the Bodhisattva ideal Mahayana posits as the most worthwhile aspiration? “Beings are limitless; I vow to save them all.” I realize that in Buddhism this doesn’t mean to save as in a hero acting as a savior to “beings”–it rather cracks open that notion entirely, as in the story of Avilokitesvara, who exhausted his capacity to empty the hell realms over and over again before sprouting eleven heads and a thousand arms.

    I like how, in the version of the story below, Amitaba Buddha is a sort of father figure, dusting off their child, giving them new and better armor to better fulfill their longing:


    One prominent Buddhist story tells of Avalokiteśvara vowing never to rest until he had freed
    all sentient beings from saṃsāra. Despite strenuous effort, he realizes that many unhappy
    beings were yet to be saved. After struggling to comprehend the needs of so many, his head splits into eleven pieces. Amitābha, seeing his plight, gives him eleven heads with which to
    hear the cries of the suffering. Upon hearing these cries and comprehending them,
    Avalokiteśvara tries to reach out to all those who needed aid, but found that his two arms shattered into pieces. Once more, Amitābha comes to his aid and invests him with
    a thousand arms with which to aid the suffering multitudes. [WIKIPEDIA] [31]

    Even so, I’ve long been drawn to the quote “The foolish are trapped by karma; the wise are liberated by it” because of this dynamic…(beings as) bridges opening and closing the gates, even if only to display that there are no gates, no beings to open them for. Time pointing to no time, endlessly. Is this what Dogen calls Ceaseless Practice?

    No suffering, no end of suffering…

    But if so, doesn’t this suggest Avilokitesvara is still exhausted? 🙂

    Human beings become exhausted when they attempt to hold and manage karma, respond out of ideologies, but what about the Bodhisattva? No, the Bodhisattva Mahasattva is (made of) Love. There’s no draining voice in Avilokitesvara’s mind repeating “I’m tired…” There’s nowhere for such a voice to be generated from nor to land.

  • many-worlds friends

    It’s strange to consider his passing, although I’d felt his fading out of view steadily, for a while.

    This friend and I met in a virtual space dedicated to skeptical Buddhists, both with not-quite-healed wounds from fundamentalist childhoods and serious physical limitations (his greater, handled with more grace), but also qualities of joy, curiosity, and a lot of ‘what’s-it-to-you’–things which made us well-suited for Play-as-Being.

    There were also meditation and dream circles, disability circles, art and music circles, sustainability and philosophy circles… circles within circles within circles, and you just can’t measure that kind of time!

    I don’t want to, either. But as I reflect on his life, and our lives as part of his–so many little stories arising and disappearing like bubbles in the air–I feel mostly happy. We’re so fortunate, all of us part of our long virtual experiment, to have exchanged so many kinds of currencies in so many wonderful lands, to have gotten to know one another so well.

    Rest in peace and see you around. I wonder what dreams may come…

  • inappropriate tears

    Wonderful practice session this morning, still ongoing really, since I come to write just after meditating. The rhythms and music and feeling of the practice were guiding, leading into a sense of reaching deeply into light… light in the sense of lightness rather than brightness. The subtlety and beauty of this place, indeed the place itself, almost imperceptible, yet very much ‘there’ too, seemed a place wherein friends and I could simply experience no-being-ness together. Blissful.

    Considering refuge tree practice, I wonder whether visualizations may have arisen as devotees sat beneath trees, finding shade–refuging–from harsh sunshine. The heat is incredible here, Miami in August, so the way this makes sense is quite tangible, and helps me to really experience the trunk and branches of the practice, where the bodhisattvas and arhats may be situated, where “I” am. “Bodhi” dimension. Yesterday in therapy we talked about boundaries and tears, and the way that when readying for retreat, boundaries are thinner, dreaming more constant and vivid, tears more near at hand.

    One day last week, I made a mistake in sharing too much about my background with a new manager, which may have happened because I was caught up into her energy, perhaps related to this ‘thinness’ phenomena. I can find myself almost drunk with an openness that seems like freedom at the time, but in retrospect I find embarrassing and may well be inappropriate. She and I do not know one another yet. I just knew she had experienced a lack of support in early life, emancipating from her parents at a young age, yet had managed to pursue her education. Impressive. I took this fact as immediate kinship, so flung open the gates.

    I texted later and apologized for oversharing, asked her to keep what I’d blurted out between us. She said she would, so that’s where we are. If I’d done something like this years ago, I probably would have contrived a reason to leave my job, feeling too exposed, but perhaps due to therapy–having that place to hear and be heard–the stream kept flowing.

  • rearrangement

    Back to dreaming and remembering dreaming. Have missed that. The dreams are not hyper-insightful, but they are interesting, such as last night’s where I attended a once brother-in-law’s wedding. Neither ex nor BIL were there, but I got along fabulously with his new husband, and the party atmosphere was just my vibe… colorful and inventive pastries, champagne and dancing. The feeling was: I’d gotten the day off work as a surprise, then found myself in the midst of a bright celebration. It’s amazing one can take a group of memories and weave the ‘senses of them’ seamlessly into another time.

    The saddest of all phrases is “what might have been”, a poet wrote, but thankfully, at least today, I don’t feel sad, just thoughtful about it all… everything that has happened to this point. It’s a good thing I’m melancholy in general, and can enjoy the imagination that arises with even regret, for who can say. Perhaps I chose exactly well, but may never know. Perhaps one day I find myself so blissfully happy that it puts ‘it all/the whole catastrophe’) into perspective, like experiences of having children where one accepts even the hard toll on their body for a reality they could have barely imagined.

    Leaps of faith.

    Nice to receive birthday messages this morning, although there’s something hollow in a few, unfamiliar, like messages one receives from the dentist or ophthalmologist. In one case I know the awkwardness is because of a conversation that might be had, although there is nothing more to say. Humans try to hold on too long sometimes, pretend their favorite show is still ongoing, which doesn’t really seem avoidable, but I think we can, with intention, loosen our hold, let the components of memories and wishes fly out of the contexts we fix them in.

    New songs are in large part, rearrangement.

  • refuge

    I’ve long been drawn to the biblical story of Mary and Martha, to contrasting characters’ modes of action. I think of myself as having strong Mary tendencies while admiring Martha-type industriousness from a far, but many who know me in daily life might disagree.

    Anyway, these two came to mind because with sudden urgency I went plundering a decade’s worth of emails last night, looking for the Buddhist refuge name I’d shared with just one friend. (I’ve taken on practices more comfortable than any in ages, so it seemed right to search for ‘my name’ as a locator…part of a set of coordinates, if you will.)

    I’m turning 52. When I took refuge 12 years ago, my name was written on a small card I promptly lost. The meaning of the name was written on the card as well, but I couldn’t read it and was too shy to ask clarification.

    Thankfully, although I couldn’t find it, my friend could. 🙂 It’s a funny name really; it’s visual representation would be something like this:

    A note I happened upon when searching, regarded the Mary and Martha story. In it, the same wise friend shared the sensibility that we’re both Mary and Martha at different times in our lives, or, he said, “More accurately, we are always both Mary and Martha.” They may be presented as a contrast, but are not truly in competition.

    I didn’t see this simple truth when first given this name, I felt I had to not place much importance on what I thought of as trappings of the journey I was embarking on. I was untrusting of myself, suspicious of falling into similar cult-like ‘obedience and conformity’ behaviors as I’d experienced in churches when young. Praise from elders and connection within groups is a deep longing for those who yearn for family, and the idea of available love can be very seductive. Thankfully, something in me always kept some light of questioning, even back then.

    [In a a vivid dream of walking down a busy highway with Jesus, I
    turned to ‘evangelize’ to a group of ‘unsaved’ people my age,
    Jesus didn’t. When I noticed and looked back, he
    was still walking, so I abandoned course and jogged to catch up
    with him instead. It took me weeks to come to the conclusion
    that I had to question, even go against,
    what my church was urging. I’d prided myself then, as many seem to now,
    on being willing to go so far as to embarrass myself ‘for my faith’.
    Many can recognize this when they see it from others,
    especially in political buffoonery, but don’t most
    religions have some version of killing ego? ]

    My rebelliousness, what my ex-husband called my feralness, won out. Perhaps the Lama could see that as the case? I like to think now, that he picked up on an underlying ferocious when he chose the name. 😉

    “Emptiness and appearance do not negate each other. Just like a rainbow
    can appear, but doesn’t have to have truly existing entity. Knowing this
    true nature of all phenomenon is the darshan of Manjushri.”
    -Dzongzar Kyentse Rinpoche

    I described to my therapist the feeling when, after waiting and waiting, with many buses stopping and going, a bus finally approaches that seems to be your bus. The numbers are fuzzy but there are the right number of digits. Then, those digits slowly take shape; their edges become clearer. It’s within this context that I’m willing and happy to take on more structured practices now. It isn’t performative, and if it’s just for a time again, that’s okay.

    Speaking of names (I’ve mentioned this before), I work across the street from the bus stop a boyfriend wrote as the setting in ‘our song’. The lyrics describe our second meeting, two years before we became involved–a very long time when young: “Won’t you be my friend, and tell me, what’s your name? Won’t you be my friend, don’t turn and walk away. Won’t you be my friend, believe me when I say, I have hopes that some day we’ll meet again.”

    He was a lovely person, and although the relationship lasted a blink, the bus stop is a daily reminder to me that auspicious timing is worth waiting for, and names can be like signs over the doorposts of life chapters. When I later met my (now ex) husband, I asked him jokingly “Don’t you know who I am?” He startled, believing I might be someone ‘important’, which indeed I became to him.

    So many worlds in play, none of them ‘me’,
    Who
    May be sitting in a garden somewhere,
    Under a tree.

  • High Volume

    Waking while dreaming another family related dream. Why now? This time I was visiting my sister and her husband. I arrived wearing clothing very far from my wheelhouse: white faux fur coat, boots, and perfectly curled high-volume hair. I was greeted very warmly by them… except that everything I touched had to be erased right as I touched it, so that my mother wouldn’t have any idea I’d been there or that they’d treated me nicely. When I mentioned something about this, as my nephew handled something I’d either given him or was mine (not sure), my sister behaved as though it was very offensive to point out the obvious.

    I love the way dreams spell out true things, things one knows but isn’t saying. In this case how I was welcomed by my family as long as I played along, as long as I behaved as a polite outsider without stakes in anyone speaking in truthful ways about past, present, or future. It was often the case that I’d let my mother tell blatantly unreal stories that painted herself in a bright motherly light, only saying sometimes to my sister on the side, “It really didn’t happen that way.”

    I always knew the price for not doing so. And I guess I always knew there would come a day when I would push back, when the cost for not doing so was too high. This happened when my grandfather died, years after my marriage falling apart, and I considered moving closer to them. I knew we’d either have to forge more honest balances, or that she’d be ‘done with me’ the first time I didn’t play along, which I could only do as a visitor, not as someone living nearby, interacting every day, being interdependent with them.

    “I”m right there in the room and no one even acknowledges me.”

    We know what occurred, which is the ‘done with me’ part, but the part I’m still working through is the role my sister played. I had my sister on a pedestal, I think, as someone who played the needed games better than I did, but who would eventually be my ‘surviving’ family. I saw her as the more resilient one, the more strategic one, but as someone who, having been through so much as a child, realized I was there for ‘all that’ too. I learned through this that she was quite happy to be the only child left standing in our mother’s life. Whether anger toward me was in service of the necessity of rejecting me, or its own thing, I’m not sure.

    It’s quite a story really… out of five marriages and five children, the only one left for my mother is my sister, playing these games together, doing what’s needed to get what’s wanted. I can’t articulate the money part; it’s a big, but not the main, factor.

    I don’t feel upset by all this on a daily basis now. I have thoughts that pass by and I think something along the lines that it would have been so beautiful to have figured out the balances… to have been valued and loved enough to have included as someone worthy of having their voice and stories heard, their real presence around, etc. I wonder about my niece and nephews, wonder if my sister or mother ever wonder about my kids, who they knew and pretended to love for decades. I wonder if I should feel badly for my kids not having the kind of family around them others have, or whether they are fortunate not to be entangled.

    Again, as with my in-laws, I chose reality, and it didn’t go well for me.

    But then again, it did. Eggshells are scarce, my health is a lot better, and so many things about who I am being are more okay.

    I think the dream is saying that these patterns are still there, although I don’t feel them, and that they are working themselves out on their own. As long as I don’t suppress them, I think they’ll gently move their way through, allowing me to relax even places I don’t experience as tense and knotted. This will further help my health, further allow my energies to flow where they are welcomed and needed.

    When these kinds of knots let go, one thing I’ve found happens is that I can see farther into what occurred and/or is occurring. I can see back into choices I made to counter one type of longing with another, one type of belief system or influence with either its opposite or complimentary. I am not a mastermind, as evidenced by the way these schemes didn’t work out ultimately, but when I think about what I was saying to my family by my choices, because I couldn’t be honest with my words, there was a lot of rejection of their ways. I was always finding ways to opt-out of their thinking, without expressly saying so. I was always introducing ‘other’ ways to see and do things. I raised my kids differently, without corporal punishment, etc.

    This was actually my way of staying in their lives.

    Is this why I was so dressed up? Was that how they saw me, coming in as a fancy outsider? I usually downplayed things so as not to trigger those accusations, back then, but I guess here I am myself, playful and “high volume” whether they give permission or not.

    The wonderful thing is that the more these underground tensions release, the wider the sky seems to be, too. These are gentle shifts and explorations, not bothersome. When I woke this morning I said aloud, “Why still these dreams?” It felt like I was bored by them, rather than hurt by them.

    I’m just not finding this carousel particularly interesting anymore.

    Found this sweet image searching google when at the end of writing this post the phrase “big hair don’t care” popped into mind.

    How fun! 🙂

  • The Absurdist

    Various components of the absurd are discussed in the academic literature and different theorists frequently concentrate their definition and research on different components. On the practical level, the conflict underlying the absurd is characterized by the individual’s struggle to find meaning in a meaningless world. The theoretical component, on the other hand, emphasizes more the epistemic inability of reason to penetrate and understand reality. Traditionally, the conflict is characterized as a collision between an internal component, belonging to human nature, and an external component, belonging to the nature of the world. However, some later theorists have suggested that both components may be internal: the capacity to see through the arbitrariness of any ultimate purpose, on the one hand, and the incapacity to stop caring about such purposes, on the other hand. Certain accounts also involve a metacognitive component by holding that an awareness of the conflict is necessary for the absurd to arise. [Wikipedia]

    Absurdist is the way I’ve been describing myself these days, because when pressed to give an answer for anything, especially anything that could be called a belief, that answer usually has a lot of space around it, and a dozen or more qualifiers. I’m way more full of possibilities for what could be wrong in what I’m saying or ways I might fail to be right–way more loopholes than formulas.

    Since everything is but an illusion,
    Perfect in being what it is,
    Having nothing to do with good or bad,
    Acceptance or rejection,
    One might as well burst out laughing!

    -Longchenpa

    For instance it is often tricky to talk about my spirituality with anyone not so inclined, because well, I’m rather devout, while not having beliefs per se, while also totally and entirely buying in! Do I believe in deities? Well no, except yes absolutely, just not as separate beings; I don’t believe in beings at all for that matter, and am entirely committed to them. There’s just so much like this, and I’m so aware of what it must sound like and seem, which means there’s almost always an irreverent mischief beneath the surface.

    W.H. Auden captured so much when he wrote “We are here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for, I don’t know.”

  • Psychological Doomscrolling

    I may be toward the end of this stint in therapy. It’s a little hard to tell because, when doesn’t one need to feel heard? When doesn’t one need to hear themselves more clearly? But, I also don’t want to always be examining tendencies and unraveling patterns. There are times to just cut through.

    I was lightly startled awake a few weeks ago, when a conversation with my son turned nostalgic and he said, “Mom, I’m sorry but you’re talking to me like your therapist.” Which may sound mean, but isn’t in our context actually, because he knows I like to catch myself. It was a gentle nudge, a loving “Look and see.”

    There’s still such a strong tendency in me, to believe that if I can just draw out a clear enough map to how we got ‘here’, it would be possible to make a convincing case for fixing <insert issue>, re-writing the script. Especially, I want to own my own part of things, as though if sufficiently aware and remorseful, the previous possible timeline I’d envisioned many moons ago would be available again. It seems a relic of childhood experience, where a child makes their parent feel better and then is allowed to go to the party, or have the thing. As an adult, however, I’m not willing to be bought in this way. I want to be truthful, and I want others to be truthful, just as my son was in this instance.

    Rather than feeling slighted or dismissed by him, I felt thankful. In that moment I recognized a false idea I’d been carrying around, that my grown kids still need me to re-explain where things went awry between their parents. Each is going to have different interpretations, and when they ask, I’ll be happy to attempt to answer. I just don’t need to keep figuring it out. Figuring out can largely go on without me because it isn’t as though their dad is asking those questions or having these discussions with us. It isn’t as though I need to write a book about family dynamics, etc.

    Would I love to be able to articulate my “side of things” once and for all? Who wouldn’t! But is that what’s happening in therapy? Not really. And actually I’m always learning, so my impression of what have helped or could have been different, is always being revised. The big things are pretty obvious, and although their effects can still pop up, catch me off guard, recovery is usually swift. As a friend would say, I do bounce!

    Therapy is my eye in the storm, but the storm is rather predictable now. I have more supplies and a steadier plan. My therapist is a lovely woman I can imagine being a good friend with outside of the therapy context, who often shows acceptance I couldn’t find from either the family I was born into, or the one I married into, and who takes my side. She also catches me mid self-condemnation and exaggeration–psychological doomscrolling–to ask “But is that true?” “Is that really your fault?” “Could you have foreseen that?”

    Does it help to doomscroll? What good can come of this?

    The first therapist I went to see, in about 1994, ending one session asking me to consider why I think everything is my fault. I dismissed her question out of hand because I reasoned, “What good does it do to see the situation as someone else’s fault?” I couldn’t change or convince anyone, also didn’t want to … didn’t want to manipulate the way I’d been manipulated. But her question stayed with me, and would come up at the oddest times until I had to pay attention. She was right that I leaned that way and was willing to absorb blame just to have peace. She was right that I found it hard to trust others to do the work of self-reflection as well. My current therapist is also right that the tendency has remained, even with so much more space around it.

    That being so, it might be time for a more surgical strategy.

  • Just the greeting, just the wonder

    I feel as though I’ve been in some awkward spiritual state for a while now, missing highs and lows present in most of the rest of my micro-lifetimes. Mainly, it is a certain synchronistic flow that has so often seemed ‘me’ I’ve had to get used to not being as strong nor obvious. Perhaps trust means looking for that less and less, not contriving nor contorting, just allowing that strong sense of ‘spiritual me’ to fade even more.

    In favor of?

    Sense of wonder about the world? Yes, that’s here. I’ve spent the last few days gazing at the astounding Webb Telescope images, leaning into unknowing. The practice is not to disconnect that sense of wonder with the greeting of everyday life, or just to see how that is so.

    Just the greeting, just the wonder.