Making Space: The Genius of Silence

coffee lakePractice makes perfect.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve relied upon this little nugget of wisdom as a parent when my kiddo whines about not being able to do something. My response has always been; “How do you think I got so good at it? Practice makes perfect; get to it.

Yesterday I was anxious. The kind of anxious that feels like you have a thousand bees buzzing in  your head telling you all of the things you need to do, have to worry about, and can’t control. I was miserable; inside and outside.

Fortunately for me, I had a few hours of quiet time at the end of the day .Quiet for me is heaven. Quiet in the morning gives me time to meditate, and to take in just how fortunate I am.  It’s never a process whereby I sit cross-legged on a cushion wearing a mala made in Bali or a tunic made of hemp. No. It’s simply sitting with my thoughts.

Last night, in the quiet of solitude, I was able to spend some time reading the words of Thich Nhat Hanh.   It reminded me that my practice is not perfect. Far from it in fact. Just because I studied at the temple, attended dharma classes and go to silent retreats does not mean that my meditation muscle is exempt from a good workout on a regular basis.

As adults, we forget that our health as a whole is something that we need to practice on a regular basis.

It’s time for me to make space for some of the books and advice that I’ve gotten in the past. It’s time to make an effort again putting theory into practice.

It’s time for the genius of silence, and for my practice of peace to become a little bit more perfect.

Wharehouse Shopping & My Mortality

shoes

I’ve been feeling miserable as hell, but faking it quite well.

Sounds like the lyrics of a B-class rock song, but  it’s true.

I’ve been on the downhill slide of feeling like absolute shit for months, and mostly successful at ignoring it. Until yesterday. Yesterday was not a good day in the health diary of your-fabulous-one.

But here I am, at home, and not dead. Go figure.

Haruki Murakami wrote that pain is inevitable and suffering is optional. It’s a particularly Buddhist quote and it resonates with me as does the fact that the natural state of our bodies is one of health.

So, today, faced with setting up more appointments that will see me sitting in dirty yet sterile looking waiting rooms, I decided that despite pain and suffering, I was going to get on with the business of life.  I mean, I have shit to do man.

Spring has sprung in our little corner of the world, and I fully intend on taking advantage of it.

 

Today after my appointment with the doctor, who confirmed that I am indeed NOT dead, I went to get myself a new pair of  shoes. While I was shopping at one of my sketchy wharehouse sales that make me feel the essence of living on one salary, cue the gunmetal steps with the wood two by four railing and bald fluorescent  lighting….

Anyway, I needed these damn walking shoes…at about twenty five steps into what I am convinced is the next best thing to illegal merchandise, the namesake of the wharehouse gets on the intercom and I shit you not, he says this…

….You’ll have to excuse me because I don’t speak Chinese, so you’ll have to put up with my English. To all of you who are tearing apart my store, I’m going to have my staff ask you to leave. I paid for this stuff and I don’t want you ruining it. I’d rather you shop somewhere else because I don’t need your business…

At first I was appalled, and then I almost died laughing. What a circus!

Often I’ve been accused of being too direct, too bold, too independent, too smart,  wearing clothes that are too loud, and having boobs that are too big.

“Have you ever thought of having those reduced?” Um, yah genius. Would you like to pay my bills while I heal? No? Then shut up.

"No, no, no! It's longer with a bigger blade!"Having been feeling loogy for the past few months, I’ve had some time to reflect. I’ve actually been scared. Yes, afraid. I’m not often afraid of things, but the thought of really, really bad news about your mortality can make you a bit anxious.

What I realized is that I have very few (if any) regrets. Other than having my finances in better order, or a little less clutter for my son to clear out, or maybe not being able to be a mom for longer, I really have had a life well-lived.

Most of that is because of my too-muchness. I have lived out the curious corners that most people avoid as they tread the safe line of social acceptance and keeping up with the Jones’.

what are you talking aboutSo I had to give kudos to the man who called out the rabid greed of warehouse shoppers today. I love being with people who know how to cut to the chase when it’s necessary. Life is, indeed, short.

The last thing I want to waste time on is bullshit, and the first thing I want to waste time on is good conversation, delicious food, wonderfully thoughtful company, playing, laughing and being present in the joy that the present moment has to offer.

For now I will cope with this ill-health in the best frame of mind possible, remembering the comforting truth that the natural state of my body is one of health, and that although I may be in pain, suffering is optional.  I will also wear bright clothing, speak my mind, and laugh at everything.

So, if you’re mucking up my present moment, I’m going to ask you to leave. I don’t need your business.

 

 

A Night Owl’s Meditation Lesson for Morning People

no wormI’m not a morning person. Unless I’m the first one up when I’m in the great outdoors, marvelling at a sunrise, watching mist rise from a placid lake, and listening to the first call of the loons.

But that rarely happens.

So, I’m basically just not a morning person.

I am a night owl. The still darkness is rich ground to cultivate ideas and search out creative genius.

We all have a delicate balance of extroverted and introverted needs, and as a fence rider on almost every element of the Myers-Briggs assessment, I need as much time alone as I do surrounded by other fascinating human beings.

Morning people often insinuate that I’m wasting the day. They gently suggest that perhaps I’m a tad depressed, lazy, unmotivated, or accomplishing less than my potential. Morning people are wrong.

My very naïve beginnings at meditation have developed throughout the years, and my practice is now something I am aware of every day.

Waking slowly, at my own pace allows me to be quiet with the thoughts that come and go from my mind.

It’s easy to be aware of all of the thoughts that come to mind as your head is on the pillow waiting for sleep to wrap her arms around you. Unless you’re dog-tired, thoughts come fast. You can’t help but be aware of their presence in the quiet darkness of night-time.

Morning thoughts are different. These are the thoughts that come out quietly, like a hungry stray hoping for a leftover morsel. They slink quietly into consciousness and scatter as soon as you turn to thoughts of preparing for the day.

be the awarenessThis morning as I woke,I listened to the heart-breaking howl of the neighbours oft neglected dog.  The irony is that if some of my thoughts were sounds, they would have sounded like that baleful howling.

In the silence of my fluffy duvets, snuggled warm and safe, I had time to reach out and hold each of those thoughts gently, examine them, and then let them go.  At peace with my own self, I felt prepared to face the day, and share it with whatever the world had prepared for me.

My not-a-morning-person mornings are a simple pleasure, and a quality of life indulgence.  I have the peace to let my emotions and thoughts speak their truth, and the time to gently make peace with everything, both good and not so good. This is the value of meditation, practice, and the awareness of personal presence.

 

Sink Or Swim; Nostalgia & a Little Shove

mylifeHolidays tend to make us nostalgic. Thank goodness that they’re officially over for 2015.

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard, “2015 was a terrible year“. Wow.

I prefer to frame my year as a deli sandwich. The bread was delicious, but the meat of it was a little sour. In other words, the first and last thirds were great (as in; good enough), but the middle really blew.

How often as children did we say a year was terrible? We didn’t darlings. We just did the 10 second countdown to the new year and moved forward with joyful, curious abandon.

sufferingNow we yearn for the days when life was simple and  we still believed in magic. Friendships and family were taken for granted, and happiness was just on the other side of the screen door.

As adults, we tend to overcomplicate things. ‘Be kind and play fair’, seem to have gotten lost in the big, adult personal ethics playbook. And that just stinks. Because it hurts. Yes, people can be selfish and cruel, but they can also be kind, giving, and lovely to snuggle up with. Naked.

As human beings, we all want to be loved. We all need and want strong friendships, a true love with whom we can  share our most intimate selves , and bourbon. Ok, maybe the last bit is all about me, but whatever.

When we lose ourselves in the fray of losing the one person we fell in love with, we feel broken. I’ve been there. It hurts. It’s scary, and it puts a pretty harsh filter on our vision of the future.

Just this summer, I sat, sobbing on my friend’s front step, while she nursed my broken heart and damaged pride. I felt empty, hopeless, afraid and lost.

We live in a world that prizes the individual and yet makes it impossible to live without the safety net of community, family and friends. Yes, the great Western-way-of-life has unfolded into a wonderful cock-up of psychological dissonance. But what do I know? I’m just a girl after all.

I do know this. The holiday season has seen a lot of falling in and out of love; happy hearts and hearts that have been broken and need time to heal, relationships that are worn thin, or worn out altogether.

The beautifully terrifying part of it all, is that the only way to heal a heart is to live life. The very life that has tossed you like a small boat on a big, angry, ocean, leaving you feeling washed up and broken beyond repair.

Cling to curiosity. Let your friends lead you when you are  blinded by tears. Be wary of the seductive pull of too much sleep, lack of self care, and try to remember how good it feels to laugh after you decide to, ‘fuck it’.

As a quasi-Buddhist-lover-of-Christian-ritual, this speaks to me. You have two choices; get up, dive back into that same unpredictable ocean to wash yourself clean, or wallow in the sand getting burned by the sun and possibly gnawed to death by vicious, exotic fauna.

Sometimes you need a friend to role you back into the ocean. In some cases, you need a friend to drag you, kicking and screaming, back to life. It’s called tough love, and we all need it once in a while.

Nostalgia and wishing for a happily-ever-after is a waste of time.

havetimeYou and I both know that more than anything else, this is true; life is short and precious.

Take the time you need to sit quietly with your broken heart. Don’t run away from it, or deny it what it needs to tell you.  Take your sadness and swaddle it like a helpless infant. As difficult as this may seem, you will see that soon enough, you will be at peace with it.

Weep. Cry. Scream into your pillow…and as you take your last gasp of sobbing breath, get ready for a shove back into the ocean of life.

You’ve always been a beautiful swimmer darling. Always.

 

 

 

Christmas is For Friendship

elcatrin.png
I had the pleasure of getting out for dinner/dessert with a handful of people whom I don’t get to see too often.

We agreed on a place and a time, and enjoyed an evening at a gorgeous restaurant.

Life is busy, and as I get older, I prioritize my free time very carefully. Well, at least I try.

Many times I’ve heard that getting together at Christmas time is hypocritical. That the Christmas spirit is bogus. That if you can’t make time the rest of the year, why bother at Christmas time?

I’ll tell you why. It’s a damn good reminder that there is more to life than work, bills and wishing you were living on a secluded island with a muscular, pool-boy who who knows how to shake a mean margarita.

It’s a good goose on the bum to motivate you to make plans.

So, tonight was a kick-off to what I hope will be a season of cozy catch-ups over coffee, boozy brunches with the gals and lingering dinners with friends.

Tonight, as I sat listening to, and talking with my friends, I realized just how fortunate I am to have people in my life who are genuine, kind, and more intellectually and spiritually evolved than the general public.

I’ve come to beware of people who zap my energy and I know my personal boundaries.

So rest assured, if I’m spending time with you, I not only like you, I respect you. Ok, ok, I admit that I do spend time with some folks for the sheer entertainment value they provide. Use your imagination…

My wish for you this Christmas is the same as my wish for me; that you have enough time to spend with your friends to refresh your soul, and enough entertainment to keep some fire in your soul.

 

Amish On-Line & Other Absurdities

itsawildworldI do most of my socializing via phone while I’m driving. Hands-free of course.

More and more I’ve been doing less and less talking, and that suits me just fine.

Coming off of an energy-sucking few months, I find most people exhausting and barely tolerable. My overworked bullshit detector has become antiquated, and I’m left to depend on my quick wit and lack of patience. A deadly combination at best.

The conversation I had this morning with one of the few people I find tolerable began with our shared disdain for small-talk, and the necessity for sobriety.

We talked about my latest therapy session, and the ridiculous need to quantify the human experience for the sole requirement of doing business. What a tragedy of ignorance.

As it happens, this therapy session of which we were speaking, ended with the therapist saying a pat congratulations for being so resilient and the required, “Goals have been met”.

What? Goals have been met? Like not raising my own jugular vein and making a tidy incision? Like not overdosing on a sweet bedtime concoction of prescription pharmaceuticals, vintage wine  and over the counter cough syrup? If that’s the case, then, Yay me! Goals met indeed! Someone decant the wine and pass the Nyquil.

Our conversation veered to the more spiritually enlightened, something about taking an on-line course about Quakers. Which, struck me as something akin to Amish On-Line, or AshleyMennoniteMadison.com.

Our world, if you have the right sense of humour, can be wildly interesting and engaging. It can also be anxiety provoking and lonely. It seems that the more empathetic someone is, and the more spiritually engaged, that the more difficult it is to tolerate the thick curtain of bullshit that pervades our public lives.

Two men across from me at a café hold a business meeting so that their review of employee performance (including the employee names) is now public. An annoying bald-headed athlete-wanna-be in tear away pants has a phone conversation on highest volume speaker phone while he waits for what I can only imagine is a coffee beverage as pretentious as himself. A couple get up , leaving a pile of unpurchased and carelessly thumbed through books for someone else to clean up. Pages wrinkled and now wasted, as no one wants to pay full price for a dirty book.

In a world we all share so intimately, I am astounded at the variety of perspectives about what is acceptable, and what makes someone a complete social write-off.  For instance, the gentleman who just  tried unsuccessfully to attend the café washroom with a copy of the Globe & Mail tucked under his arm. He just made haste for the washroom at the back. Note to self: wait until you get home, do not touch the public copy of the newspaper.

As absurd as taking a course about Quaker spirituality on-line may sound, it is no more absurd than the life you can witness around you at any given time. Keep your eyes peeled, your phone on silent, and your sense of humour well-maintained.