28 September, 2008

My Bailout

Walking home, I came across two trash cans that where blown out into the street and picked them up and put them back on the sidewalk braced by a pole. A car drove by and the man inside driving it yelled out, “You’re a good man!” Flattered and surprised, I said, “Thank you” and continued walking. I made me think, not about me, but whom in my life I could say that to. Immediately, four friends came to mind. This is not discounting my partner who to me is a firmly placed as exceptional, so I can put him aside in my thought wonderings. I have at least four good friends who without ever saying it always project an intention to love and care about me. I have more good people in my life, but these shine. They can be miles away, and I still know where their intention lies. This known intention allows me to have strength when the chips are down or when hard decisions have to be made. They are part of my bailout, which also includes mediating, that I use to combat any self-pity or worry. My bailout does not repackage old fears and mistakes and resell them to my friends.

24 September, 2008

A Swearing In Smiles

I went on Monday to watch a friend's swearing in ceremony to be a US citizen with 1077 others from around the world. While I set up to photograph from above, I stood up from my seat and a Chinese man took it. It made no sense, because he had to sit directly behind my ass, and I wasn’t very far from the seat in front of it. I used my Buddhist practice to let go and not yell at him and took the one next to him. It was a conscious effort as usual. Then I proceeded to talk to him about cameras, some small talk just to clear the air especially for me. The ceremony unfolded, the guy from immigration was entertaining with his address and his ability with at least 5 languages. And I thought there were no signs of intelligent life with the current administration. Then we had to watch two “B” hallmark style films about immigration, then the killer of the whole morning: Bush’s address looking sadly like a worried Alfred E. Newman. Next was the swearing in, proceeded with the roll call to stand up by each country A to Z. Of course China was #1, and Mexico #2. The oath was embarrassing to me with the request to bear arms for a now corrupt government for illegal war ("....so help me God.")
I really had to relax, but was rewarded when I saw the lines and excitement for Obama and the Democratic party registration table outside afterwards. Two pathetic, unhappy WASP women ran the Republican table with very few visitors leaving them very grumpy. I took photos of multi-raced people posing with the Obama’s life-size photo cutout. The atmosphere was so happy and charged up that I even photographed a woman when she did not have a camera with her and wanted a shot. I emailed it to her. Seeing all this made my proud to be an American again.

21 September, 2008

Without Blinders

We are still traveling down the road assessing likes, dislikes and neutral objects when we encounter a boulder that appears in the road. It was fine until the bugs, the heat, the other idiots on the road, and now a boulder. It slowly becomes obvious that you are a reactive state to things that appear to be coming at you. So if you dislike that boulder in front of your new sports car on your first day off in a month, you may get agitated or even angry. And with this you may start to add other things you don’t like about the day, the car or your life. I have often said you are really asking for more misery to help( right! help?) you to understand why this boulder is really NOT making your day. You’re so focused on this boulder, all else falls by the wayside. It does not make any sense if you break it down, but we do it (or at least I do) more often than we care to say. Now, put this boulder aside, you are barreling towards with blinders on and you have not at all noticed the beauty that is on the periphery of your journey. You may have earlier when the going was smooth, easy only because for one hot minute you forgot your dislikes. Likes: the wind blowing through trees, the sunlight reflecting on leaves, the wisp of fog burning off. Or one of my favorites – the smell of impending rain(yes, I smell it). Oh, and that person saying hello to you for no other reason but to share in the beauty of the day. And snapping back to your current upset state about that boulder and you are hard pressed to grunt “hello” back. The world is much more than little old me, and will show its beauty to someone a bit more awake than I, if I don’t change. And now for some reason, I am much aware of how little time is left in my human body. I want to view this world like I did at 12: big, amazing, beautiful, fantastic and ever changing. I like it.

18 September, 2008

Our World View

I am using the current downturn now financial crisis in the market to watch how my mind works. We know that we divide how we see the world up into threes: Likes, dislikes, and neutral (or no feelings). With our pick we quickly view the world and everything we encounter with our five senses. And a few rare times with our sixth sense — intuition, which I have spoken about in previous posts. You’ll find that you want to gravitate to things you like, but in the process you unfortunately find a lot more that you don’t like. For instance, in this economic climate one would be hard pressed to find something good here, and quickly worry or dislike. And perhaps panic. Just listen to the news, and watch them trying to make sense out of all this…they can’t, so how could you?

So, I have been trying to monitor how I perceive this current crisis and life in general. If I look back at my life and my family’s lives, I have watched my grandfather die trying desperately to hold to money and life. He did not like dying, and he wasn't prepared. We lose it all, and we die just as helpless as we came into the world at birth. All we can do is make wiser decisions on our path, and try not to focus on dislikes. We really cannot change to the world to be our way, and have everyone view it through our eyes. Nor can we shut down and go into a corner because we don’t like the way things are right now. What we can do is change how we see the world, and with our wisdom view it with a lighter mind. This is not to be confused with a positive outlook but seeing things as they really are, always changing. Try not to hold on to the disappointments of dislikes, there are way too many. They have the ability to change when we think we have it all arranged the way we like it. Look at the financial mess, we have enough history I hope, so that we remember when it was all good. Now a disaster…temporarily. It seems like we find ourselves constantly disliking something or someone, even to the point of looking for more things to dislike. Now think about it… we are causing our own misery one dislike at a time. For instance, even a neutral view of someone alone can prevent us from meeting the right person. We might walk by and not say hello to someone who can change our life immensely, holding to our narrow view.

15 September, 2008

The Noisemakers

I was meditating in the gym before yoga, and this came to my mind. Some people have the need to make noise. It is kind of like the “I am here!” drop of keys, a mat or a ball. It can be done without thinking, but I think it is done to get attention. I have noticed in Asia people are less likely to do this or be engaged even casually in someone else’s business. I know my partner is so quiet, almost in stealth mode. So, these noisemakers would be considered rude there. I know several times I have groaned while doing exercises, in the hopes of getting some sympathy and perhaps a smile. I just know someone is thinking the same thing, “Why am I here? Of course, I am not immune to these same things just becoming more aware. With my awareness I am saying hello more to strangers, instead of slyly making noise. Changing.

I will be meditating and the person next to me will have a friend who just happens to have some new gossip, and will come talk to them, quite audibly knowing I am quiet near them. I have now gotten used to every noise and refuse to let my brain go there or listen. Or to get bothered. It took time, and even patience with myself to not be engaged in noise or conversation. I can…with intention. I do think that when I die, people will continue to talk and make noise and I won’t party to any of it. Better get used to it.
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10 September, 2008

Prisoner of Our Own Thoughts

I was recalling Monday all day Tuesday. Mainly, because it was an important event whenever you see a friend that still loves you. Well, on the way home transferring buses, I ran into a guy who is homeless that I see ever so often. He looks kind of Cro-magnon, and carries himself like dangerous person. When I first saw him years ago, I would avoid him to the point of walking across the street. At that time I figured he was mentally ill, and a bit violent. In reflection it is probably self-preservation on the street. Later in time, with the things I learned with Buddha’s teaching I had relaxed enough to say “Hi” whenever I saw him. Regardless what mood he is in. Well, guess who walked up to me while waiting for the bus with two books in his hands? Him. One book he had was a hard cover literary horror book with great well-known illustrations. He was showing me the book, and even liked the high quality work. He did not want to sell it to me, but he wanted to give it to me. I was not present in the moment, and said why don’t you sell it to get money? He kept showing the book and again offered it to me unconditionally. Sure I did not need it, but his intent was honest and good…and I was being an idiot in my own world wanting to get home quick. A day later I said to myself I would be doing the best for him by just taking the book and honoring his pure intent. I know now I owe him an apology when I see him next, my wisdom was playing hooky that day. Love does not always come in the form we expect especially when we are guarded. Tonight, I took more sealed lunches (left for me by my crossing guard angel) that I heated down to people I found hungry on the street. It was easy to find hungry guys not too far away. The oil painting is done by my friend mentioned in Monday's post. Dedicated to Michele, a homeless advocate.

08 September, 2008

A Great Closing

Monday, I was busy seeing a friend from out of town. Running around town, seeing museums. When we stopped at my house I leaned down to pick up 5 small lunches and soup left for me by my local crossing guard. My friend said, “What’s that?” Thinking I ordered it. I mentioned this in an earlier post. I did not need the extra food, and it would foolish to see it being thrown away. At least I could not do it. So I heated them up wrapped in a towel, and took off to find homeless to give them to. Within three miles I found people living on the street to give to. They were happy when I asked them. I rarely throw food away unless it is bad, knowing there are people going without all over the world. I have seen people while traveling without food. It was a carryover from when I was a child. It made for a nice night-cap to a great day, so I can sleep easier in my skin.

06 September, 2008

Don't Hitchhike Patience

Friday night, I found a post on Craigslist to go hiking last minute. I thought about it, but felt a bit weird going with people I have never met. So I went to sleep, figuring that in the morning I would decide whether to tackle home projects or do the hike. I woke up early only because it was hot and bright. I looked to make sure the evite was still posted, and texted the phone listed to state my name and that I would drive to meet him at the trailhead. My intuition told me that I felt like I would never see them. What if I don’t meet them? Deciding I would hike alone if that was the case, it settled my mind. A lot of things go not as planned and the sooner you are able to adjust the better. I never got a reply to my text, but thinking he might be driving there, so at least he had my name when he arrived.

While I drove there I picked up a hitchhiker, which I do whenever I see them providing they don't look scary. I vowed to, back when I would find myself begging for a ride at 19 on a hot, dusty, country road when that was my only transportation. Surely, there is that first hesitation on both parties… a combination of the hitcher needing it, and the wariness of not knowing if it will be ok or not. The area is sort of rural just like the area I used to hitch in. I met Ricardo was on his way to his brother’s house after his car broke down. He was about the same age I was when I used to hitchhike. Talking about motorcycles and driving just enough to make each other bond and put the strangers inside of us aside. I dropped him off where he wanted which was on my way, and he wished me a safe life and a great day.

Shortly after, I found the trailhead where I was supposed to meet the others. I arrived ten minutes early, so I looked around for people gathering for a meeting before taking off. I paused seeing two other groups and asked, but they did not fit the bill and I had no idea of who to look for. I tried not to be upset, meanwhile looking around until 10 minutes past our meet-up time. I saw someone with a worried look and eyebrows raised. I asked him if he too was supposed to meet for this. He replied yes, and we had he same contact phone number, so I had someone to join me. He seemed a bit nervous, but I thought it was he just uneasy until we find the people, take off and get acquainted. We waited around an extra ten minutes, and I just said, “I am going to go, do you want to join me?” He said yes. So, we took off up the trail, with me making small talk in hopes of trying to bond. I talked about travel, and so he asked about baggage allowances, because he was going to Japan. He got into the particularities of baggage and his fears after having not traveled for over ten years. That was fine, but then it quickly became obvious that James is a nervous person when he kept going over it. And yes, that worried look never left his face all day. He complained about the heat, the inability to meet the gang, and do I know where we are going? I took a deep breath, I jumped on the wrong pony. We continued, and while walking I explained things I know about the area, stopping to harvest bay leaves for cooking. He could not be bothered to even smell them, but said watch out for poison ivy! He just wanted to walk and get there. I really wanted a relaxing day, where time was not a factor, and fatigue is never apparent because you are in the moment. If I stopped to enjoy something or to photograph, he reluctantly paused. Realizing that I was not going to get rid of him, I quickly settled my mind on the idea that he needs me there and what a better way to re-learn patience. Every time something bothered me about his inability to enjoy this great day and location, I would take a deep breath. Not audible to him of course. When I talked to him I was kind and smiling, and with no sarcasm. Maybe he would relax. We finally arrived at the arch spot that was advertised, thinking that while eating lunch the others would walk up and rescue me. I was taking photos and asked him if he wanted his photo taken and I could email it to him? He declined, but never asking me if I wanted mine taken. I had stopped three different times, when other strangers asked me to take their photo with their camera. I found it interesting that when they did they only addressed me. Wrapping it up, I said, “ Hey, I am continuing down the coast trail and will hitchhike back to my car.” Thinking he would take the same trail we took up back. James said with the same worried face, “ The same old trail is boring, I will just stick with you. I have never hitchhiked before. Is it ok?”

Patience comes rushing in with a late package for me and it is always bigger than we originally thought. I said to myself, this will be interesting. He is worried about ticks and funny, I have right now on me! Thinking, I will enjoy this day, but I will also do what he wants, to feel comfortable. A perfect stranger that I don’t like or love and I have to treat him with respect. Pulling teachings from my Buddhist practice about Universal Compassion that I had meditated on the previous Saturday we continued on the trail. Walking another two hours in hot sun, we talked less frequently, his curiosity ended hours ago... but when we did it was mainly to reassure him that I know where we are going for the tenth time. One time, I said we are there, it all depends on your mind, to hopefully lighten his mind, but this went over his head. He asked a couple strangers who crossed our paths to ask them how far to next parking lot. The old me, would have said why don’t you just go your way and I’ll go mine with total sarcasm, but I actually felt bad for him. He could not relax and enjoy a fairly easy hike in some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. The trail finally got down to a branch, where one way went down to the beach and the other straight up a hill. I told him that the beach is longer, but who wants to climb a hill in the heat? He agreed and while walking down we saw a whale flipping his tale playfully while eating in the distance. I said that is why we go this way! I filmed them, but even on zoom they were too far away to really get clear. Arriving on the beach I take off my shoes to cool my feet in the ocean as we walk towards the exit to the parking lot 2 miles down the beach. He continued to complain about the heat or the distance, or to voice fears about the ocean. I just told him if he ever gets caught by a wave, the rip tides are powerful of course, but just don’t fight it, relax and swim only when the wave moves towards the shore.

Finally two hours later the parking lot where one should hitch a ride back appeared in the distance, but it was obvious in talking to him I could not say ok, see ya! And I really wanted to stay at the beach and meditate and swim, even if it was in my underwear. I knew he would stay not liking it, only because he needed me to hitch for him. Even though I told him it is easier if we go alone and it is better if you take off your hat. So I left my desire to remain there on the beach for him. And here I am with a speech disability, but I got right to the road and jumped up to first car I saw, smiling. Thumb out. It was a convertible with a lady driving not too unlike my mom. I said here you go and I’ll take the next car, but he wanted me to go enough, to ask her if she could fit me, and I had not even put my shoes on! So, I jumped in the back, and off we went. Bye, bye beach. She was nice and tolerant of his worry, so I just shut up. When we arrived at our parking lot, she drove us right there, I asked her if she wanted to join me for a beer, or if she needed money for gas. She declined, and I said thank you and off she went. Driving back around to exit I yelled, Thanks again!” James and I shook hands and departed, he did not want to join me either for a pint of beer before our drive home in our respective cars. I smiled as I drove home alone relaxed after such a long patient hike.
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05 September, 2008

Buddhas are Everywhere

I was talking to my local crossing guard on a nice day, and she mentioned she also worked at an international school cooking for the kids. She very often gets extras that the kids don’t eat. She gave me two soups and a bagel and cream cheese. These kids eat well, because it is a private school. She said she would leave me extras whenever she has some. What a nice treat!

Meanwhile, my partner has been having some medical issues around his hereditary blood disorder. A close call when he was 20, and now it seems to have come back after an over the counter flu drug made him turn yellow after a two pills. Now he is healthy eater, works out, and doesn’t drink but this goes beyond a fluke. This is a sign his liver is not functioning well, so I said you have to get a blood test to measure your red blood cells. This will determine the course of events for treatment which my include transfusions and/or iron chelators. But his work health insurance is lousy and the doctors mean. I think they work against him, so he can’t depend on them to give him the correct diagnosis. So I sent money to him to go to a private hospital, which I have been to. The many problems of the developing world, people’s lives are dispensable. It is so hard when you love someone and you not right there when they need you. Hopefully soon enough I will be, meanwhile I will make sure he gets what he needs.
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