29 March, 2010

The Shifting Thoughts

photo: Bartek Kuzia

Waiting, waiting, waiting.....I knew I came here for something,
but I forgot.
Time shifting. A new concept.
The fake Bus Stop, a tool to help elderly people, often with dementia and alzheimer's, live in the present. They go and sit down with the intention of going somewhere until the thought passes. It beats locking them up, trying to force them to live in the now. Again, one more reason to start meditating while you can remember. Just watch your thoughts, they come and they go...and it up to you to believe them or not.

25 March, 2010

Set Yourself Up for Success

I hear the chainsaws buzzing...Looking out at the tree that sometimes blocks my city view and watching neighbors who are dealing with a different tree. We often think that as soon as we get this tree trimmed, a meal cooked or this health care bill passed...then we will then be happy. Sure these things need to be done, but we are setting ourselves up for dissatisfaction in the future laying so many definitions of what our happiness can be right now. If we can be happy while these things are not done or are in the process of being done we will double our ability to find happiness. Now, I know happiness may be a strong word so substitute contentment when it feels right.

Currently, I am sitting here while I write this with a torn bi-cep muscle, and lack of a really good sleep for a long time. A bit frustrated by all the Dr.’s I have seen in the past four years that never diagnosed this correctly. I even went to a hospital, and did tons of PT, and they never caught it. I have thought about writing one chiropractic Dr who treated me for 2 years charging me all that time. On his wall he a muscle chart. If he had a great knowledge of muscle physiology then at one point he would have figured out that his treatments were not working.
The important thing is I did, popping another Ibuprofen. But that now..is in the past, and right now while I wait to see another shoulder orthopedic Dr. to find out how to proceed in surgery. Why they never sent me to him the first time around behooves me, but again, do I want to pin blame on being discontent at this moment on a past moment?…thinking that I will be happier. What done is done, money was spent.

Now, can I be happy at this moment? Certainly, if I put my wishes on the back burner, let go of the idea there is something or somebody keeping my happiness away. How to do this? Stop fixating on one single source of happiness, a ridiculous “one-brain-cell” view of life. I will go out and help others, send care packages to Thailand, maybe fix dinner for a friend and move on with a sense of ease about life. Yes, I can do that with pain. Why, you might ask? Because I know people are doing this all over this world right as we speak.

I often tell friends who first start out in yoga, “Set yourself up for success, get all the props you need to feel comfortable and when unable to do something…just rest in child’s pose and watch.” The most important thing you can learn is to be humble and turn off the comparing mind. Why pin your happiness to one thing, jumping to the next thing, once that is done? We are setting ourselves up for failure to be content at any given moment. It will start a chain reaction, if happy at this moment, and again happy at this next moment....we will be happy in the ever present moment. Creating our success.

A footnote, my partner who for years I had to hound him in getting his teeth cleaned, even taking him to the dentist and got him started on Dental care many years ago. He was the first in his family to have dental care, so it was out of his experience. This morning while talking he said he had them cleaned without me reminding him, to make me proud.

23 March, 2010

Unexpected Emotion

A friend rushed to a rendezvous at my house, before another friend's party we were both going to. I was going to drive, but he wanted to quickly donate money on my computer for the charity picked out by the host in lieu of gifts. He sat down in my chair, and started to cry unexpectedly. It was not like him, usually very busy and shuns spirituality, yet passionate and caring in his own way. Never shocked, I leaned down to hug him, and said, “What is this about?.. it’s ok to cry.” But he was already starting to shelve the emotion. I am lucky in this respect, my brain injury doesn’t allow me to keep it in anymore. The term for this is called emotional lability, a common after effect of my injury, my Neurologist friend says. I often debate, is it from the near death experience or the brain injury?

Anyway, my friend shrugged it off, as a by-product of seeing two long-term friends move away from the USA that he has known for over 20 years. And it went no further. I also observed later the transference of his emotion to annoyance with people and life in general on the drive over to the party. Something I know I do as well, as I am no saint. Yet, I felt sorry that he did not feel comfortable enough to cry in front of me. At the party it stuck with me, and upon returning I sat down to meditate. The first hour was very colorful, and settling…my body dissolved away.

The second hour, I picked up a small, carved stone heart my Mom gave me years ago on the table nearby…why I did? I have no idea, having never done that in the past. The weight of it felt good in my hands, and I continued to meditate letting whatever came up, to do so. Interestingly again, my body disappeared. I settled on wishing love, and my friend came up, along with my mother and the awareness I will have to say goodbye to her one day. I found that I accessed the same grief he had, and tears were flowing down my cheeks for long time. The stone heart felt very heavy, and I broke down silently so as not disturb my roommate. I leaned over sobbing, when finished, I relaxed again thinking about all the people I love and the role they play in my life. I wished my schizophrenic sister well, as she has divorced herself from me based on her own paranoia. I still always bring up the good times between us, trying not to grasp on what was…more awareness of the real love she does have, when she is well.

But I came back to settle on my roommate, who I feel is going through a hard time. This person doesn’t speak to me very often and is very fixed in views…but at the same time has been witness to my life, toil and turmoil. He has watched my transformation with more meditation, yet is never asking about it. The stone heart was warm in my hands, and I thought about the gesture of giving him this heart still warm from my hands, when he would go past me on the way out the door that evening. While still in meditation, sent good thoughts for him to walk up past me. I was thinking of just gesturing and not speaking and holding the heart out in my hand. Knowing him well enough that he would not see the point of me giving it to him or perhaps be embarrassed. I thought sometimes the simplest gesture makes the greatest impact. I was ready in my heart to give it to him... my heart was beating heavy and fast. I heard him walking upstairs to leave but my eyes were still closed… I guess he saw me sitting and closed the door and walked back down to leave out of a different door. I thought maybe this is not the time, and then you might ask why I never called him to make sure I did it? People need help when they are ready for it, and there is really nothing we can do to speed things up. The best I can do is be warm, happy and honest while carrying the right intention…remembering the wise monks I have met in my life that have inspired me by only their presence.

19 March, 2010

Using Mindfulness with Decisions

I finished reading How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer, in which he illustrates his points by telling a few good stories packed with facts. It's fun interesting reading and reminds me of the old magazine Popular Science. The following excerpt from the book's conclusion begins to sound very similar to what Buddha taught about being self-aware and discovering the mindfulness that can come out of meditation.

“The emotional brain is especially useful at helping us make hard decisions. Its massive computational power—its ability to process millions of bits of data in parallel—ensures that you can analyze all the relevant information when assessing alternatives. Mysteries are broken down into manageable chunks, which are then translated into practical feelings. The reason these emotions are so intelligent is that they’ve managed to turn mistakes into educational events. …THINK ABOUT THINKING…The best way to make sure that you are using your brain properly is to study your brain at work, to listen to the argument in your head.”

So, if thoughts are where we have to look to...to make good decisions, then he is talking about mindfulness of thoughts. What better a way to examine your thoughts than meditation? And you don’t have to be Buddhist. Anyone can do this with practice… it’s just like riding a bike. You can make better decisions when you start to spend some time with your brain.

Sometimes people think the point of meditation is to stop thinking – to have a silent mind. This does happen occasionally, but it is not necessarily the point of meditation. Thoughts are an important part of life, and mindfulness practice is not supposed to be a struggle against them. We can benefit more by being friends with our thoughts than by regarding them as unfortunate distractions. In mindfulness, we are not stopping thoughts as much as overcoming any preoccupation we have with them.
However, mindfulness is not thinking about things, either. It is a non-discursive observation of our life in all its aspects. In those moments when thinking predominates, mindfulness is the clear and silent awareness that we are thinking. A piece of advice I found helpful and relaxing was when someone said, “For the purpose of meditation, nothing is particularly worth thinking about.” Thoughts can come and go as they wish, and the meditator does not need to become involved with them. We are not interested in engaging in the content of our thoughts. Mindfulness of thinking is simply recognizing that we are thinking.

—Gil Fronsdal, Mindfulness of Thoughts

14 March, 2010

Born Sweet

Every once in awhile there is a clear sign that your life, no matter how difficult it is, pales in comparison to others. This film Born Sweet is about Vinh and the people in Cambodia exposed to arsenic in the drinking water. Wells dug by well meaning NGO's in the past, hit naturally occurring ancient arsenic laid down millennia ago. They have since put in new wells, and developed a campaign to educate people. Thanks to Cynthia Wade, her film brings awareness to this problem with Vinh's help by highlighting RDI's role. RDI Cambodia is instrumental in weaving water technology and education and could use some help.

The Art of the Steal

And you thought Karl Rove was trying to rewrite history with his book? This will show you the corruption that happens frequently when business controls the world...the court...and the law. A detailed film about the undoing of a very specific will by a liberal, free thinking art collector, Albert C. Barnes. When we in America do corruption, we do it BIG.

12 March, 2010

Right Now or Not

I know I often live for the future even if it is only an hour ahead of now. In may be brought about from being apart from my partner while he is doing his Masters. Perhaps, I think we are avoiding the pain of seeing what is right now at this very moment. I call it, the uneasiness of being me. When meditating I find it much easier to relax into acceptance. I am not going anywhere, becomes very real as soon as I fold my legs. But I am aware there are so many things I should be doing and am not that brings the unease right up front and center. I have heard in the past that whenever you hear the word should brought up…mindfulness is not present. But luckily for me with this should does not come with too much judgment, unless I find myself fixating on things and people I don’t like. I am slowly learning about myself. Today, I took the bull by the horns by doing good things for 3 others in my life… spontaneous, kind and not done to get attention, more to lessen the focus on me and my current mental state. It sure beats finding things wrong with others. Remembering that we plant the seeds of our rebirth in the minds of others. Right now and very present.

08 March, 2010

The Odds of Being Disabled

After my hospitalization and discharge, I came home happily to discover self-pity, fear and anger stored inside a body that could not speak or eat. On many occasions “Why Me?” would pop out of my self-conscious and very gradually, it morphed into “Why Not Me?” That was partially born out of the sudden visibility(to me) of other people worse off than I, but also just out of the shear odds of becoming disabled. All I did was pick the wrong Dr. at the right time. I guess you won't be asking me for stock picks. Now, I am going to put forth a grand statement that will make a lot of you get itchy. At one point or another you all will become disabled in the future. It is not a matter of odds…it is just a matter of time…for all you.

Sure, you’re running a great marathon this weekend, and you think you'll be running up until you die. And you probably will… if odds are your favor. In one form or another, you will suffer some kind of disability, maybe small like losing your teeth, hair falling out or just tender knees. But, it could be be worse, a lot worse. And it will happen to you. It is just a matter of time. Damn, if someone told me this at 18, or even 30…I would have laughed at them. Now, I am not the devil or hell bent on making others miserable... and this sure ain't your Tarot reading.

I won’t bore you all on statistical averages on when or what kind. If you are that curious, perhaps you should dig them up. You can bet your bottom dollar that all the insurance companies know it and bet against you. It is just the facts. But, more importantly is when are you‘ll gonna wake up? We are them and they were us... at one time. If I had known this earlier, I would have saved for this rainy day, now.

Well, for some good news(relief, finally, you say).... I will tell anyone, when asked, that this injury was a blessing. It has brought me a key to the door of wisdom, and to be happy for what you have now, while you have it. Now, I'll just have to get around to opening this door.

05 March, 2010

The Experiencing Self & Remembering Self

"We actually don't chose between experiences, but we chose between memories of experiences. ...We think of our future in terms of anticipated memories!"

"There is genuine question:
Why do we put so much weight on memory,
relative to the weight we put on experiences?"
—Daniel Kahneman

Perhaps this why meditation works so well, we are putting our memories on the back burner, and creating new experiences as they dissipate.... with which to draw on in the future...Was Once

03 March, 2010

Prisoner of Circumstance

I am helping a friend move, and just unloaded a bunch of stuff outside his car and was waiting for him to come out. A red faced Russian man, smoking a pink wrapped long slim cigar, comes over to me blowing out smoke to the side, “Can I speak to you for a minute?”

Without time for me to answer he launches into a tirade about being locked up overnight by some kind of altercation with his woman. I really did not have any choice, but to listen, standing by all my friend’s things on the ground. So, I just tried my best to just hear him out. .. .a prisoner of circumstance. He offered me a "cigar-rette", which I kindly declined, but noting he was somewhat civilized. His accent was to hard to get it all, at his rate of rant or maybe it was the after-effects of drinking and no sleep… and I am good with accents. I began to day-dream about how he is a good character study, fighting his remorse by trying to engage me to commiserate. Of course, I agreed and nodded my head at appropriate times feigning interest. Wanna hire me?

I think it came down, when she did something dumb(it is always someone else’s fault), and he being drunk, rasied his voice and hand …not to strike her(he says) just to set her straight. And the cops were called. With statements about his 5 million dollar company, and how he would never hit for fear it would jeopardize his business. Is he bragging or is that ego talking? But he was still pissed by the cops that took her side and threw him into the drunk tank. And how he could get Shapiro (you know, the lawyer, he says) to close down this station.*&#_(@)#! Which just so happened to be 10 doors down from my friend’s new place.

He was on a roll after being cooped up, and finally my friend walked up to rescue me and the Russian from Odessa offered to help. I guess out of feeling guilty from unloading on me. I was the first person he encountered after his release…lucky me!

Under Buddha’s Eightfold Path right intention falls under wisdom. Wisdom that comes from a commitment to have good will and avoid anger and aversion. I have found in my practice, it is a little bit hard to maintain right intention in the heat of the moment, and I came up with this while in meditation. Before you say something truthfully or you feel your temperature going up before you jump into an issue that may seem warranted…look carefully at how you see the future of this incident. That seems to be easier to do, because it takes you out of immediate. Are you causing it to drag on longer and get further away from your goal? Being right in every instance might cause you to back track, apologize, or just throw good will out the window.

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