31 March, 2012

The Cries We Chose Not to Hear

I’ll be the first to admit I’m selectively compassionate. If it is the right person and the right time….boom! …there it is… in full technicolor. Ahh, but what about the others?

Last night’s meditation, I thought about a couple of neighbors who have since passed away. When I first moved into my house I have now, there was an older lady who lived next door. She was a drinker, and she would go out shopping drunk and leaving she would hit nearly every car near her, so we had to park far away from my house. She would return, and leave her car sticking out in the street. At first, I did talk to her and even took her groceries in from her car, but once I ascertained she was continually drunk, I quickly dropped dealing with her. A few times, she would ring my bell, drunk and just lay into me, making no sense as to what is was the trigger(now, I think it may have been that she wanted help). We know we can’t change people but several times it was obvious what she was doing was for attention. She lived alone and lonely, and she died in her house and was there 3 1/2 weeks before anybody noticed. I was busy with a huge house repair, and the police used my scaffolding to get into her window to find her body. At the time all I could say was, “Oh, well, big surprise!”

Then there was “Billy,” the man who used to wander drunk up and down the block looking for love my first few years. It slowly became apparent that at 50+, he was no longer the looker he once was and nobody returned his stares, so then he graduated to walking to find fresh cement just to put his name in the sidewalk. I caught him at 1 am, marking my new concrete I had poured for my driveway. He also could never make it into his garage, so he would park anywhere, in any direction. He used to wander by just to see if I found him “interesting," which helped to light my anger. He died in his house at 55, and I could not muster any compassion for him even dead. Some sadness now comes up, when I see his “Billy Was Here” mark in a sidewalk.

Now, we have our reasons not to be compassionate, thinking that everyone out there is like these two, not really cuddly and needy just the way we like it. We are failing in these cases not to see the suffering, and that part of us that is just like them, but of course in a much subtler display. Compassion is not all or nothing kind of thing, we can adjust when the subject is not cooperating. With these cases could have send them love rather than hate mentally and it would have made me actually happier by not carrying the hate.

I was no where close to a wise understanding at that time, and all I could see is my drunken dead father gathering the moss of disgust in my mind. So, in a way I contributed to their suffering, by not moving the hatred to an even more neutral disappointment laced with some concern. "Tough love,” you say, was what was needed at the time, but being angry with them only helped to fuel their disenchanted view of life. So, now I will never know if I could have been that person, the one that one certain day, when they really needed was a kind hello to shake the foundation of their delusions and help them wake up.

24 March, 2012

A Cry Heard 'round the World

I will put this forth as an idea, and whether is based in reality or not... you can debate. After my brain injury, when I had no voice for a long time and remained in silence… fatigued, resting at home. I remember laying on my heated floor looking up at the rafters, and now thinking about it still miss that heated floor(that’s another story). Within six months, I was going to work every other day to let my brain rest. A few years later, I met friend who invited me to meditate and then enjoy dinner with him at his house. My first time meditating I wanted peace, so desperately, that I sat for an hour, which shocked him and me. It was not but a few years earlier another friend suggested I meditate, and I made the lame excuse of my brain injury would not let me. That started me on pursing meditation, slow at first with him, and later at temple. Funny, I have inspired that other friend to go do a Vipassana, turning the cards on him.

My partner has had a hard life, abandoned by his parents at birth, when they separated and moved far away leaving him with an old village couple unrelated to him. Raised by these kind souls, he was very close to his “grandmother,” he told me. It was very hard for him, since they were poor rice farmers and had thus no money. In elementary school, World Vision helped to feed him, and he gave donations to them twice this year, with his meager salary, even though he is Buddhist. He is eating less, just to honor those in the world that have no food. At one point in his early years he had to ordain for a year, just to have enough food to eat. Not treated well by the abbot of the temple in his village, he was treated more like a slave. His grandmother died about a year before we met. It rocked his world when the only person he really could count on growing up was gone. He got very ill, and almost died. He “cried” out in pain and perhaps, I “heard” him across the world. When we met it was out of extraordinary circumstances (yet another story). We established enough of a bond during our first month, that it launched our relationship.

Two things seem to me to be at work here, since the chance of us meeting was so rare, as neither of us were looking for a relationship. One is the primal need or the cry of another human being “heard” when one quiets down. The second one, is I am beginning to feel that his grandmother sent me to him. When we met I went to his village and met his grandfather who was still alive, who liked to sit and watch me. I remember sitting with the grandfather and his friends enjoying some home made rice wine on mats outdoors under the stars. We saw a huge shooting star that night, and have night photos of us looking up. This year will celebrate our 12th anniversary, and now it’s the longest relationship of all my siblings. My partner's Master's graduation ceremony is in April, with a famous Thai princess handing him his diploma.

I give to Buddhist Global Relief to help feed people and Bhikkhu Bodhi has heart-breaking, 3 part story of his early years as a hungry monk in Sri Lanka HERE.

18 March, 2012

Don't Mess with my Teeth

It was time to get my veneers on my teeth replaced. A crazy orthodontist when I was a kid pulled 4 eye teeth out of my mouth at 13 when my jaw was not even developed and I was slow to mature anyway, essentially screwing up my bite forever. He actually over-dosed me on anesthesia, resulting in me tripping for a day and a half and yelling at my mom to leave me alone. Wrongly attributed to an allergy, and then to adolescent rebellion, my mom didn't know I was gay, the source of much anger. A loner only because society made it clear they hated me, I felt. I can still bring up the memory of me being escorted out of the office higher than a kite. I had braces twice, and I cursed him out later as an adult calling just to say, “You made money off my suffering.” Not exactly a bright thing to do, but that me twenty-five years ago. I kept them and had a hippie woman make Macramé a necklace of them in high school, never quite understanding until now that it was yet another symbol of my pain. I have veneers solely to beef up the teeth to make up for the ones pulled. They broke during the seizures I had with my near death in 1994, cutting into my tongue, and lower lip. Thankfully, I was so mentally gone I was in no pain, then. Yet another reason to enjoy the fruits of my brain injury, which has never come up in Vipassana ...as something I need to deal with. I have really effectively moved this into gratitude for who I am now.

Anyway, in the dental office today as the temporaries broke for the second time, meaning I won’t be able to eat food, only liquid until the real deal is put back in. I was thinking more about the money this would cost me, is enough to support a family of five in Myanmar, recalling the family I helped there. Looking at the ceiling light above me in the room, I thought about how foolish it is, to fix teeth on a man past his prime. Who I am trying to impress? Certainly, I don’t want my partner, family and friends to disregard any wisdom I can share, based on the fact that I have let myself go. I am still a member of their society, and as such… I have be play by their rules. It is for my health first and my ego second, but I would like wisdom above all.

“Now I'm just letting you know about these things... the suffering that arises from within, that arises within our own bodies. There's nothing within the body you can depend on. It's not too bad when you're still young, but as you get older things begin to break down. Everything begins to fall apart. Conditions go their natural way. Whether we laugh or cry over them they just go on their way. It makes no difference how we live or die, makes no difference to them. And there's no knowledge or science, which can prevent this natural course of things. You may get a dentist to look at your teeth, but even if he can fix them they still eventually go their natural way. Eventually even the dentist has the same trouble. Everything falls apart in the end.” — Ajahn Chah

10 March, 2012

We Are the Sum Total ...of What?

Are we are really only a sum total of everything we have experienced and have been taught? This came up during my ten-day Vipassana sit, of which 7 of the 11 hours a day were spent in a pagoda cell. My ways of dealing with life seem to be solely a product of what I have been taught combined with what I, as a gay child experienced. Not that I can’t unlearn some things, it just seems like the panic of having no where to go, and no one to turn to, even as a role model. Or even someone to explain to me why everyone is so hurtful. I was lucky enough to have some common sense and a few survival skills based mostly on the love that my Mom and I shared the first four years of my life, before my siblings came into being.

When the neighbor kid was playing with his friend, I did not join in, mainly because I knew love was never supposed to be an outcome. I felt this might be my reaction to any sexual affection, my intuition said stay away. The same when someone was interested in me in freshman year of college. Yet, in junior high and high school I had to mainly deflect the bullies and my parents crazy assumptions that two of the woman who were in my life were even remotely interesting. As a kid, I had firmly made a decision during a "birds and bees talk" that I was never going to have sex with a woman, for me it was un-natural. As a adolescent, one woman was an ugly bull dike that I worked with, and I had to be nice to her or she would kick my ass. Later, the other woman was an attractive and more affluent, yet lost in a sea of deadbeat straight men. The dike, I now feel ...served a purpose, she was physically uglier than I felt internally about myself at the time. When she threw a hammer at me over something dumb, and hit my arm…she was terminated from my life. It was time to move on, to where I met the other woman. Kinder and gentler, she knew deep down about me, but did not want to face it. I was more like a masculine mirror of her. Many years later, she was in town and I hope she did not agree to have lunch with the idea I might be a candidate for a relationship. When we parted it was for forever, and so I am beginning to think that she had other ideas. Did I have to play straight in order to survive. confusing others? It worked until my roommate in college ‘found’ magazines hidden under my mattress, in a planned attack to expose me among three friends studying in my room…my whole world was collapsing at the same moment some gay freak was stalking me. Embarrassed, I had to tell my R.A., and eventually my parents before someone else told them. Then I quit college and ran far away.

Running to a ski town, I landed with three other misfits, sadly all straight, I was no better off. But I held out for love, wanting my first relationship with a boy to be what I really needed and imagined. This intuition helped guide me into a few successful relationships, and kept me healthy. And my rejection by society as a kid, growing up helped form my phony elitism, where I set higher and higher standards. I went through this confusion and hurt from my childhood in my ten-day Vipassana, I cried for the kid who had nowhere to go…this cry came out in the form of anger. Anger that exhausted me the first day in appeared in my pagoda cell, to the point of folding over in a seated posture, snoring and fast asleep. It died down over three days, and worked itself out.

All this pain had wrapped my heart in "black tape", and it felt great to dissolve it. I never feared it, and actually looked forward to each sit, so when Metta came next it actually seemed like the perfect natural transition. I recalled the woman who helped to inspire me on this path, thanked her profusely. I was lucky enough to be able to say good-bye by email before she died, since I was far away at the time. She died happy, because she gave it all she got, natural love. This same natural love is my heart's true nature, and she knew this.

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