Tag: calm

Delinquency

i am now eighteen days past surgery and i cannot stop sleeping.  Well, i can, for very short spurts, long enough to take the dog out for a walk or to feed myself, but otherwise, i am back in bed with speed.

Thankfully, i have been writing, but there will be some substantial editing to do when i type these words in, once i have all my faculties going.  Right now, i find that the things that work best come in to me: reading, watching documentaries, listening to people.  Going out – writing, art, (God help me) work for clients – those are all taking inordinate amounts of time and energy.  If they can happen at all.  Yesterday i tried, i chained myself to the laptop and got halfway through one project, but then could do no more.  i was making foolish mistakes because my body was crying for rest.

If i am not careful, i will start chastising myself for this – thinking that this idleness is delinquency rather than recuperation. Half of the battle right now is to refrain from being mean to myself for what i perceive are shortfalls and weakness.

My doctor, last Friday, reminded me that i was still in recovery from the surgery.  She asked me to be kind to myself, to take it easy: no heavy lifting, no bending way down, rest as i need it. And i am doing exactly that, even if the frustration of it brings me to tears.

This means i am behind deadline, that the sink is piled with dirty dishes (again), that my heart aches because of all the things i want to do. Even when i am unable, my mind continues to create story and play with painting. Still, every other time i’ve had a major illness or injury, i ran back into the embrace of work, desperate for money but also desperate for the fulfillment and distraction that it brought.  This time, either at the worst or the best time for it, i am actually going to take care of myself.  Today, i will finish that project, and another, but it will be while swaddled in warmth and possibly interspersed with a nap or two…

poem: their sputtering ire

Their sputtering ire
means nothing to me.
It flowed right over
and dissolved
into the ground.

Shit has always been
good fertilizer.

For the first time
i can clearly see
the blessing
expressed
by their outrage.

If i had surrendered
my needs
and my reality
to their whim,
contorting myself
into strange shapes
to placate them,
there would be no wrath
raining down
on my head.

But, i did not
sublimate my soul
to their insults.

i pushed back.

i severed ties.

i moved on.

i grew stronger
using the crap
they threw at me
as fuel
for my fire.

Climbing up on the smoke,
i started to reach the sky.

31 october 2015

meditation

poem: delicate balance

The engine
of my ambition
has broken down today.

It sits in the sun-drenched field
like an ancient tractor,
unwilling to move.

It has served its time.

All that is left
is this intense need
for quiet and stillness –
i would do nothing today
that would compromise
this delicate balance,
for one hand holds peace
while the other dances
with oncoming winter.

There is no shame
in movement,
for i am normally driven.
i love the days
when wild ebullience
flows through me
like music,
riding bareback
on ink
or paint
or clay.

Ah, but not right now.
In this instant
i am the wind
and the leaf,
completely clear
in my vision
if i don’t wreck my focus
by trying.

30 november 2015

motes of dust

Today was the first day in God knows how long that I had no appointments, nothing that had to be done two days ago, no one tapping their foot, waiting for my time.  This was a blessing of the highest order.  Don’t get me wrong, as I wrote in yesterday’s blog, I have a thousand things to do.  Chaos and mess surround me.  Stress and anxiety could kill me if I let them. But no one stands over me with a whip, demanding every second of my afternoon.  For once, all of the pressure and plans were self-inflicted.  Once I realized this, I gave myself a gift: I went upstairs with a book, and alternated between reading and meditating.

Stillness is awesome when I can achieve it.  Calm and quiet can nurture as much as food buddhaandspiritand water. For long stretches there was nothing but the words of the book, then for more spells I sat quietly inside this beloved space I will soon be turning over to the embrace of winter, listening to everything going on around me, opening my eyes to see tiny motes of dust dancing through the air – a ballet of sorts, just for me, feeling the dog’s heavy breathing as much as hearing it while he slept nearby.  As much as I want to sell my art, I was grateful for the lack of customers.  The stillness could gently recenter me without distraction.

That is my gratitude right now: for a chance to be still, quiet and empty myself of thoughts and worry.  I think I might steal another half hour… and then maybe I’ll give myself another gift, the chance to throw.

meditation

Gratitude meditation

I haven’t done this before, but I am following up with more specifics for the meditation mentioned in my other blog today. Although, now that I come to write it, I am having a hard time figuring out if this is a meditation or guided self-therapy. Most of my favorite meditations: tonglen, lecta divina, are much less chatty and visually oriented than this one was. Still, it helped. I will focus on the last stretch, when I had finally calmed down the howling worry and heartache. Imagine the hour and a half of gnashing of teeth that came before – just listening to it and trying not to fight it. Once I began to quiet a bit and could focus on the cure rather than enduring the despair, the path went something like this:

– I am grateful for my legs (I was inverted, with my legs above me in the air) that they have been holding me up for so long. They look thinner and stronger than they have in years – I am grateful for the chance to bring that appearance into how they manifest physically. I am grateful for my feet and for that in this moment, I can feel them.

– I am grateful for my hands, heavy though they feel, because they can make such beautiful art. I am grateful that they are also content to lie still for a few moments.

– I am grateful that I have this soft skin, and this body so eager for sensation. The fan blows over me and I see a wild array of color, which fills me with gratitude. While my vision is very blurry right now, I am grateful because the world is still recognizable despite the haze.

– I am grateful that I am breathing, even though it hurts, because without that there would be no life. Around all these difficulties, despite them, life can be so very wonderful. I am grateful for the rhythm that the lungs and heart create – it soothes me when I can quiet down enough to hear it.

– I am grateful that I can be this still and quiet and not fall asleep! I can listen deeply to the world, hearing sounds that normally would not come to me. The dog’s snoring brings me much comfort. Every time the meditation buzzer goes off, I know that another twelve minutes has passed, all the blood in my body has done the full circuit and change has occurred.

– I am grateful that I have this building in which to dwell. It may be gone tomorrow, but for now, I have this marvelous space soaring above me and the softness of the cushions below me.

– I am grateful for the people who have come here, admiring my work and the effort of my hands, even though they have not purchased anything. Having my words read, my art seen, the pots I have made handled, all provides sublime satisfaction.

– I am most grateful for the quiet that I have finally found within myself. Now that I think about it, i am also grateful for the howling, deadly despair that filled me this morning – it proves that I still care, that I have not surrendered completely, and that I still exist. Its ebbing away proves that I am getting better.

– I am grateful that even though I have been exhausted beyond measure today, I managed to write. The poems and prose are so terribly sad, but they helped to exorcize my depression. I am grateful that the flow of words, watching the ink flow from my pen in this wonderful sensual delight of writing, can soothe me to my bones.

I kept going, finding things wonderful and tiny to give thanks for: the softness of the pillow beneath my head, the sunlight streaming in through the windows, the hidden communion with the world that I feel when I just sit and listen to it go by.

Maybe this will help – for honestly right now, this kind of practice is the only thing keeping me going.

another poem: the stillness remains

BARE ANGELi drown
and the stillness remains.

i struggle and thrash
but one foot stays anchored
inside an oasis of grateful quiet.

i cry out in need and longing
but feel as though
i have been answered enough
that i do not require a response.

i pray
often and loudly,
with endless lists
of requests –
and i recognize the fraud in myself,
for i know
none of it matters,
not my bank account,
or my credit rating,
or my current mood,
or my overwhelm,
or my dreams.

i used to beg.

i sought awakening
like a starving man food;
hints of the divine,
like one dying of thirst.

Now,
underneath all the temporary tumult,
i feel quiet,
calm,
and filled with love.

On the surface,
i remain a mess of stress,
but when i glance at my core,
i realize that my depths
have grown too still to care.

30 april 2014

Stillness

Earlier today I wrote about being overwhelmed. After an hour and a half of rest and hiding, I went back out to the studio. It took a while to focus, I paced while the water for throwing heated up. I made sure I wedged the clay a couple times, just to waste more time. But eventually I found the discipline to sit down at the wheel.

Truly, I could write about the therapeutic joy of art for years, but the words would be hollow compared to the experience. Between the music playing and the focus throwing required, my overwhelm had no chance.

After 20 dessert cups and five plates, I felt centered again. Each time I transformed a lump of mud into something beautiful and useful, it helped vanquish my worry. Throwing gave me heart again.

Now I am ready for bed and once more find myself awash in this quiet, still contentment.

Gratitude overflows from me.

20140131-235342.jpg

worry for a friend

broken heart copyTonight, I am worried about a friend of mine. It bothers me that I cannot do more than just provide a meal and listen to the chaos moving through his life.  Every once in a while, I wish I had the resources to transform the world – or even a few individual lives – but for now I don’t. It is all that I can do some days to keep myself going. Perhaps that is why I wrote the blog that posted several entries ago about being defiant in conversations about the future. My current calmness came about because I clearly recognized it was an issue of survival to accept that I cannot predict the future, good or bad.  If I kept to my old patterns, I would continue tearing myself down with negativity or paralyzing myself into immobility through blind fear. Without some self-awareness, I would run the risk of over-compensating and sabotaging myself with hubris.  It has been hard work – meditation, prayer and cognitive retraining – to get to the place where I am now and it often seems like I am standing on the pivot of a see-saw that has been greased. I have to stay awake to stay balanced.  Sliding off in one direction or another can be fast and frictionless; being centered requires constant, conscious practice.  But none of that helps him.  I listened to him talk and felt the ache of powerless start.  I cannot rescue anyone; I cannot ease his suffering.

He has crossed the boundary from stressed and vulnerable into something more perilous.  I realize that I walk a thin line most days, as most of us do. Viscerally, I also know how easy it is to fall.  Watching such troubles happen to someone that I care about, listening to his grief when I cannot do anything substantial to help, continues to feel overwhelming even hours after I dropped him off at his cold house and watched him trudge up icy stairs.  An ache of worry moves within my skin.

I tried to write about other things and failed.  Watching television made my head hurt as though avoidance created this cacophony within my skull; I kept turning the volume down until I was left with silence. Then I started typing in poetry but couldn’t focus. Website coding suffered the same fate.  I could not figure out what items to put for sale on Houzz.

sea foam
sea foam

Then I stopped thrashing. Experience has taught me that the more I try to distract myself the longer this agitation will last, although sometimes I am a bit thick-headed and forget the lesson for awhile. Thus, I am left with waves of concern crashing over my awareness.  Since I cannot fight them off, and continuing to ignore them would be foolish, I have been watching them come, flow over me, and then pull back to regroup for the next inundation.

Simultaneously, I am holding in my palms an acute understanding that all human beings are ultimately small and vulnerable and that, in turn, leaves my zen trembling.  Just barely, I stay on the center of the see-saw by looking deeply into my heart and seeing that loving calm and still quiet remain, like an impervious rocks, allowing all the emotions flow over, recede, then come back. I am somewhat soothed.

roxi 300x300At any rate, I had vowed to write a blog when I got home tonight and I try to be true to my promises – even the ones I make to myself for no good reason.  So, I here am.

Instead of writing anything of note, though, I have decided to leave you with a picture of my cat Roxi (also known as Roxanny Wanny of the Big Ginormous Fanny).

Years ago, when a spasm of bordem (on my part) met with blessed patience (on her part) I put the this wee feather boa on her to make her look like a lion.  But, instead she looked like Animal from the Muppets.

At any rate, the photo always makes me smile – and I needed a smile tonight.

May these words find you warm and safe and surrounded by love.  Peace be with you all.