Category: meditations

a day off

roxiannoyedA few days ago, i called a friend and begged her to help me out today. i should have been in a gallery in Southwest Harbor, but knew if i didn’t have a day off to heal, decompress and rest, i would be creating a world of pain for myself.

She agreed, bless her heart, and here i am on the couch with the computer on my lap, heating pad (another gift from a friend) behind my back, my softest work dress on and very little work – other than writing and some gentle computerized toil for clients – getting done. Laundry chugs in the washer, but that is about as ambitious as i feel right at this moment. Having the whole day to myself feels luxurious. i don’t want to make too many impositions.

As a result, mostly, i am breathing slowly and with intent. Last night, i had a vivid dream about starting a meditation group at my new 9-5 employment which reminded me, i have been too exhausted to do my normal centering, healing meditation. So, as soon as i crawled out of bed, i mediated for the first half hour of wakefulness. Then, after a few poems and a small nap, i went back to it. i curled up here, on the couch, took that first deep breath, and was immediately beset upon by cats.

For weeks my female cat, Roxanne, has been angry with me. After Darwin died, she fell into deep grief. She stopped sleeping on the bed. Her pugilistic attitude toward her younger cat brother has not improved – if anything it has escalated. The only time where this lifted was when her favorite human in the world visited, but when he left again, she fell right back into her grumpy melancholy. Most of all, she still seems to be grieving Darwin – just as i am.

However, as soon as i sat down for tonglen this morning, she wrapped herself around my thigh. Her soft fur rubbed over my leg while she purred with ecstasy. Perhaps, she is not just grieving our beloved dog, but the changes that have come upon our life – transformations over which she had no control. If she could mandate the intricacies universe, she would have her bipedal slave around a lot more often. And have a minimum of 8 cans of wet food a day that she could stare at, eat two nibbles of, and then abandon. Failing that, she suffers.

As i pet her side, vibrating with purrs of sweet comfort, i am a bit surprised at how easy it was to give her joy.

Indeed, the same is true for me. Little things have been filling me with happiness. i have been surprising myself. In some ways, i am coping with this transition much better than expected.

However, there are a few fascinating little developments. After all these years working as an artist, letting my entire life revolve around the creation of novel, poem, painting and pottery, i had forgotten how strangely out of step i can be with other people. This is different than the loneliness over which i have written thousands of pages – this is being the one person drumming out a syncopated rhythm while the rest of the band is playing a march.

i am remembering all the years of my schooling, the years in the traditional work force during my youth. i always felt on the outside, but the past few years had driven the memory from my mind. Frankly, those i was normally around wanted to buy art or made it themselves. As an artist, i was focused and professional, but typically alone and self-driven. All education, training and help i received had to be sought out on some level. Being in a structured, large business environment – one to which i have adapted with some facility – drives home that my heart beats for different things than a lot of people, my thoughts come in at a different angle, and that the speed and grace of my gait as i walk through this world are not typicalIMG_0213

Also, i am being reminded that this body needs gentle, loving care. Working at home, i could vary my tasks frequently, nap if necessary, basically live as though i were a cat. When my health crashed over the past two years, i became more and more overwhelmed because it all landed on my shoulders, but i never quite surrendered – or at least not for more than a day or two at a time. Mountains were created and then studiously moved teaspoon by teaspoon. While i enjoyed this workflow, but that is not possible at this new job. i have to be able to sit still, focus and learn at high speed. My compassion will be tested, for myself if not others. i can see the pain of back and limb as a failure, as a judgment. But, these limitations are not condemnations of me – they are realities i have to face and to which i must adapt.

Part of that was asking – begging – for help today. i could sense i had reached a limit, and i needed to be gentle with myself. It is also governing my behavior today. Oh, there is so much art i want to make, so many chores that need to get done. For weeks, i have been treating myself with kid gloves when i come home from work – resting, trying to ease my pain, letting myself sleep when i need to regardless of how badly my to-do list stomps around. (It can act like Godzilla, thrashing around, tearing down my plans.) For the first time in my life, i have been fully accepting the messages my body sends me and obeying.

i would love to tell you that the dishes and all the laundry will be done, put a way and the floors swept and scrubbed today, while i still managed to get all the clients’ jobs done and finished the three paintings that i started last week all while airing out the studio and getting it ready to reopen. Oh, how i would adore it if i could confidently say that today will become the pivot upon which my life will turn and everything will be magically stable and glorious. But, if all i can do is sleep, or write, or rest here on the couch like a large drooling lump, curled up with a smaller purring, drooling lump, then that is alright. This is about what my body and spirit need more than my ambitions and dreams.

There are many people that i fail – like my poor realtor who has never had a pristine house to show because i still live here alone, and have to work around both my health and being perpetually exhausted – but today, i am deliberately putting that guilt and shame aside. It flows out of me on my breath.

This is the day for me to be kind to myself.

If i can manage that, then i believe, the rest of those who depend on me will get better results in the end.

And for now, there is really nothing more healing than this moment of contented cuddling.

The energy of pain.

If you were sitting across the table from me right now, watching me fidget and listening to me laugh too loudly, i would tell you: this is the energy of pain.  For months i have been retreating as often as i could into mediation and stillness. The sensation of being inside this skin was so overwhelming that i hid inside the sanctuary of solitude and quiet. As a result, my ability to listen to my body is stronger than it has ever been. So, trust me when i say that as i write these words, the energy of pain sings in high relief within my awareness.

Before it gets incapacitating, pain can create a perverse surge of energy.  Perhaps this is actually the need for distraction, building up inside until it starts to burble out in images, in stories, and in attempts to work that feel more like spasms than anything useful. Limbs cause enough discomfort to keep me from standing for a long time. Twelve days out of surgery, i have to keep myself from lifting heavy things. My body needs me to be conscious of my limitations.

The miraculous shift in my flesh has made such self-restraint chafe.  i want to do and go and be! The pain is so much better! Optimism so fierce that it borders on delusion has returned to my soul! Quietly, slowly, my internal engines of inspiration, discipline and resiliency have started to churn once more.

Months ago, i made a resolution to be kind to myself. i renewed the vow at the beginning of lent (giving up my tendency to verbally abuse myself when i am in distress.) However, after so long down, after ten months watching my circumstances disintegrate while my body could not function well enough to fix the problem, i am welcoming any energy that comes to me – even that which carries this unpleasant hue.  i cannot repress the feeling that all will be well, simply because one simple surgery could change so much.

My uterus, the tumors that were trying to break out of it, and about half the load of pain i had been bearing were removed in a four hour long operation. (According to one of the surgeons a tumor that was peeking out of the organ had its own tumors, like little unwanted ears.  No wonder the process of removal took some time.) The first thing i said when i came out of anesthesia was “Oh, my God, the pain is so much better.”  And in the days following surgery it became even more apparent. Recuperating at a friend’s house, i felt like i was taking advantage of her kindness.  Despite the incisions, i felt stronger and more able than i had for at least a year.

i can tell my body is wounded and healing.  This has done nothing to fix my hips or my problems with my spine, not to mention fibromyalgia, diabetes and the other health issues with which i struggle, but this current level of pain does not incapacitate me.  Even with the buildup of energy that i am experiencing right now, i am coherent enough to write. i am aware enough to be filled with ideas and inspiration.  i could literally burst with hope, simply because i am no longer feeling completely impotent inside my skin.

Before surgery, i kept thinking about my journey. The part of me that tried to get pregnant for twelve years mourned. All the hopes and dreams that i had lost over the years passed through me like shades, giving me the opportunity to ask them to leave, to be carried out of me with my womb.  Once the hysterectomy was finished, i was filled with a sense of peaceful closure. i will always feel some grief over the family i never had, but the contentment is greater. Even more profound, i accepted something that i had said before but never quite let settle down into my cells: i am the end of my line, which means, damn it, i need to stand up and make this journey worth all the trouble and suffering.

So, if you see me over the next few days, and i am bouncing or drifting on my feet, talking too fast about random things, getting so excited about the thought of making art and crafting story again, please forgive me. i believe i am finally able to dig myself out of this hole, and i am marshaling whatever forces i can toward that goal. The energy of pain can be off-putting to the people around me, i know, but please understand, i am giving thanks every single moment for the fact that my body’s burdens have grown lighter.

 

poem: feathers

Close my eyes
and the world
opens up
into a riot
of color and music.

A few slow breaths
and the wings
of my Spirit
extend
until i can brush
the corners
of Creation
with my feathers.

In the stillness,
quiet becomes music
filling every empty space
with absolute loving joy.

It is so tempting,
to hide within
this glorious refuge
of communion and dream –
but eventually
the eyes must open
and the sounds of life
register upon the ears.

But even awakened,
the experience remains.

i smile with joy
as i remember
those wings
and the infinite bliss
of that sublime
sacred
ecstatic
dance.

16 december 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

poem: like a fragile flower

Like a fragile flower
i am vulnerable to extremes.

Too hot,
too cold,
too hard,
too soft,
any deficit or surplus
can destroy the leaves,
the stem,
the petals.

My roots
do not travel down
far enough
to make much difference –
the wind can still
carry me off.

This is a path covered
with sharp,
unforgiving rocks
and i have no shoes.

Thus, i walk carefully,
with gentle slowness,
ever deepening my awareness
of where i am
right
now.

What do i need in this moment?

To remember
that for all my delicate fibers
i am stronger than i think.

What do i need in this instant?

To listen –
i bend to the whispers
of body and soul.

17 november 2015

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.