Category Archives: Zen
The day your reach perfection….
I think our roads to emotional recovery, no matter the source of injury, are as individual as we are. Perhaps some roads have more in common than not.
Childhood trauma survivors are just that, survivors. And what I think they have in common, especially when a lot of their trauma was pre-verbal, pre-walking, is that it is almost impossible to recognize the wound. It has no description, no words, therefore no reference points other than triggered responses to phenomena.
Recently, I learned something for myself. I learned yet again (since I learn this every so often) that my trauma was more traumatic than I make it out to be. In relation to non-trauma, my trauma was severe and long lasting, as well as self perpetuating. That which made it severe was that it was so fucking painful. Often, the deepest pain is that there are still no words, no way to tell it, to get a witness, to make it feel less lonely of a cross to bear.
I think this may be the value of stories. If I can sit with those who accompanied me down my path of post trauma, even while I continued to be traumatized, and if I can hear their stories about their lives while on a path with me, maybe I can broaden my perspective, be able to see through their eyes, stay still while they tell their story, and accompany them without being triggered.
I don’t know if anyone who was with me, and by this I mean my sons primarily, would want to tell me their childhood memories of life with their mother, because they may be afraid of hurting me. But I think I can listen and not take on the pain, because I already have the pain in me. I was there. It lives in my body. I think it may lift if I hear it from their lips. I may be released from the prison of self doubt.
Self doubt arises out of shame, and shame arises out of guilt, and guilt all too often stacks the skeletons in the closet, then goes forth carrying the closet around in the mind of the owner. That is where secrets are stored, isn’t it?
Life sucks, and then you die. Life is beautiful, and then you die. Is it any wonder we struggle sometimes when both of those facts are true? It turns out, they are not opposites. They are co-habitants of our bodies.
We feel. We feel through our bodies’ sensors. We then put words and descriptions and diagnoses and problems and solutions to the test. We try to think our way out of the struggle, but the struggle is held in our bodies, in our soma. The soma is a good place to start a healing journey.
A good massage that touches your skin, delineates your joints and spinal configuration, as well as muscle shapes, can bring your mind into your body and begin a conversation with yourself about who “you” are and what you feel, not just think.
Hatha Yoga, as well as the eight limbs of yoga, serve as internal massage for both the body and the thoughts, as you work to strengthen and make flexible your body as well as your mind, replacing distraction and discursive thought with complete presence in the present.
One more thing. Do not hurry toward perfection, thinking it is a goal in life. The day you reach perfection is the day you leave an imperfect body and an imperfect life. Live instead, in the wisdom of imperfection.
There is a first time for everything. There is a last time for everything.
Age is another name for paradox these days. Having first times in my 70’s seems both natural and unique at the same time. There is an underlying feeling that nothing is new anymore, coupled with enormous gratitude to find that everything is new – that indeed the saying is truly warranted: “Today is the first day of the rest of my life.” So remember this. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. 🙂
From Nest to Wing
From Nest to Wing
What if you are inside an egg, in a nest or womb, whichever it may be called? Imagine you are gestating. You are being created. I wonder what that feels like.
And then I know. It feels like this: What the hell is going on? Every thing in every direction is changing in every split second!
Humongous, here-to-fore unimagined, Changes and Experiences. Yet, there is this light from the sun that warms me each day and somehow instills a light within me. The sun illuminates my Gestating Body. At night, Mother covers and protects me from the invisibility of darkness and sits with me over seasons of full moons.
Imagine that you are being loved, not even that, you really ARE love, without comparison to anything, while being prepared to be born, to hatch.
What if the stage of life in which you find yourself today, is another stage, that of taking to the wing? Can you imagine the vastness of space and time that exist for you when you leave your nest? For you, it may feel that the ground has fallen from beneath you. Gravity is no longer limiting in its usual way. Instead, you feel energized to resist gravity and spread your wings. Becoming unstuck from the ground of your existence, liberates you into a vastness of new ground, and maybe a new definition of the word. We ground ourselves when we touch the earth. We release our consciousness into a vast and very pregnant reality when we soar.
Truly though, soaring above? Soaring beneath? Are there two places?
We could not have imagined this, because our brains need reference points, and new means you have no reference points. This could be scary, if not for understanding that indeed you have been here before. Somehow, someway, you recognize this. Search for something familiar, perhaps you find it in a person, plant, animal, or mineral.
Recognition like this means you are recognizing yourself. Yourself is changing so fast that you will have no reference points, which would induce you to hold onto something, such as a solid unchanging self, or an ideology. Ideology and selfhood represent a shore you can hold onto. But the minute you attach yourself to ideology or a fixed self, your growth toward what awaits you in the beyond slows. You are holding onto shore while the river flows on. Now you can see that you can make choices and have some control as to how you titrate the experience of spaciousness into which your are inevitably going. Titration is the gradual way. If you need to catch your breath, you might hold on for a minute or two.
Back to the analogy of the nest, many people wisely choose slow, contemplative steps, trying out the wings a bit at a time. Some move between riding the rapids and slowing down, pulling some cover over our heads when our emotions feel very strained. We can go inside that shadowy nest, where we remember and rest in the comfort from which we came.
Your nest may be a bedroom or garden or hike into the wilds, or just sitting or lying down wherever you are and giving up all effort. Isn’t that the nest? The place where we give up all effort? Relaxation is the act of giving up effort, which is why you do not relax when you are making an effort to do so. Gestation is effortless for the mind. Go back into gestation when you need regeneration. Those two words are synonymous in this case.
Slow down, go back to your original self, quit all effort, and be where your are being, doing what you are doing, without effort. Sitting or moving meditation, such as walking and Hatha yoga, are the most ancient ways I know of, to bring internal activity to a halt. Walking and yoga are done while halting the mind, and these methods are challenging us to be still in order to touch the most subtle reality, our own innate creation in process.
Guess what. Whether you are young or old, you are being created. Your are being created by every thought, feeling, and act that you have.
Hell is defined by Struggle, Anger and Resistance to Change and Transition.
Thanks to Change, the sun came up this morning. Praise be to Change for the light.
Thanks be to Change for the moon and its seasons. Praise be to Change.
Oh Change, make me strong enough to live in harmony with you. Give me the healing energy I need to transcend the past as constantly as I am energized to embrace the present.
And when I am too tired, dear Change, direct my attention to the nest, to the ground of my existence, for rest and repair.
Thank you, Change. I see that there is no life without you.
Thank you, Change, for including me in your plans for the human path on earth.
Help me, Change, to come and go in peace. I can think of no supplication to you, but that, to take to the nest and then to the sky, in peace, over and over, forever.
I am comfortable replacing the word, Change, with the word, God. Religious minds will not like that. I don’t mind at all. Truth is true no matter who believes what. Belief in a solid never-changing version of that which continually changes, is confusing and limiting for me. Names can be confusing, with so many individual definitions out there. I love God. I love Jesus. I love the wisdom keepers and prophets who teach me in order to prepare me for these times. And in these times, I have momentarily at least, replaced the word God, with the word Change. Not asking anyone else to do so. But it is an interesting experiment if you do use the name God in your thoughts and speech, to replace the word with Change, just for a day. Call me Judy. Call me Judy K. Call me Jude. Call me Ms Harmon. Call me Mom. Call me dear one. Call me anything at all. The same person resides beneath a multiplicity of names. That is how I see names. Honor the names you use. Use names sweetly and with reverence. including your own name. Including your own name. Including Your. Own. Name.
Name it and Blame it
Have you noticed how people love to put a name on something, then hate or love it, then try to get others to join them in their hate or love? Critical Race Theory is the most recent example.
Critical thinking requires a further step beyond reacting to a name. The name is pointing at something. That something is what we could be talking about. Forget the name and call it what you will. If we need to learn about race, systemic injustice, and inequity, go ahead and make up your own name for that, as long as it does not detract from that to which it refers. Make sense? Who can argue that human beings need education in the subject of social justice? But you can argue all day long about the name of a theory.
A teaching attributed to Buddha tells about his pointing to the moon, asking people to study the moon. But, he said, “you are studying my finger, not that to which it points!” Grabbing onto a teaching or teacher, rather than the subject of the teaching or teacher is an example of lazy reaction rather than critical thinking.
It is so easy to spread anger, ideology, belief, bias, and to incite judgemental behavior, just by getting people to focus on the name of a problem, rather than on the problem at hand. Frankly, I find it maddening.
Come on people. Can we not do better?
Seventy Years and Counting
I have decided to live 100 years. Well, why not? Can I not decide on anything I wish? Isn’t anything possible? That which is not in my control will determine so very much of the future. That which is in my control are my thoughts, decisions and daily actions. I make plans, not to achieve their end, but to have a direction that allows for the inevitable change in them. No plan, no changing the plan. You see? What changes? Nothing. Only the plan. Easy breezy.
I wonder if others feel their lives only just beginning at seventy years old. No matter. I do. And there is SO much to do and so little time. Had I known this from the beginning, I would have accomplished much more by now. Then again, the present is all that exists and all that ever did. I accomplished being here now, did I not? Will I accomplish being here in 30 years? We shall see! Life is nothing, if not adventure. This is the beginning of my brand new adventure. I am giddy with excitement.
Zen and the Art of Gardening
From the beginning, the zen concept is a paradox. Zen is without words and can only be defined with words. In his book, The Three Pillars of Zen, by Philip Kapleau, he offers a definition on page 385: “….the process of concentration and absorption by which the mind is first tranquilized and brought to one-pointedness, and then awakened.”
It is this exact thing that the zen gardener is doing. Concentrating on the garden, the soil, the plants, the leaves, the flowers, the bugs, coming to focus without distraction, and suddenly coming to a deep understanding of what is observed, that is not separate from the deep understanding of the observer. Only then is the zen gardener ready to act, not upon the garden, but in co-creation with the garden. The observed and the observer are one in zen and the art of gardening.
Some of us are programmed to approach gardening in this way. Some of us are programmed to think and plot and plan and design, without meditation. Either way, one ends up with a garden, and the life of the garden is beautiful, rewarding, and nourishing. So what is the difference, and why differentiate?
For me, the fulfillment is in the co-creation. I was honestly surprised when I saw the first produce appear on the plants. I was astonished. I had forgotten that there would be this outcome. But it was more that I was never concerned with the outcome, only with the activity of gardening and nurturing the life there. It is kind of like being somewhat surprised at your adult children. You knew that would happen, but you were always focused on the child, so that their maturity can feel kind of shocking. This is known in zen as the path with no goal. I find it a very liberating path, filled with adventure every day.
Many if not all gardeners have experienced what I describe. But if you have not, or are curious about this path as a way forward in your gardening, here is the technique. Sit somewhere within or on the edge of your garden every time you go out to work there. Sit still for 20 minutes or more before going to work. That is all. The communication from your garden to you requires one thing, your stillness. Don’t try to see or hear. Just sit, eyes open, but still. Try it out, and let me know if it changes your gardening habits in any way. I would be interested to hear.
People sometimes volunteer to work in my gardens. There is a requirement for volunteers, however, and it is this. Sit still within the gardens for 20 minutes before going to work. As a teacher of Zen, this is the teaching. Take it or leave it, no problem. Want to volunteer in my gardens? Send me a message, and we will get you started with your first 20 minutes.
Nature and the Nature of Reality
To study Buddhism, is to study the nature of reality, unless you are studying Buddhism as religion. That is something else altogether. The nature of reality is what the Buddha was studying. Zen teachings say that the study of Buddhism is the study of the self and to understand the self is to understand all beings. I would say these are accurate statements, speaking from my own experience.
I don’t like getting bogged down in semantics and scholarly explicits. Yet, a little word may go a long way to help get our minds around what it means to say understanding the self and understanding the nature of reality.
Let me put it this way. Many people are pretty well convinced, as am I, that an important source of all human beings’ problems is the disconnect from nature. Nature is that in which we were born into on planet Earth. We were born into a natural world of earth, ground, air, water, ether, fire. These are the elements of the natural existence on earth. They were not created by humans. Humans were created by them, and are comprised of these elements. So are the trees, all the plants, animals, rocks, and mountains.
When you can see that you are made of the same elements as the naturally occurring world around you, you may more deeply understand yourself. Especially if you place yourself in a location in which these elements are strongly experienced through your senses of touch, smell, taste, and hearing, you are even more likely to have insights about your own nature, and the question of “who am I” begins to have some answers.
In a time of global chaos, gardening has become an increasing trend. Seed companies are having a difficult time keeping up with orders. Nurseries are selling out of garden soils and plants. I think that in a time of global chaos, people are intuitively looking to nature for answers.
Whether you plant a seed in the ground, purchase a plant to transplant in the ground or to keep in a pot, or whether you grow one or more plants anywhere at all, you are a big step closer to understanding yourself. Imagine a world in which more and more people understand themselves through understanding plants and find that as a way to calm their minds and emotions, as a way to find peace.
People who find peace in growing a plant will find that they care deeply about the protection of the environment on earth, and this will impact their choices in many areas of their lives. You will find that your actions will have an impact you did not expect, as your actions accumulate with the actions of others and you see your connection to them. You will feel less lonely, and you will join the stream of human beings who care about the nature of themselves, the nature of others, the nature of reality, and nature.
Pride and the Shovel
People say “Did you do all this?!”
I cannot say that I did. I cannot say that I did not.
I do take pride in my shovel
and the person who invented the shovel
manufactured the shovel
delivered the shovel.
I take pride in human creativity, resilience, strength.
I take pride in the air, the soil, the water, the seeds, the plants.
Proud is a funny word. It indicates ego. Ego indicates self.
Gardening, shoveling, these are selfless acts.
I hold the shovel. The shovel digs.
I plant the seeds. The seeds germinate.
I water the seeds with water that is not “mine”.
The plants grow.
I shovel, weed, nurture, love, and deeply honor that of which I can only be one little part, one little, vital, interconnected part. Pride has very little to with it. Other than to say, I am proud of the shovel.
Things to Remember
Water is life.
ALL things are interconnected.