Heartdrive

I will not beg you to believe me,
or even understand me.

In the violent collision of hearts,
we will either beat each other back, or burst,
mingling on the floor of understanding.

Then, and only then, can our tears
begin to dissolve the hardness, and
cleanse the stains of disbelief.

Still, there will always be
the shadow of that stain.
Shall we cover it with a rug,
or use it as a marker?

Such is the sad beauty and utter utility
of change.
“““““““““““““
(c) Mindful Ejaculations. 2016.

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Accepting Change…

I have found that equanimity is nowhere better forged than within the crucible of change. I have prayed about equanimity; meditated on it; and chanted for it; yet, every time I’d finally thought I’d acquired it, something changed. It took me awhile to learn to differentiate between ‘things’ remaining the same and my remaining the same, despite those things changing. It is only through the testing of the equanimity we believe we possess that we can truly come to own it. The smooth sailing of a sedentary existence can set us up for failure as quickly as a chaotic one. Ironically, it is only through sustaining change that we can measure ‘same-ness,’ or equanimity…

With everything and everyone constantly, and necessarily, in flux, there is no use or sense in my hanging my hat on some external ‘sameness.’ It is, instead, I who must learn to remain the same, in the sense of always being capable of sustaining the hits of a fluctuating existence. Unfortunately, it becomes that much harder when this view is not commonly shared. In situations where everyone is freaking out but we are not, though some might admire us, others resent our serenity and seek every opportunity to disrupt it. Many people simply assume that others must necessarily be repelled or attracted by certain occurrences in manners similar to their own. So, when our insecurities don’t match theirs, they interpret it to mean that there is something wrong or disingenuous about us…

In Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem, “If,” he wrote:

“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise…”

Not only did he hit the nail on the head, he drove it straight and completely into the board; because you see, to conduct oneself with any type of equanimity in a freaked out world is, more often than not, to be taken for a fatalist, a pessimist, or a psychopath.

To neither “rage, rage against the dying of the light,” nor put all one’s eggs in one basket strikes me as the poetic GPS that helps guide us to that Middle Way. Nonetheless, since the day I emerged, stunned and screaming, from my mother’s womb, I’ve struggled with the dualistic, delusional dilemma of ‘how things are’ as opposed to ‘how things should be,’ instead of just accepting that in this conditioned existence, it is what it is because of what it was…

Some might call this a defeatist mode of thought, but in reality it is, ultimately, quite liberating because if we live as the Buddha prescribed, i.e., mindfully (in the moment), then with the past being ‘over’ and the future not yet a factor (much less a reality), from this moment forth, we truly are the “masters of our fates” and “captains of our souls”…

Namaste.

George Zimmerman Retweets Photo of Trayvon Martin’s Body | Essence.com

George Zimmerman recently, after retweeting a photo of Trayvon Martin’s dead body, said:

“Tell ‘Karma’ she’s worthless, God protects me.”

Who, I wonder, is this “God?” And of course, “Karma” would be a woman…

http://m.essence.com/2015/09/29/george-zimmerman-retweets-photo-trayvon-martins-body?xid=pd_taboola

In Memoriam: Daddy…

Caine: Master, what is the best way to meet the loss of one we love?
Master Kan: By knowing that when we truly love it is never lost. It is only after death that the depth of the bond is truly felt and our loved one becomes more a part of us than was possible in life. — from the TV series, Kung Fu (1972 – 1975)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
My daddy could whistle like nuthin’ you ever heard. And because I was a ‘daddy’s girl,’ one of my most ardent desires was to be able to whistle just like my daddy — but my mother strongly objected, citing the eternal law: It is unlady-like to whistle. So, being who I was, this inspired me to practice whistling approximately 29 hours a day. And daddy never said or did anything to discourage me. In fact, on many a long car trip together during the 1960s (if mom wasn’t present), we’d listen to the radio, whistling along together. ‘Cuz that’s what people did in the days before iPods and tablets. And we, like, talked to each other, too… I think we called that… analog conversation… Yeah, that’s right…

Never once did daddy laugh, seem irritated, or even appear to notice that in my efforts to “whistle,” I was only able to produce one tone, repeatedly, and somehow managed to spit all over myself and anything within a two-foot radius. So, true to my disobedient, unlady-like disposition, I continued to practice until I became so good that one day, while whistling in the stall of a public restroom in a shopping mall, a woman reported to a security guard that “some man” was in one of the stalls “just whistling away like it was nobody’s business!” I never saw that woman, but I suspect it was my mother…

Decades later, I still whistle all the time, to the amazement of both women and men, as only a hardened harlot of harmony could. Recently, a work colleague commented on the perfection of my pitch and said I sound like a bird. Yeah, mama, I can whistle… But that’s not why I whistle…It’s no longer a matter of pride.

Now, every time I whistle, I “feel” my daddy, who passed in 2012. Sometimes, I whistle intentionally, as a tribute to him, or to invoke his presence. Other times, I just find myself whistling along to a song, and because I can ‘jam’ in that fashion, I think of him. And much to my surprise, I feel my daddy’s presence today, almost three years after his death, as strongly as I ever have — perhaps, moreso than ever…

I do not believe, as do Christians, that there is a heaven, or that I will ever see my daddy again. He is gone. Nonetheless, as long as I am here, he is with me; and I love him more every day…

Namaste.

Nothing Whatsoever Should Be Clung To…

There is nothing more self-centered, selfish, or needy than the human infant. It assumes that it is the center of the universe, and cares nothing for you, except for your ability to provide and cater to it. Supposedly, as we reach such human milestones as “toddler-hood,” puberty, and the ‘teen years,’ we gain more independence and maturity. Then, once we become adults we are to “put away childish things.” Yet, for many people, this never occurs. Instead of going from infancy to adulthood, we go from infancy to “enfantcy” (i.e., enfant terrible).

Instead of expressing maturity and independence, we simply grow older and, instead, remain just as needy but in different ways. Instead of a diaper change, a butt rub, a warm bottle or breast, or a pacifier while sitting on a shaking knee, we “need” other people’s admiration, agreement, acceptance, fear, friendship, fairness, or love. This state of “need” is called ‘craving’ or ‘clinging.’ Clinging is, in part, “all about *me,* and as stated by Ajahn Buddhadassa:

The spiritual disease of our time is the disease whose germ lies in the feeling of “we” and “ours,” “I” and “mine” that is regularly in the mind… So it follows that all unenlightened people must experience this feeling of egoism arising continually… It is the greatest danger of our time (from Essential Point of the Buddhist Teachings).

When the Buddha still walked the Earth, he was asked if it were possible for him to succinctly sum up the essence of all his teachings. He answered in the affirmative. His response was “Sabbe Dhamma Nalam Abhinivesaya.” This is the Pali for “Nothing whatsoever should be clung to.” The Buddha discovered that “clinging,” conditioned by “craving” was (and remains) the most deadly infectious disease known to humanity. And except for engaging in meditation, active mindfulness, and study, there’s no other method of “treatment.”

Now, for some examples of clinging:

To want some situation, or some person, to remain always the same is clinging. Conversely, to want some person, or some situation to change is also clinging, but to something or someone that does not presently exist but that you would prefer, or like to exist. And either way, we can never be “happy” because in the first situation, we will always have the nagging fear that our perfect situation/person will change; and in the second, we’re simply afraid that it/they will never change. The problem with both these perspectives is that everything always changes because of ‘impermanence.’ Impermanence is the “theory” (until we realize it for ourselves), that everything is ‘impermanent,’ and this is applicable even to ‘permanence.’

Subsequently, depression is clinging. Complete self-assurance is clinging. Resentment is clinging. Contentment is clinging. Arguing (to be ‘right,’ or to avoid the embarrassment of being ‘wrong’ is clinging). Happiness is clinging. Sadness is clinging. Anxiety is clinging. And anger is clinging — to name just a few examples.

Now, imagine how different life would ‘feel’ if we didn’t always need things or people to be a ‘certain way’ in order to support our self-centered, egoistic need to have things our way. Imagine if we took this a bit further, and looked at the Buddha’s statement that there is no “self” to defend, or be fearful for (yes, that’s another post), and we lived our lives in the dispassion that comes with  experiencing the Truth. If we can do this, it’s called nibbana (Pali), or as it’s more commonly known, nirvana. Many people think that Nirvana is some place, or something that happens after one dies. This is not the case. Nirvana is freedom from suffering in one’s present lifetime. No informed person has ever claimed that one had to “die” to attain nirvana.

Imagine how different we would feel if we weren’t so deeply offended by such insignificant events as someone walking in our “lane” on the sidewalk (making us have to walk around them, yes,us — can you imagine?). Or imagine how differently we would feel about everyday life if we didn’t become upset or offended that that “ingrate” didn’t say “thank you” after we held the door open for them because we’re such nice people. In truth, if we were that nice, holding the door open for someone would be its own reward — and we wouldn’t need their thanks to make us feel like good people… i.e., is it our actions, other people’s recognition of our actions, or the intentions of our actions that make us “good people?” The answer to these questions being quite obvious, let us now consider the chained, imprisoning effect of always wanting and needing approval, acceptance, and recognition from everyone, even complete strangers! And this is how we go from being self-centered infants to self-centered adults.

A doctor or midwife or police officer cuts our umbilical cord — and we spend the rest of our lives trying to find someone else to whom we may reattach it.

Please note that I am in no way saying that I am there, “all that,” or anywhere near being free of “clinging disease.” Far from it. I am simply one more pilgrim on the journey to, hopefully, enlightenment. In closing, the Buddha said,

I teach one thing and one thing only: suffering and the end of suffering.

So, let us begin to end it…

Namaste.

The Number One Killer of Women…

Since leaving my full-time position in 2011, I’ve made my living doing something which my mother (my mother!) once told me I was incapable: being spontaneous. So, I’d been working a rather long string of part-time, temporary positions. In a bid to enter the full-time workforce once again, I recently decided to reassess my skills, seek training where needed, and revise my resume. Several weeks ago, just one day after applying for a position, I received a phone call inviting me to interview for a full-time position (I interviewed the next day, got the job, and that is why I took a little time off from this blog). While preparing my interview outfit, I suddenly felt compelled to add my “Little Red Dress” pin, the symbol for the  Go Red For Women.org  campaign. This campaign is near and dear to my heart because unbeknownst to many, heart disease is the number one killer of women, and this campaign is dedicated to making sure that everyone knows it.

For women, the symptoms of heart disease are much subtler than for men. As a result, a women can be in the midst of a heart attack and have no idea. Often, by the time a woman decides to seek medical attention, it can be too late. Admittedly, though I was not sure how appropriate such a piece of jewelry was for a job interview; I placed the pin on my lapel, trusting that it was the right thing to do. Interestingly enough, it would be only a matter of hours before I discovered that it was, indeed, the right thing to have done.

After what seemed like a successful interview, I decided to celebrate by going to Starbuck’s and purchasing an Oprah Chai Tea Latte, which unlike Oprah, I could then ill-afford. And I further justified this splurging by reminding myself that every Oprah drink purchased provides a donation to the cause of education – and we all know how much Buddhists loves causes – and effects…

Now, this is where things got truly interesting. The line at Starbuck’s was so long, I nearly left the store, twice. And despite being in the part of the line that was inside the store, it would be over half an hour before I got my drink. So, I decided to engage with the woman standing next to me, but she was going through her handbag, and didn’t seem disposed to speaking at that moment. I instead decided to speak to the woman in front of me and said, “You must really need some coffee to go through this!” She laughed and said, “Yes, only true Starbuck’s aficionados need apply!” About ten minutes later, I again leaned forward and whispered in quick succession, “Dunkin’ Donuts! Dunkin’ Donuts! Dunkin’ Donuts!” Again, we shared a quick giggle, and she said it was a tempting thought. About two minutes later, I felt someone lightly tap my arm. I turned around, looked down, and it was the woman behind me who’d previously been busy going through her handbag. She was in her eighties; barely over five feet tall; and had one of the most beautiful, soulful faces I’d ever seen. With a wistful expression, she said, “I, too, have that pin” (referring to my Little Red Dress pin). And a bond was forged.

I mentioned how sad and shocking it was that so few people were aware of the danger of heart disease to women. She nodded and said, “I just lost my son, two months ago, to heart disease. He was 50. He literally just dropped dead.” After a brief second of initial shock, I told her how sorry I was for her loss and we just stood there, looking into each other’s faces for a few moments. After that silence, I again expressed my condolences and said I couldn’t imagine how she must feel. She thanked me and told me I was very kind. We continued to chat, but about other things – especially the slow-moving line. Eventually, I told her to stand in front of me, joking that though it didn’t get her much farther, she’d be that much closer to getting her drink. After she finally got to the front of the line, ordered her drink, and prepared to pay for it, I placed some money in the cashier’s hand saying I’d take care of it. My new acquaintance insisted that it wasn’t necessary, but I insisted that it was. I, myself, totally exhausted after my interview and from standing in line so long, had decided to forget about Oprah and, instead, get a drink with two shots of espresso just to give me the strength to walk out of the store. I couldn’t imagine how someone her age must have felt, standing for so long. She thanked me, saying “You didn’t have to do that!” I said, “You touched my heart.” She said, “You touched my heart, too!” and much to my surprise, reached up and asked for a hug. I hugged her as best I could while holding my handbag, briefcase, and a bag of recently purchased items.

Despite being so deeply moved by what this woman shared with me, the thing that impacted me most was the depth of her sadness – so raw, and so recent, and her obvious state of shock. I lost my father two years ago and still tear up whenever I think of him; so, I did understand, to a certain extent, the depth of her loss, but this was her child, not a parent. Truly, no normal mother expects or wants to outlive her children. And this was a woman who had obviously raised a son of whom she could be proud, and who felt that she could die a happy woman knowing that someone she loved, so deeply, was living a happy, productive life. Now, he was gone, literally in the blink of an eye, and it was she who was left behind, her own heart, though still beating, seemingly broken beyond repair. Yes, heart disease is the number one killer of women.

This, for me, was just one more reminder that life and death, so inextricably intertwined, must always be in our thoughts because strangely enough, it is death, alone, which makes us comprehend the value of life. Among ancient Buddhist practices, it was not uncommon for monks to sit on the roadside for days, observing the decomposition of the corpse of some unfortunate creature, as a form of meditation on the nature of death (impermancence). In fact, to this day, though much, much less common as I understand it, it is still possible to find malas (rosaries) made of bone, tailored for such meditations. There is probably no better reminder that in the end, our bodies, our vehicles in this life, are merely fertilizer.

According to the Buddha, to fear death is to be dead, already; yet, not to consider death, at all, leaves us just as lacking. Many of us live our lives as though endless tomorrows are promised; but nothing is promised. Nothing is forever. The only thing that never changes is change, itself. And whether we are “good” or “bad,” rich or poor, death will find us, and our loved ones, as well. This is why I strive to live each day as if it were my last (sometimes failing miserably). I want to consider the nature of my speech, my actions, and my thoughts. I actually like to keep in mind a verse from the Christian Bible, Phillipians 2:12, which says:

“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

This reminds me both that I am solely responsible for my own actions and their effects in my life, as well as that I need to make a serious effort in this regard. Hopefully, my “fear and trembling” will not paralyze me, but instead, energize and motivate me. Thus loss, death being, perhaps, its greatest manifestation, is simply a part of life; and unlike most gifts, is something for which we all have to ‘pay.’ Part of ‘paying’ is understanding that the Universe taketh, and the Universe taketh away. It’s nothing personal, just the nature of life. We need to conscientiously contemplate this and make friends with the idea so we can stop pretending it just isn’t so. In the words of the Buddha: “Everything is changeable, everything appears and disappears; there is no blissful peace until one passes beyond the agony of life and death.”

Namaste.
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Related Reading:

Buddha’s Last Words (Mahaparinibbana Sutta) from Somewhere in Dhamma… (blog) Note: I found this post, dealing with the death of a parent, relevant to the discussion because of how beautifully it deals with ‘unexpected’ death from a Buddhist perspective.

Go Red for Women.org from American Heart Association (Website)