[This was posted on September 28, 2019. I am posting it again, not only because I have finally “Stayed Home” and actually read a book: Tony Hillerman’s Hunting Badger. But because I am also still on that mountain, doing my best to understand how I got here.]
Despite all the work we’ve done on ourselves, sometimes, life gives us a mountain that’s just too high and we need help getting our center back.
I’m there now, so I signed up for an insight meditation class, despite having taught meditation years ago. I wanted help in “being here now”, “trusting the process”, “accepting what IS.”
The first class was Tuesday, September 17. It was at the Dharma Center, taught by Yong Ho, who obviously practices what he preaches. The class began with his brief overview and questions from the group. Then he led a short (20 minute) guided meditation about noticing all the details of the body from feet to head. After that was more Q&A. After class, I told him how happy I was to be here and what a great teacher he is. Sometimes, teachers need to be taught.
That I was grasping for a way to remain calm despite the storm I’m presently in reminded me about my days at Kripalu, like the first night I was there, sleepless in a room of 20 other women, most of whom were snoring, and I recalled what I had learned from Tarot when I was still in college:
While I was staring at the bottom of the snorer’s bunk above my head, I also played with relaxation techniques and visualization. And I discovered more truths about “holding on.”
For example, when I worried about money or my dilemma about what to do next (like stay on or leave the college), I experienced great stabbing pains under my right shoulder. However, just by experimenting in the dark, I learned that I could also dismiss the pain. But it took several steps:
- Breathing deeply while holding my left hand on top of my right shoulder,
- Placing my right hand on my solar plexus, and
- Repeating silently #4 from “The Pattern on the Trestleboard”: “From the exhaustless riches of the limitless universe, I draw all things needful, both spiritual and material.”
Finally, the shoulder muscle relaxed, and the pain dissipated. (Excerpt from Book 3, Burnout Series)
Gurudev, Master teacher, talked about it in the darshans at Kripalu:
“Resistance is always the fear of loss, of going from what feels known, comfortable, safe, to what feels unknown, uncomfortable, threatening. When in fear, we call life ‘the unknown.’ When in love, we call life ‘mystery.’ Pain and pleasure are in every passing moment. Both have a mission. They bring us messages that cannot be taught by anybody on this earth. If we let ourselves face IT, the secrets of life will be revealed.”
The whole idea of facing IT, whatever was bugging me, of spending time getting to know IT, became the cornerstone for my “walking meditation” time. For example, whenever IT would get to be too much in the dorm, I would take myself on a walk and allow IT to be there without resisting. I would just “be” with IT. No judgments, no opinions – just watching IT in my mind. It was like saying to myself, “Yep, IT is. And, wow, look at that bird over there!” In other words, accepting that IT has a place in my life, but I don’t have to like it or participate with it or have an opinion about it. I must, however, learn to allow IT because I have zip control over IT. Got loud neighbors, a barking dog? Same thing: notice, allow, shift your focus to something else. (Excerpt from Book 3, Burnout series)
And when my airline carrier went belly up while I was at Kripalu, across the continent from Vancouver Island, when I was freaking about how I’d get back home to Vancouver Island, a fellow student volunteered to drive me to the nearest airport to trade my ticket. En route, I whined about “what if…” He put his hand on mine and asked how I was doing now.
“Are you hot? Cold? How are you doing now?”
I said, “I’m okay. I’m comfortable.”
He asked several more questions like was I hungry? Thirsty? Did I need a pit stop? I answered “No” to all of those.
And then he explained the concept of being in the present moment, and I got it! But that was almost 30 years ago and, I have to admit, my mindfulness practice had been falling off with the stream of “IT” in my life. I needed a booster.
But I missed the second meditation class (September 24) because I broke a toe at 5 a.m., walking in the dark. A typical Cosmic Thump to make me “stop and be still” whenever I let my mind yank me out of the present moment.
I’ve been house-bound since Tuesday morning, reading an old Tony Hillerman book, Hunting Badger. At one point I realized why.
Hosteen Nakai is dying and wants to give Sergeant Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police his last lesson so he can be a yatalii, a healer.
On page 132, Nakai says,
“The last lesson is the one that matters. Will you hear me?”
Chee took the old man’s hand.
“Know that it is hard for the people to trust outside their own family. Even harder when they are sick. They have pain. They are out of harmony. They see no beauty anywhere. All their connections are broken. That is who you’re talking to. You tell them the Power that made us made all this above us and around us and we are part of the Power and if we do as we are taught we can bring ourselves back into hozho. Back into harmony. Then they will again know beauty all around them.”
Much later in the book, on page 277, Chee is comparing Officer Bernadette Manuelito with the sophisticated lawyer he was trying to forget, Janet Pete.
She lacked Janet’s high-gloss glamour, her physical perfection (depending, however, on how one rated that) and her sophistication. Again, how did one rate sophistication? Did you rate it by the standards of Ivy League, Stanford and the rest of the politically correct privileged class, or by the Chuska Mountain sheep-camp, where sophistication required the deeper and more difficult knowledge of how one walked in beauty, content in a difficult world?
The Cosmic Cops picked this book for me from a pile of novels I was ready to toss because I wanted to be reminded how to accept where I am and still be happy. Even though I missed the meditation class and I couldn’t do yoga with my broken toe, All That Is showed me a way to get what I wanted, another way to understand mindfulness: “walking in beauty, content in a difficult world.”
What do you do to bring yourself back to center, to reinstate your happiness?
Till next time,
Please be kind to everyone you meet, for we all have our hidden sorrows. ~Tzaddi