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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Present

If only I could master the wise and ancient discipline of living in the moment.

I breathe in. I breathe out. I sigh deeply and shake my head.

I understand the goal but find the practice extremely challenging. It seems virtually impossible to keep my restless mind from obsessing gloomily about the past or tiptoeing trepidatiously into the future.

Nowhere would present-moment awareness be more useful to me, and nowhere is it more lacking, than in my romantic life.

At any given time, you can find me brooding about at least one of two types of men. Neither one exists in real time as a present-moment relationship but either species can dominate my thoughts and eat up endless hours.

Type Number One is a former love whom I haven’t seen in years and who exists only in my memory and imagination. Who cares that he is nowhere to be found in the present. In my memory, all the loveliness of our time together is preserved in High Def, and all the frightening fight scenes, hurt and heartbreak, have been erased by Time and Denial.

His image is equally vivid in my fantasies, where I enjoy daily, and sometimes hourly, screenings of The Return of My Ex…a Happily Ever After melodrama about a rapturous reunion whose details change but plot remains the same: He Comes Back, We Surrender to Passion, We Meld With Each Other and Remain Joined and Joyful for All Time.

Type Number Two is someone I know casually whom I am sure is Destined to be My Man at some unspecified point in the…present?…No, future of course. We have almost no contact in the present. When we do have a fleeting encounter, it is committed to memory, where I edit and tweak it into a convincing snippet of a love story. TN2 is a pleasant acquaintance with whom there is enough chemistry to produce a credible fantasy of being a couple but (as with TN1) not enough of a relationship to produce a romance outside of my imagination.

Why do I do these ridiculous things? The most obvious answer is that old bugaboo known as fear of intimacy. In my twisted way of thinking (or the unconscious depths of my brain) a largely imaginary relationship has a couple of advantages: I can control it and I will never get close enough to it for it to hurt me. It also probably came in handy at my all-girls high school to have a fierce romantic imagination that could make a rare date or dance occupy my thoughts for several months. I guess that was better than facing up to the true depths of my teenage loneliness.

Clearly there are some things that I need to recognize…right this very minute:

I left my all-girls institution many decades ago and have no need to invent or enhance relationships.

Friendships or romances that barely exist in daily life don’t exist at all.

Living in my memory and imagination is neither mentally nor spiritually healthy.

Living in my memory and imagination is a great way to end up really crazy and lonely.

The human connection that I am hoping for will only show up in the present and I will only be there to greet him if I’m living in the present.

Guess I’m going to have to take another shot at Being Here Now.

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Posted by on September 22, 2011 in Foibles, Follies and Roadblocks

 

Owning It

Here’s a difficult epiphany:

I am responsible for all of my actions, past present and future.

Ouch.

It stinks to recognize that sometimes I’ve been a bad guy, or done the wrong thing, over the course of a lifetime.

I’d like to think of myself as being Nice and Sweet and Lovable.

I’d like to think that other people, or challenging situations, made me do this or that. Oh how I would love to hand this messy ugly stuff to someone or something else.

I hate the fact that I have become aware that blaming is lame. I used to love passing the buck. It was so much fun and brought so much relief.

I was a lovely, touching victim–especially when I was young, tremulous and tearful from a surfeit of hormones, and painfully thin.

Not only did I think other people were responsible for my lapses in conduct. I believed that I was responsible for other people’s behavior. This created some interesting dynamics in intimate relationships. I spent a lot of time exchanging blame with my significant others, feeling guilty and responsible for their actions and laying guilt trips on them, and ultimately engaging in attempts at mutual control and suffocation. Small wonder we parted–and I was left alone and lonely.

OK, I do know that I can attribute a few of my worst qualities and behaviors to my genes. There’s a good scapegoat. I can also lay a tiny bit of blame on My Childhood and the traumas I endured as I was coming up in the world.

Here’s the bummer, though. Here’s the joke it took me decades to get.

Once you leave childhood and home behind and you’re on your own, you become responsible for your actions, no matter how scarred and crippled you are as a result of your genetic material or the way you grew up.

I sure wish I had known that about 30 years ago. I think I would have watched my behavior a lot more closely.

There is, however, an up side to all this. Recognizing that I am responsible for my own actions also means that I have some say over what I do. No one else gets to control me or my behavior, although I hope that God will weigh in early and often. I am in charge of my actions. The same is true for others. I don’t have any control over what they do nor should I try to exercise it.

And that means:

I’m off the hook. I can concentrate on tending my own garden.

Tending it mindfully and well.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2011 in Clarity

 

Surrender

Tonight I let my dog Brownie take me on a walk. I held onto the leash while she pulled me along.

My beloved hound led me to all her favorite haunts along the winding alleyway. She stopped to munch on bark and tall grass, sniff the dirt by the dumpster and generally browse at her own leisurely pace. Brownie decided which direction we would go when we left the house, which fork in the alley we would take and how long we would spend on our stroll.

How thrilling it was to allow another creature to take the lead; how amazing to let go of control, not grasp and tug on the leash anxiously nor fret about what she was rolling in, eating and sniffing. What a relief to unclench my brain and ramble in the fragrant fall night with my canine in charge. It was blissful to relinquish the anxiety of running things.

Lately I’ve been making a habit of letting Brownie take the lead whenever we go out. I want to practice releasing control, allowing other creatures, other spirits to show me where to go.

An existence that unfolds without me forcing, pushing, manipulating, or insisting is a revelation. I discover that life’s loveliness is a gift that is given the moment my hands and brain stop grasping for it.

Sometimes when Brownie and I are out walking up the broad empty alley on these early fall evenings, listening to the last of the summer crickets and inhaling the scent of dry leaves and sweet clematis, I close my eyes for a moment and allow the Universe to lead both of us.

The feeling is amazing:

Faith. Trust. Surrender. Bliss.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2011 in Creatures, Meditations on Nature

 

Stillness

I am frightened by life’s open spaces. I clutter up silences with chatter, rush around pretending to be busy. On the rare occasions, however, when I quiet myself sufficiently to allow stillness, wondrous things happen:

In silence I am able to really sense another person.

In silence another person is able to see me for what I am.

I have never been kissed without a very deep silence occurring first.

I have never had an intelligent thought without silence preceding it.

I have never solved a problem without stillness.

I have never had a moment of clarity without stillness.

I don’t know why I feel the need to fill every space. My guess is that making noise and getting busy are things I do when I’m afraid.

It seems the more I long for something, the more I fear it. I long to be close to others. I long to be open and vulnerable enough for miracles to happen. I am dying to unclench my hands and abandon the illusion of control. I yearn for someone else to pick up the thread: another voice, another hand.

I am also terrified of these things.

Filling spaces with noise and activity appears to be a defense against anyone getting close.

They say human beings are made up mostly of water. I think we are comprised mainly of defenses. Defensiveness is a wonderful trait for survival, not so good for intimate relationships and everyday miracles.

I am aware that in order to connect with other human beings and with life experiences, I need to be undefended in silence and open spaces. I fear, however, that if I remain unguarded for too long, I will be scorched or trampled or feel the need to flee–or at least get behind a solid barricade.

Perhaps the secret is to develop accordion-like instincts, or the rhythms of a fish…a fluid ability to be open one minute, and closed the next.

It requires tremendous emotional flexibility to do that, as well as a lot of courage.

I think it would be worth a try.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2011 in Clarity, Essays

 

Lew Beach, NY

Crossings
by Ravi Shankar

Between forest and field, a threshold
like stepping from a cathedral into the street—
the quality of air alters, an eclipse lifts,

boundlessness opens, earth itself retextured
into weeds where woods once were.
Even planes of motion shift from vertical

navigation to horizontal quiescence:
there’s a standing invitation to lie back
as sky’s unpredictable theater proceeds.

Suspended in this ephemeral moment
after leaving a forest, before entering
a field, the nature of reality is revealed.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2011 in Lew Beach, Photo Essays