Sanctuary

My bedroom, my bed, my comforter, me like a burrito, windows open, crisp air, already autumn in New York.  Shhhh.  Rest now little one, let your cares float away.

Yoga.  Surprise, the wrong teacher becomes the right teacher, yes.  The ego is loud, and obnoxious and annoying and you don’t have to listen to it.  No.  I am me, I am a bird flying over me.  I am not who I was five years ago.  No.  I am not.  No.  I am not.

I miss you sometimes.  I miss your smile, I miss your silly dance, the intense way you looked at me, the way you read aloud to my daughter, the way we read Anna Karenina together, the way you were before you got too big for your britches, the way you were when you saw me as a gift, the way you jumped the fence to hug me, the way you cried when I flew away, the way your eyes melted my heart, the way you gave up everything to be with me.

I float on the water, or more precisely explore the reeds and rushes in the shallow edges of this woebegone lake.  A heron flies away before I get too close.  Two turtles make love, turning slowly over and over on each other, until they see me watching them.  They look embarrassed.  And the Loch Ness monsters flip away as I paddle over them.  Their giant striped bodies undulating under the thin hull of my carbon fiber boat, I feel them, on my bottom, sliding, giant ugly things.  Last year someone caught a 41 inch Muskie from this place.  Two women sunning on kayaks stop to talk to me.  I hate my ugly life vest.  I wish it were purple.

I sleep with the light on sometimes, ever since you left.  I don’t know why.  Especially now when I just don’t care anymore, when I am not the person you left anymore.

Yoga the right teacher.  After we talk, I tell him how happy I was to live in the quiet solitary woods.  Not to say I was alone, because I wasn’t, but when I was, I cherished it, adored it, loved it.  I see surprise on his wrinkled and spotted face, so youthful, and yet showing his age, his impish smile and sparkling intelligent eyes.  He tells me of backpacking alone in the wilderness where my uncle was born, of not wanting to return, and the surprise, that we are kindred, that we are alike in this way, a thing he did not know of me, nor I of him even after all these years, and friendship.

They sit across from me, shoulder to shoulder, as long as you are not behaving, he says in a co-dependent manner.  Ha.  I say.  I am so not co-dependent.  So not.  Not even close.  I am fully cognizant of my choices, of where I am and what I am doing.  You can be alone, he instructs me, even in the company of others.  Oh sweetheart, I say.  I know that.  Oh.  Don’t I know that?  He of course is at the gun show for the millionth time, and I am with men who know how lucky they are to have worked through the times that IN love was a challenge, buoyed by just plain love.  Isn’t it funny how I don’t have any problem doing my own thing, going my own way and waving as he goes off to do his?

Kateri Teckawitha, I say, I cannot even pray, because I don’t even know what I want.  Or I do, but I don’t know how to sustain it.  But anyway, thank you for what you did for my daughter.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Hot tub.  Me, wishing to get out, now that my limbs are warm.  The music is so loud it hurts my sinus infected head which is dripping from the steam.  My heart is pounding, I am a million miles away.  I am on my haunches ready to spring, like an animal, like prey.

Do you know what it is like to sustain this?  How hard it is, truly hard it is to make the choice to live alone, and that is what it will be, alone, because I will never put myself through this punishment again.  Do you know this?  That my ego tells me things, like you are so fat, you are a stupid fuck, you are a lazy piece of shit, you are ugly,  you are not worthy of being loved, you are not worthy of time or attention.  SHUT THE FUCK UP.

I love myself, you see, I do, this girl who makes herbal salves, this girl who paints driftwood for hours, stroke by stroke, this girl who knits until her fingers ache, this girl who throws the boat on the car and goes, this girl who would rather be in the woods than in this stinking place.  This girl who is a great cook, this girl who recycles, this girl who loves her dog so much, this girl who cries, and laughs and talks in her sleep, and does yoga and rides her bike while reading a book eschewing television, this girl who loves star trek, and doctor who, this mama llama, this everything and nothing.

I do not love my ego though, my God, it will not shut up.

He climbs into my bed, and promptly falls asleep, taking up 2/3rds of the bed.  He snores loudly, and grunts and farts and moans in his sleep.  Not to say I don’t have my own animal noises, but to say instead that he is like my ego, keeping me from rest, trapping me in place, what if I feel sick from the chicken, what if I have to pee, what if I need my joyful cocktail of benedryl and melatonin?  Oh please, I say, wake up, I have to take medication to sleep here, with you.  He goes to his own room leaving the light on.  An hour later I am still awake.  Thinking of my ego.  Thinking of the lesson.  Listening to the sounds of cars on the street, and an airplane off there, flying in the dark.

And now I have nothing more to say.

Except this:  Clark Reservation used to be a sanctuary to me.  I haven’t been there in a year.  I miss it.  Can you please ask her to let me go back, to please leave me to it.  Let me have this one small place.  Because I really do need it, way more than she does.

And I dreamed of you last week, and I finally remembered why I loved you, and I stopped being angry, and in the dream, and for once, I didn’t even ask why  you left me, but I told you this, you were my best friend, and I really believed you and I were meant to love each other for the rest of our lives, and it crushed me when you left.

But I am okay.  Really.  Really.  And I actually don’t even think of you every minute or every hour, or every day any more.  I only think of you now and then.  Sometimes I am surprised how long I go between thoughts of you, driving, in the car, I think, oh my God its been days and days.   What a relief.  What a relief.

This place is a sanctuary.  This place, this place inside me.   This place.  Inside me.

 

 

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First Week of Fishing Season (aka they are not biting)

My mom is on the phone telling me how my brother always wanted to fish the first day, but up in the area I grew up in, the water was usually frozen over, and covered in a deep layer of snow.  Down here, the first day arrives and it is pouring when we wake, after an hour or so the rain has stopped, so we put on our hip waders and smart-wool, and go, what I do not account for is the howling wind and soon the fat lake effect snow flakes that catch on my line.

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This outfit is more attractive to me than just about anything else a man can wear.

The next morning we pack the car up and head north, and fish in a small Adirondack stream, before heading to a warmer location.  And then the next day spend several fruitless hours fishing the Schroon River with a cold piercing wind, my line either tangles or snags again and again and again and I am frustrated beyond words.  We move to a smaller feeder stream and he puts me in a sheltered location where I cast the line out and it immediately snags.  At that moment I quit, utterly.  I take the dog and we sit on the sandy bank in the sun, while the pirate fishes.  I feel no guilt or shame at quitting, the damn trout aren’t biting anyway.

The thing I like best about this place, other than the friends that have become family, is the peacefulness and solitude of walking here.  I never encounter anyone, and never have the fear of encountering anyone who will ruin my walk.

Later W. and I explore the waterfall that for my own reasons I have named dragon teeth falls.  She is like a forest fairy, climbing up and down banks, saying hi from somewhere over my head and blending in to the beige and brown of the melting forest like she is a part of it.  She is.

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dragonteethfalls

I feel, though, like a stupid and lumbering rhinoceros, I don’t know why but I am in a very low spot, energy wise, and maybe psychologically.  I am working through a lot of stuff, and frankly much of my life has improved significantly in the past few weeks, and maybe months, but there is still some things to work out, and sometimes I feel like I am standing on a stone in the middle of the river, I know I will be taking another step, but right now I cannot see the stone that will be the place for my footing.  I keep telling myself that this resting period is part of the process, because it just feels dull and lacks life, and I find myself seeking more natural sources of healing.  Fixing my nutrition, massage therapy, removing chemicals, returning to yoga.

But then there are times the universe seems against me, the one time I go to Clark, viola, bitch.  The one time I go to yoga, viola, esoteric yoga freak teacher, who is a strutting peacock.  You aren’t doing yoga until you breath like this and then he does this weird thing with his stomach.  Okay I guess I am just here to find peace and serenity, you don’t have to call it yoga.  I feel snarky, and when they all make odd faces and hiss in lion pose, I find that I cannot help but snicker, later I feel guilty for my judgment.  Maybe I just won’t go at all anymore, rather than face this, this ugly feeling that this guy is an idiot, or worse that I am still in the shallows, waiting for the fish to bite, while I tangle my line.  Still on the high road, not even knowing that below is a waterfall, still walking the same path, not realizing the woods are scattered with others.

In the long night, I realize that long ago I stopped collecting treasures for my little box, and I need to once again begin to fill it.  I think the first thing I should start with might be this:

Rhinoceros.

 

Phoenix Soaring

I do not know how long it has been since I have been to yoga, but I make up my mind that this weekend I will return.  Perhaps it has been a year, or maybe only six months, it feels like forever.  The long term pain in my hip is more or less gone, and from time to time the pain from last summer that plagued my right knee is still a twinge here and there.  Though not nearly as painful as it was when I decided a break was in order.  I have not walked much either, I decided my body was telling me take it easy, and still all the work on the house has created a completely different set of muscle aches and joint issues.  Sore ankles plague me in the morning, and the tightness in my shoulders, upper back and arms is evident in the opening stretches of the session.  I walk in to my dear friend Karen and the joy from both of us is delightful, she too has been plagued with severe health problems, and even when I was going often, she was not.  There are others too who greet me with pleasure.  It is good to feel this sense of Sangha for lack of a better word.  Perhaps that word is just right.

Usually I gripe about certain poses and postures or asanas, but today I have come with this resolve to do it no matter what without complaint, adjusting on the first night only one pose which I feel unsafe in, a stretch which opens up the legs in a split forward to back, that feels like the tendons behind my knees will pop and roll like a rubber band cut at its furthest stretch.  I alter it to a hurdler’s stretch, it does not open the soas, but it does open the hamstring.  I close my eyes, and for a moment my spirit feels a deep feeling of being on a balance beam, or  a log stretched across an abyss, I am maintaining a balance here, I do not want to sway to one side or another.  I do not call it torture pose, I call it opportunity to work through the difficulties.

My dear friend tells me when she meditates she has a mantra that seeks to wish well upon all beings.  I want to be there, though I am not yet.  I have only just learned to not wish bad karma on those that have hurt me so deeply, have hurt my child.  I feel the sting on my own cheek as though it were my own.  She had the bravery to accuse a now guilty teacher of molestation, and for it she was called a liar, called a troublemaker.  He now no longer allowed to teach teenaged boys, due to his solicitation of minors who reported him.  She is redeemed.  And in a flash I think, I should no longer wish the bad karma to flood the life of the one who slapped her and the one who used this as a wedge in our marriage, I think, I should just let it all go.  And I do.  But wish them well?  Hope they are happy and free from harm?  Not yet, but I know as I walk this narrow bridge that it is there just ahead on the other side.

As it turns out two days later I am at yoga yet again, after an hour on the bike and weights for my arms.  It feels good to stretch and I feel the stress and months of stiffness open up my body.  My teacher knows how much I love hamstring and hip openers, and he says, near the end,  grab your straps, and I do, he makes eye contact with me and I raise an eyebrow, he grins at me and says we are going to do a hamstring stretch, I softly clap my hands together making no sound and grin from ear to ear.  He smiles knowingly and teases me gently for my joy.  Sangha.

In shavasana, I think, though I know I should only be breathing,  that though I have been set free, for some of the time I have carried a heavy weight around with me, and as I work slowly, cautiously to cut the last bits of its weight from me, as I make plans on how to create the future I truly want, as I work to let the lazy drift become a focused destination, I realize how very fortunate I am, how good this practice is for me, and how much I love the serenity of this place.

I look up inside the backs of my eyelids and I see a beautiful phoenix, soaring though the turbulent sky.

Buddha’s Smile

 

Buddha Face

I wake early at 530, vivid dream still whispering brilliantly colored images in my mind’s eye.  The wise eye of a crow peering in my childhood bedroom window, a parade of fluffy black and white puppies strolling by.  A walk in the woods behind my neighbors house, woods I have bushwhacked through a hundred times, eaten wild strawberries from, cross country skied through, galloped on horseback through, seen Eastern Coyote, and red foxes eating field mice in, yet in my dream it is a paradise of rock formations, wild pigs, more puppies, slate waterfalls and treacherous paths where you can only take the way offered.  I find myself not thinking so much of the dream, or my hopes, nor the anger that eats me sometimes, instead I focus on my breathing, Zen meditation for the lazy.  Blankets wrapped around me, cat purring on my pillow, too cold to emerge, breathe in, breathe out.  The alarm goes off.  I get up and ride the exercise bike for 30 minutes while I read the book everyone is raving about, but is written, to me, like one of the Left Behind books, which I read one of, laughing all the way through at the trite and ridiculous writing.  The only reason I read as much as I did is because it was so bad it was funny, like the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The book maybe isn’t that bad, but it isn’t worth the raving, now I believe of madmen and madwomen, this society, our culture is mad.  Completely and utterly.  Do you see it too?  We are out of our minds, so many of our children are disturbed, their parents are raving maniacs, drug addicts, our people are so dumb, sometimes I worry about an apocalypse, other times I think it will cull the herd, only the megalomaniacs, the charismatic, and the survivalists will make it, those with common sense will do well.   Those that don’t know enough to not wear flip flops in December will be the first to go, those that cannot do much but play video games and watch television maybe not so much. Why do I think about these things?

Speaking of madness, the weather report is utter disaster, it is a terrible storm, schools close everywhere, everywhere but here.  The drive is slow but manageable, on the way home more of the same.  Were it a typical year, nothing would have closed, but since it is the first snow fall, everything has.  Now I see why southern states close at 2 inches.  We have about 10 I think, now in the morning.  I drive to yoga, thinking I will be the only one there, but there are several people.  My leg hurts terribly, the hip and knee issue are not good, I am definitely out of balance somehow, later I will put the ibuprofen lotion on my leg for the first time, to help me sleep.

In shavasana, resting pose, I breathe deeply, focusing in, not thinking about madness, or anger, or love.  All of this life is a reflection, how beautiful is the blue sky and trees in the lightly lapping waters.  And then, and then I think, a reflection of what exactly?  The Buddha smiles.  Yes.  That is a very good question.

It is 430 in the morning.  My body is aching for cuddling, for warmth, for touch.  Since none is forthcoming I get up and do yoga.  A sun salutation, triangle pose, a few limited hip openers.  I am sore from walking nearly six miles yesterday.  Stiff.  Yearning.  I sit in meditation.  Trying with very limited success to block out the strength of desire that is coursing through me, I recall telling a student that mediation isn’t prayer, because I am not asking God for anything, nor am I thanking God for anything.  I am just sitting with God, in the presence of God.  I breathe, until my feet are asleep.  I hold my beating bleeding heart up, and say here please take this, because I really cannot stand to hang onto it anymore.  I imagine myself back on that life raft not the rickety broken one that I dragged myself onto when my marriage ended, but onto a more sturdy craft.  I think I at least know how to manage it in the storms.  But then I say no.  I am a sea worthy vessel, and I still carry that treasure chest with the luminescent pearl.  Back to one.  Back to one.  Yes here it is.  I take that pearl the whole damn strand of precious gems and let them drop into the still waters of this hidden cove where I am moored.  They plunk as they drift into the abyss.  Back to one.  Or none.  For a half a second my mind is quiet and still.  I can feel the breeze blowing in my windows.  I can feel my body.  I am thinking only of my breath, the wind, and the tingling in my feet.  But that moment is fleeting.  I bow.

I throw on my cutoff shorts and head down stairs.  My Mom is up already, but I just want to walk the dog.  It looks like rain.  I bring my umbrella.  My legs feel strong.  It is good to be out in the cool breeze and grey skies.  About halfway the dog stops and puts his head on my leg, smiling up at me.  You are welcome buddy I say.  I needed to get out, I needed this walk.  I see the walking guy in the neighborhood.  How many miles do you walk a day?  4.   This is why I have been walking so much this spring, and now summer.  Forget the number on the scale, I just want to be more lean and strong like he is.  Stupid ego.  I want to be lean and strong because I want male attention.  But no it is also because I want to be aesthetically pleasing to my own artist eye.  The ratio of ankle to calf.  The way a muscled leg flexes as it walks.  A flashy spot to show off the tattoo on my leg.  An ornate skeleton key, with a smoke dragon wrapped around it.

skeleton key tatttoo, smoke dragon tattoo

Two miles.

I get into work and it is clear that only myself and the custodians are here today.  And I have forgotten my book.  It will be a long day.  But I have done yoga, meditated and walked.  I think it started out pretty well.

Flying Away

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”  Arundhati Roy

The Bird of Faith by Amberineswirlsofdust at Deviant Art
 Helene Deroubaix

I ate strawberry shortcake for breakfast with homemade scones.  It was delicious.  I know I eat weird stuff for breakfast sometimes, but strawberries and a biscuit doesn’t seem too odd to me.  At work one of my Karen students comes in.  I call her Little Clown.  She could also have the nickname Mother Hen but she does that with the other students, with me she is Little Clown.  Yesterday I gave her a blanket my Mom had sewed for a friend’s baby a couple years ago, it has been in my closet since then.  It wasn’t what I wanted so I asked my Mom to make something a little nicer, but then here I had this small blanket.  I knew that Little Clown’s mother had just had a baby so I gave it to her.  She gave me a note, sealed in an old utility company envelope, inside drawn and written on the back of some junk mail was a picture of me and a picture of her with her little brother.  It said.  Dear Ms. Gregory (Der, Ms.  Rgrgy) I love you.  My family we are your family.  (Me fam we fam).  Dude really, little tear.  I join the kids in the ESL classroom they are having a little party for all the work they did with testing last week.  I go in and all the kids are so sweet, oh please sit down.  Have some strawberries, look there is a plate there for you.  I help pass out the food and have class in just a moment, so I have to go.  As I leave I blow kisses, they each blow a kiss to me in turn waiting for me to blow one  back.

Later the kindergarteners come in and ask for Cheekzilla.  I tell them he has gone to the beach, that he was wearing a bikini with cupcakes on it, he had sunscreen and a straw hat, and a lunch bag full of cheeks and pink lemonade.  That he was wearing a pair of flip flops this big (big foot sized).  They sat eyes wide as I told the story.  The believed every word.

Seriously I love my job some days.

I get home and run my daughter to the bank, stopping to buy her and the dog ice cream.  I get a soy iced caramel mocha.  I look back at the dog while my daughter is driving and I see this glassy eyed half asleep look, he can barely sit, his front legs collapsing under him.  What is wrong buddy I say before I realized he is completely stoned on painkillers.  Yesterday he had dental surgery and a lumpectomy.  I teased my daughter that when she stepped on the brakes it shouldn’t be like she was trying to squash a cockroach.  She giggled and then cracked up, I love the way her whole face crinkles up into a hundred dimples and creases when I get her to laugh like this.

I went to yoga for the first time since January.  I wasn’t even recognized by one of the regulars, my hair is so different.  Wow was I stiff, my hamstrings were so tight, which is not tight compared to the average person mind you.  I can bend over and touch my hands flat on the floor, usually.  It was good to be there tonight it was a small group.  Dick was in good spirits today and between my friend Sarah and I we were teasing him so much.  I love how he laughs when I tease him too.  He mock complained at one point threatening to expel me, but Sarah defended me saying that teasing was a sign of affection, which Dick and I have discussed on numerous occasions.  I also did what I believe is called King Pigeon.  Pigeon with a back bend and taking your back foot in hand.  I had to use a strap for my foot, but it was really a lovely pose.  Once home I rode my bike for 4.5 miles.  Then walked stitches in the belly boy for a half mile.  Would have gone the other half but it was starting to lightning into the light rain, so I decided against it.

There is no insight for me today to share with the world.  Sometimes life is about the everyday, this day was a good one.

Ah there it is…

I am so grateful for all I have in my life.  I light five sticks of incense, I let it burn, I put on yoga chants.  I stretch, I strengthen, I breathe.  The dog comes to me and kisses me, the cat comes to me and purrs and purrs on the edge of my mat.  There is something so perfect about this moment.  I find myself thinking ahead but I catch myself and say no be grateful for what you have.  This is perfect.  Absolutely perfect.  I do not know where my phone is.  I am thinking about how perfect my body is.  Instead of not having the thinnest ankles or worrying about my tummy I am thinking that my feet are cute.  That I love how strong my hands are.  That I love how incredibly flexible I am.  I think how smart I am, how outspoken, how strong I am.  I think about stamina, I think yes I have that too.  What would you do if it was gone? I would find something in myself I would treasure what I have.  Right here.  Right now.

I am walking a friend home.  I could drive but we both need the walk.  We talk about the difference between friendship and lovers, we talk about how sex is fun but it is not enough.  We hug and go our ways.  I reflect on my shadow as it walks in front of me, hair akimbo.  I think to myself that no matter what I am feeling so happy I am so grateful, I have such wonderful friendships so deep and meaningful, the love is powerful.  And I feel so intensely beautiful.  Not on the outside necessarily.  Not like a rock star as one of my students called me today or a movie star like another one called me later on.  But it is this other. Perfection. Feeling.  And there it is, that smile I get when I know I am in the right place.  I had lost it for a few days.  But this is correct.  This is the real me, this is what I want to hold onto, this sense of perfection, this sense of gratitude, this sense of wholeness, this sense of deep and abiding love.  If the whole world fell away and I was as stark as a drifting astronaut would I feel this? I do not know, for right now I am taking my evening constitutional. quiet starlit night with God’s thumbnail moon.  The night is glorious.

standing mountain pose

today as I oversee the children taking the test.  the standardized test.  the fear of god in us all, shaking if we mess up we lose our jobs., esl kids, asking what words mean, I cannot help you, translator only works in a few languages, the girl who carried her brother a 1000 miles her language isn’t there, she tries so genuinely, her little sister is afraid of my new hair, i tell her, its okay, just pretend i am ms. gregory’s sister, but just as nice and just as cool, later she says hello ms. gregory’s sister. hello i say, hello and i recieve her hug girl who was carried by her older brother, a 15 year old, who is succeeding famously in school, only been her what two years, it is not a testament to love but to persistence, perseverance, to fortitude, to inner strength, to the gift of an inner light

i wander around the room in figure eights, stopping in vision of the glass windowed door, making sure i am always visible, my shoulders ache, i stand tadasana standing like a mountain, waiting for the time to pass, strong, strong, strength of mind, strength of spirit, strength of non romantic love, strength of the endless waiting, later when you leave me, i am happy, it is easier this way, i didn’t want to hurt you even though you didn’t deserve my compassion, i still gave it, i think of osama, who has a family, and i am a mountain, i do not wish any creatures death, i do not celebrate the death, or the passing, i simply watch and observe, i can hear the wind in the soft needles of the pines, it is whispering, this probably won’t end well, i should learn to listen to such omens, i had them in bats at dusk from the beginning, misgivings,

standing here in mountain pose, the water droplets run and the small streamlets fall, the gullied streams babble into waterfalling brook, rushing river, endless delta, inland sea, crashing rapids into salty sea, i am standing tall, i am standing mountain pose, tomorrow i will go again to the zen center, tomorrow i will fall on the soft mat and zabuton and i will see that even as i mountain, i must meditate with my sangha, my community of mountains, all in disrepair, i am also, i think i might cry, i haven’t cried there is two years, i think i might be a single drop, it has rained enough these days,

i yearn for the sun,

i yearn for the quiet of my own breath

flowing in and out and in again,

i return to this,

standing mountain pose.

World InterFaith Harmony Assembly of CNY

The first week of February is World Interfaith Harmony Week.  I attended this local celebration as a member of the Zen Center of Syracuse Hoen-Ji.  The celebration was held in the Bethany Baptist Church and included songs, poems, stories, prayers and dance from a number of traditions.   We all danced to a Hopi dance and chant that honored Mother Earth sponsored by the Dances of Universal Peace at the Society of Friends, heard the call to prayer and a story about the Prophet Mohammad, Peace Be Upon Him, and a song about the Five Pillars from the Islamic Society, a folksie song from the Christ Scientists, poems from the Jewish tradition, saw Bhutanese dancers and listened to songs in Pali that included names of Gods that I recognized, Shiva, Krishna, and some om shanti om shanti…..  heard a wonderful poem from the Pagan Community that had me wondering if I could find writings by Starhawk for my NOOK, heard a prayer of the Eucharist from the Catholic tradition which were at once familiar and limiting in my heart, songs from the Episcopals, a story from the Sikhs and Chanting from the Zen Center.  The program ended with prayers and song from a group of children from the Baha’i Faith.  They were sitting behind us and when the lovely toddler sat down she asked did I do it good?  I turned and told the girls they did a lovely job.  Their faces were beaming.  What sweet and pleasant children!

As I sat there I thought about my own faith and how it has grown.  Although a Buddhist in practice I believe strongly in an  all unifying power in the universe, some may call it God, I don’t know what to call it.  I was thinking earlier today about this Unitarian idea that our view of “God” is limited, we all think what we are seeing is the only view.  I thought even then we are looking through a shattered window and we have to squint our eye one eye and move just right to get a view and even then the view is distorted.  But all around us is this living energy and as humans we cannot really comprehend what it all is. Sitting there I felt as though all those faiths together in one room made it possible to assemble the pieces and I felt like it made it all seem so much more clear.  I felt the presence of divinity.  I also saw my own path the Presbyterian Sunday school, the Lutheran Sunday school and services, the Catholic confirmation, the obsession with all things Native American until I read that they resented white people trying to ascribe to their religion, the reading and passing interest in Wicca, the Baha’i friend who I met as I was playing with the Unitarian Universalist idea we talked about the similarities of the two traditions, the OM tattooed on my back and my yoga practice, the chants I listen to before I go to bed while I light a stick of incense and sit in quiet contemplation and my Zen practice.   All of this together and even though I do not even know what my questions are, I think that somewhere in all this religious questing there may be some answer, or at least some vision of the universe that is closer to the truth than I was at birth, or perhaps even farther.

Karen said at the beginning some comment about there not being an answer.  Sam joked and said 42, which made me laugh.  Then I said maybe there isn’t even a question.   Karen told me of her revelation of realizing this one thing.  And I nodded.  I think of this book Gateless Gate which I am struggling through, struggling to understand, it all seems so esoteric, but at this moment the idea of the Gateless Gate comes to me and I realize it is the same thing, there is no answer because there is no question.  Ask what is the answer and then ask what is the question.  The answer today is this church, this fellowship of people from all over the world and their relationships with the universe, call it what they will.  I realize that it is an accident me being here, but is it really?  I had contemplated Sesshin but decided that my aversion to cold and fear of driving in terrible weather and the horrendous hours I am working this school year would make it too much to bear.  Karen made a plea for people to chant with her in an email and I thought despite my continuing laryngitis that I should be there since so many of my Sangha are in Sesshin and I am after all a member and duty is part of the practice.  This morning as I was snowhoeing in the deep snow of Oswego’s Rice Creek, I regretted my decision, but obligation to my word won out the day.  And sitting there I realize that this was a blessing, this fellowship.  I feel a closeness and affinity to all of these present and to all those in similar meetings around the world today.  As war and revolt and protest clamors across the deserts, the oceans, the forests, the cities, the mountains, the sky and bounces through the atmosphere of our fine mother planet, I feel hope, I feel the light inside of me, shining and as the children said in their prayer we are all pearls in the shell of God.  The Sikh speaker removed his shoes in honor of these traditions and spoke of the hope that everyone in that room has of finding Peace.  I put my hands together, and I bow my head, then I lift my voice in song, and I am filled with joy.  The next time I remove my shoes to enter the Zendo, I will remember this day, and I will remove my shoes in honor of Peace and Harmony in the traditions of the world.

We all have our arms upraised, we all sit in prayer and meditaion, we all sing with joy and write poems and tell stories and put it all together all the traditions since the beginning of time, and still we have not gotten to the final moment when the answer is revealed to a question that cannot be asked.

New Year’s Resolution: No Need to Reach the Top

view towards the summit

From time to time, my yoga teacher tells us various little words of wisdom at the beginning of class.  Today he spoke of a time when he was out hiking with a friend, and after some time had passed they came to the realization that they would be unable to reach the summit before night had fallen and they had to turn back.   My yoga teacher said that he was lamenting the fact that they would be unable to summit the hike and his friend imparted some words that he had long held as words of wisdom.  His friend said, we are having a good time right?  And the yoga teacher  said yes of course, friend said, then what does it matter if we reach the summit?  We are right here right now having a wonderful time.  The view from the top is beautiful, but it isn’t necessary to the pleasure of this experience.  The yoga teacher said that he wanted us all to apply this to our decisions to make New Year’s Resolutions.  That it isn’t necessary to achieve some high and mighty goal, but rather most important is the day to day effort towards the goal, even if we do not actually get there.  And in the end its the effort that should in fact be the goal.  He said let’s say you decide I am going to do yoga every single day this coming year, a better option would be to say, when I do yoga, which I will do as often as I can, I will put all of my effort into doing it.

So often a person makes this resolution that is almost setting yourself up for failure.  You decide you will reach the top, if you fail to achieve the top on the first day, or the thirtieth day you view it as a failure.  Rather the idea should be to set yourself a goal that involves more of the day to day effort.  The thing is that reaching the summit may not even be what you need to do, perhaps some other goal is more important.  Reach the vista that is 2/3rds of the way to the top, or just go for a lovely walk in the woods.

I have resolved to try and exercise every single day.  I know I won’t exercise every day, I will undoubtedly be sidelined with a cold, and the part time job I have may at some point steal enough of my energy to make exercise more effort than I can give.  The thing is, that I know I need to be aware of a consistent effort to exercise.  I should not see one day of not exercising as a failure.  It is just one day.  And really standing in judgment, oh you didn’t go to the gym so that isn’t real exercise, or oh you only managed 15 minutes, or you were in bed with bronchitis and didn’t manage to exercise for a week, shouldn’t sideline your effort for the whole year.

So what about your New Year’s resolution, have you set your goal as reaching the top?  Or have you set your goal as maintaining a consistent effort for the year?  I have to say, there really is No Need to Reach the Top, if you are taking each step one at a time.