Samsara

Each day I wake and tell myself, “it’s not about winning or receiving approval; it’s about gratitude, acceptance, and love.”

Then each night, I fall asleep, wondering, “Was I good enough today?”

Lifetime to lifetime, moment to moment, ever-grinding on; the turning wheel of Samsara.

The Yogi

Perspective makes the view. We all see something different when we look at the moon, though we all call it the by the same name. During my junior year of high school, I was failing algebra II. I could understand three out of every five words that rolled off the thickly Greek accented tongue of Mr. Papastathis. I dropped the class in which other students were doing just fine. It was like he was speaking Greek to me, ha. I tried A2 again the next semester with a different instructor and scored an A-. I’m sure the Greek teacher was a fine mathematician. Still, his teachings blurred to the point of useless for me personally. Perspective.

Learning is a personal venture, and we all take our own pathways to knowledge and wisdom. My Algebra II experience taught me more than math. It taught me that is was okay to search until I found the right teacher for a given subject. Those who impart wisdom come in many forms: educators, family, mentors, friends, and sometimes a yogi.

It’s a true gift when a random someone changes our life for the better. Often when we least expect it, our short time here can be enhanced, brightened, and improved by hearing the right message. The practice of yoga takes multiple forms, and I’ve explored most of them with many different teachers. All have been gifted with the ability to do the poses and pass the test of instructor certification. However, it became clear over the last year that very few have the ability to make a profound, state altering difference in the lives of their students, at least this pupil.

Enter “the yogi,” or as I’ve nicknamed her, Lady Dalai Lama. Class starts with her rambling a bit about whatever is on her mind. She laughs at her own jokes. Most importantly, she never fails to bring up something that resonates with me. It could be an anecdote about suddenly realizing while walking through Target with her kids that she has allowed holiday madness to take her in a mental stranglehold. Other times it’s about meeting a vacuous someone who she’s diagnosed with a case of “There’s no there in there, you know what I mean?” Most importantly, she has distilled the practice of yoga down to its most simple and essential elements, stripped away the encyclopedia of postures, and made the practice genuinely effective. Her most repeated motto for the class is “Close your eyes, no point in comparing yourself to the person next to you, yoga is not a competition.”

The Lady Dalai Lama specializes in the art of relating the finer points of each simple posture. I’ve done some of the poses hundreds or thousands of times over the years. A few words from her sage lips and I find a completely new, deeper place in the same old pose. Tuck the tailbone to the left here; notice how this grounds both feet. Extend the ring fingers there; can you feel how that releases the shoulders. Voila, the same old pose creates an exponentially deeper result. Details, not actually the province of the devil, matter most. Her class has changed my physical being, my mental state, and my life. Seeing the depth of wisdom a gifted teacher can afford, I am unable to settle for less. As we go forth on our journey of lifetime learning, when choosing mentors or teachers, we would be wise to keep a weather eye out for the essence of the yogi.

At the End of the Parade

At the end of the parade, the costumes come off. The instruments are returned to their cases. Batons are put away. Horses are lead to the stables for hay. Clowns wipe off their make up. The floats are deconstructed or left to deteriorate at the hand of the elements. Time marches on, but not for the parade.

That blink of an eye that caused so much anticipation, preparation, a bit of anxiety, and copious excitement has come to a close. All the planning and hard work are spent. The joy and wonder that were created now begin the process of vaporizing into the ether. The parade takes up residence in fading memory as the next novel distraction begins to crystallize, sure to capture the imaginations of the willing.

Why go to all the effort to manifest something so fleeting? Perhaps it is because the act of creating an experience from nothing affords us a sense of meaning, even if only for the ephemeral moment. Because meaning, fashioned from nothingness, is the prize that we all feel impelled to create before the end of our parade.

Trimming the Deadwood

The quagmire of neglect is fed by many streams. Indifference, preoccupation with the demands of every present moment, innocent ignorance, or willful avoidance, to name a few. These may occur singularly or compound to create a blind spot, the perfect breeding ground for runaway deterioration. It’s natural, perhaps inevitable, but in the short term, most certainly addressable.

The cypress tree on the front corner of our little brick home knows of neglect. Her arboreal brothers and sisters feel it too. The groundskeeper has forgotten them, or been away, or lost motivation. There are dead limbs visible throughout the property. Once they were green with leaves or needles, but now when the wind rises, they sit mostly still, only trembling slightly for lack of sail. They are no longer part of the tree’s growth. Instead, they are a liability, an invitation to disease, and decay. A good steward would, with a sharpened tool and gentle hand, remove them in the name of the greater good.

So it is with the branches of a life. Some grow unhindered to great majesty. Others flourish for a time but then wither. They may take the form of perspectives, habits, regrets, or relationships. These dead branches often hang on long after their time has come to be gone. The burden they present may be difficult to see as for so long we’ve known them as something else. Best to remove them before their dead weight brings down the whole tree.

It is not cruelty, nor indifference, but awareness, thoughtfulness, courage, and mercy that call for the removal, the setting free to a new purpose of that which no longer serves a tree, or a life. Today the saw will be sharpened, the gloves pulled on, and the task will begin. Today is a perfect day to begin trimming the deadwood.

 

In The Blink Of An Eye

Jackson Hussey 6th grade Trampoline

Now you see me, now you don’t.  

Yesterday I walked into my first day of kindergarten. I blinked and had a bachelors degree. A few days later I held my, ten-minute old baby boy, I blinked and he’s gone to college. We all feel it, the Einsteinian vortex that turns days into years, then decades into nanoseconds. All in the blink of an eye.

I am aware of the fact that I overuse the word ‘bittersweet,’ but I’ve not as yet found a more suitable way to describe this beautiful, sorrowful adventure. ‘Love’ is another word that some feel falls in the category of overused. I personally love the concept of the bittersweetness of life, so there.

In the presence of things we love we don’t want to blink. We don’t want to miss a moment. Then eyes shut tight when boredom, discord, or darkness flood our tiny worlds. So then it is the case that we choose to be open, to be present, or to blink, to escape. Hungry eyes open wide for the moments we cherish or crave, then clench to deflect pain or fear or push tears as they wash over us. Human nature, yes.

It’s easy to watch our loves grow up, not so to watch them grow weary and wither. Blink, and you’ll miss it, but what is it? The person you could have spent a mostly happy life with? Your children’s childhood or perhaps your own? The chance to create something beautiful that instead will never be? Adulthood takes on the quality of endlessness for a time, the perfect breeding ground for the cunning cancer of complacency. 

We cannot stop the ‘illusion of time,’ but we can choose to challenge its passage with vigilance. When the days grow short, and memory becomes our most precious holding; when we painstakingly replay the moments of our lives, will we rejoice in, or regret the choices we’ve made? How much will we have truly seen, known, or touched? How much will we have lost to the blink of an eye?

In My Time of Dying

In my time of dying

In My Time of Dying – Thank you, Led Zeppelin, for the opening line : )~

As to the next line of the aforementioned song, I won’t go so far as to discourage mourners, for that will no longer be an issue within my sphere of influence.

I will say though that I would prefer a celebration! Just sayin’.

Claiming a life well lived would be mine to conclude on the way out, and a point with which others could agree or debate, but again when the time comes such agreements or disagreements will be of small importance, at least to me.

What I do know is that for those I’ve loved, I will not be gone. A singing cardinal on the maple branch at dawn, a sudden thundershower, a new favorite song, I’ve loved those things in this life, and so they will always be a part of me, and I a part of them in the lives of those who carry on.

In my time of dying, I wish peace, tranquility, and acceptance for any who might grieve.  Most importantly, I want them to know they have been loved with all the commitment and earnest appreciation that a human being could have mustered in one small lifetime.

In my time of dying please play the following song, for those I’ve loved, those I did not have the pleasure of coming to know, and for me, if only in the form of memory.

 

P.S. My health is currently delightfully good. I was just having a dust in the wind moment and thought I’d get it all down while it was fresh.  

It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn

rain storm web1

It’s always darkest before the dawn, but what if dawn never breaks? 

Optimism vs. fortitude.  One is outcome dependent, the other self-sustaining. Dark times come, and hopefully, go, but “hope” is not a strategy. The only meaningful goal then is to endure, rather than to dream of being rescued.

As the midnight storm clouds bare their icy fangs I brace for the knife blade deluge of unexpected misfortune this season demands.

Heaven & Hell

Heaven and hell web

The expression, “The world is going to hell, (sometimes in a handbag)” implies that some of us haven’t already been there. In my experience, heaven too gracefully finds its way into everyday moments.

Last Saturday, while racing our mountain bikes through the lush spring woods, my eldest son asked me, “Do you believe in heaven and hell?”

“I do,” I said. “Right now, here with you, I believe I am in heaven, though on my journey to this moment I have at times passed through what surely seemed to be the heart of hell.”

He smiled and offered, “Yeah, that’s what I think too.”

Heaven!  At least for now, in this precious moment.

Namaste

The Work of Living

The Work of Living_by John Hussey

The rains came at the end of December and have since called this place home.  It is not the countryside, rather a despondency that blooms in the midst of this cold winter downpour. Those in the parts of the world where such weather is commonplace probably bare it away silently, knowing year after year that such is their fate. Here in southern North America, this bleak, relentless drenching has transformed myriad normal men and women into so many agitated, forlorn creatures.

The wearing down of the spirit by natural means such as continuous dark, damp days is in no way sinister.  In that light, this indifferent water torture shows a modicum of kindness. The spirit breaking inventions used by one human on another cut more profoundly, with much greater precision. Cruelty is intentional, and therefore personal. Such malevolent behavior, like the weather, is sometimes predictable, sometimes not.

Confronting darkness in any form, be it natural or man-made presents each of us with the opportunity to choose a response. With rare exception, we can decide whether to reflect or reject the shadows cast upon us. Reacting on impulse is natural, but void of the benefit of circumspection. Stepping back, taking stock, digging deep and choosing a way forward that lies outside readily ostensible options, a path that leads us back to the light, that is the work of living.