Archive for February 2014
Today’s image is courtesy of my wife who was trying out the panorama feature of her Samsung Note 8. As you can see, I was in the studio suite while she was taking this photo which covered about 210 degrees. I have this feature on my tablet as well but haven’t used the camera feature as I prefer to use my DSLR when taking photos. That said, photos are not often taken this winter on my part. It isn’t because there is nothing to take photos of; rather, it has more to do with motivation and focus. My mind is elsewhere and I am learning to respect and just watch where my focus takes me.
Buddhism – reading various books and documents, meditation, sitting for dharma with others, and practicing mindful awareness as I go about daily life is taking up a good portion of my time. Writing as an act of mindfulness where I touch shadows, acknowledge them and practice letting them go – working on a book of course – fills a few more hours of each day. Walking along the beach again invoking mindfulness and seeing what emerges finishes off my daily Buddhist practice.
It has been a few days since my last visit here. Life has pared itself down to a few basics with little initiative on my part to vary from these basics. As I mentioned in previous posts, those basics begin with morning meditation in the enclosed garden, usually in the sunshine. Cloudy mornings are rare. On days such as today, the meditation was delayed as it was farmer’s market day Beside the Catholic Church. Upon my return from the market, I joined my wife for morning coffee in the garden. We talked about the progress of my writing which she is reading in order to keep me apprised of the story’s flow. So far, so good as the story is keeping her interest. Then, it was time for a very short video to send to our youngest grandson before I finally set up my cushion in the garden for meditation.
As usual, this morning there was sunshine. Because I had delayed the start of my my meditation, it was warmer with the sun beaming higher in the sky. Long before twenty minutes was up, I felt beads of perspiration flowing off my face, arms and torso. Mindfulness meditation asks that I be aware of the space around me, my body, my mind and my heart. And in that awareness, I am not to judge what comes up, but to simply acknowledge its presence and then release it from my attention. For the first time I felt that the beads of sweat were like tears, my body’s tears that were helping to release those things within that cause blockage in my psyche. Perhaps it was because of the poor sleep I had last night, a sleep that was continually interrupted by scenes from the story I am writing. The idea of tears was heard, acknowledged and then released. Before it seemed time, twenty minutes had passed and it was time to make some breakfast.
Now, with the rest of the day still before me, we will go for our two hour beach walk (all walking and no dawdling along the way) ending the walk with a cool off swim in the Caribbean Sea before heading back to the casa for a return to writing, some lunch, some reading (Pema Chodron’s book, The Places That Scare You), some dedicated time for sun bathing as an alchemical act for transformation of my psyche (sweat the Devil out of me) using the fire of the sun, then perhaps a stroll down to the village square followed by an early evening meal and then more reading and writing in the evening within the casa we call our home here in Puerto Morelos. It’s a simple life in terms of content.
I have been doing some thinking lately about being vulnerable. Like most people, I used to thing that being vulnerable was mostly about being weak and setting oneself up to be a victim of life. Being vulnerable in the workplace is akin to hanging up a sign in neon lights inviting the workplace bullies, and yes almost every work place has its bullies, to add you to the menagerie of bullied.
The idea of being weak when vulnerable is more about just some aspects of oneself being exposed, usually against our conscious intentions, to others. Without conscious intention, we are caught by surprise, ill prepared to even admit the truth of what is exposed. Now that I am older, retired and somewhat secure in my economic future in an uncertain world, I don’t have the same worries about people finding out stuff about me that would put my livelihood and my family at risk. At my age, it just doesn’t matter anymore. But that said, risking opening up the Pandora’s Box that contains all that uncomfortable and messy stuff that I have consciously and unconsciously denied for so long perhaps is something about which I should be worried. After all, who wants to be shunned and banished from connection to others?
As I continue with my latest writings, I am finding the will to not withhold. Withholding in order to protect myself or someone else seems to have created an inner tempest that gets in the way of my achieving some peace. It wasn’t long ago that I believed that it was important to keep the peace, and if that meant not speaking about something, or casting what needed to be said in a manner that would not cause unnecessary hurt for others. This avoidance of exposing ghosts and setting them free only allowed those phantoms of the mind and memory to dominate the inner spaces of self, ensuring that inner peace would never become a reality.
And so, now, I find myself too tired to play this game. I haven’t done anyone any justice in keeping a smile on my face and keeping the peace for as many others as I felt I needed to protect. It took me a long time to realise that each of these others were self-responsible beings, not dependents who were too weak and fragile to face life without my micro-managing (or trying to micro-manage) the work to keep harmony from causing any of these others any unnecessary discomfort. Every time I would see a tear, or hear sadness, I rushed to the rescue in an attempt to fix it all. I’m not god and I can’t fix it. I haven’t even had the skill to fix myself. So much for containing the shadows anymore.
Now, it’s time for me to stop hiding, stop disguising, stop trying so hard to please by twisting my psyche like a pretzel into shapes that would please others. It is time to risk truly being vulnerable and being patient, about accepting without judgement the fact of who I am and how I am in this world. Now, it is time to open up like a lotus flower opening up as it rises from the muck and dank waters of life to show a piece of perfection.
Another evening was spent at Layla Guesthouse for meditation last evening. Again, there were new people showing up to take part in the experience. Some were familiar with Buddhist meditation but most were not. The teacher or guide for these Tuesday evenings has the same Tibetan Buddhist background as I do, one that is grounded in Buddhist Dharma. He is presenting some Dharma at each session while also teaching Mindfulness Meditation practices, hoping I would imagine to meet all expectations somewhere in the middle. Somehow I think that one can do this without actually naming concepts and sources as Buddhist as what is there in Dharma is very understandable from an ordinary perspective without Buddhist trappings. That said, I was very appreciative of having some real Dharma as part of the evening’s meditation experience.
The Dharma for the evening focused on the paramitas that were spoken about as ways that one can strive to become better people in an attempt to also give back to the societies and communities we all live in. Again and again as I listened, Jungian psychology, humanism, and simply just being good people reaching out to help others suffer less. I guess in the end, that is what most of us want – a life with less personal suffering and the peace and happiness that comes from relieving the suffering of others. There was one quote from the Dalai Lama that summed up well the focus for the evening:
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
This morning I changed up my habitual patterns here in Mexico. Instead of au naturel meditation in the garden, I went to the beach at sunrise to meditate where others were walking dogs, doing yoga, meditating or simply watching the day being born. Returning back the casa with my wife, it was time for morning coffee and then some focused writing before I took time out for sunbathing, something I normally reserve for the mid-afternoon as we usually go for a long beach walk at mid-morning.
This isn’t a photo of me, rather it was one that I found on the ‘Net through a search. My camera has been very quiet this year in Mexico. My focus is centered on doing the work necessary to move the healing of soul along, writing work, walking work, and the alchemical work of psychological transformation using heat, natural heat from the sun. This approach honours the body, the mind and the spirit. I am careful with what I am putting in my body, careful with what I feed my mind, and attend to as pure approach of self to spirit as possible.
I use the words “alchemical work” as I am using the fire of the sun to bake away impurities, to aid in the transformation of my being. Old habits, old beliefs, neurotic responses are turned to ash and out of those ashes I am rebuilding my “self.” The sun becomes the purifying fires that will rid my body and mind of toxins, allow me to become clean enough to approach whatever gods and goddesses need honouring if I am to become whole. In a way, it is not much different that a priest going through rituals in order to prepare himself for the holy work of transforming wine and bread into the body and blood of Christ. Or of an ancient Egyptian who would wash himself with all kinds of purifying agents while uttering the appropriate words and spells that would then open up his soul for the holy work of talking with the gods and goddesses of his time. One could also think of those holy men in India, sadhus, who through fasting and meditation and covering their naked bodies with ashes would finally be able to approach Krishna in one of his millions of incarnations and perhaps escape the curse of rebirth through their holy work of self-transformation.
With each day, I find myself working to transform myself from this broken old man into one who finally is able to be with the world in peace, perhaps being able to shine some light on others who need a moment of unconditional acceptance and spiritual peace. But, that is just part of my day. The rest of the time I am just your average married man in Mexico with a more beautiful than average woman.
In this image of a galaxy, I understand just a bit more, perhaps not better as I doubt that anyone really has much of a clue when it comes to full awareness of it all. What I take from this image is a mixture of all of those influences in my life – Christianity, Buddhism, Jungian psychology, and probably most importantly, my own experiences of being swept away by storms and collisions and black holes and darkness. What I then see in this image is a self portrait. Let me explain, if I can, what I mean by this.
If I take my conscious self, my ego as the centre – the bright light of consciousness – and move out from that centre, I find other points of life, of awareness that could represent those closest to me, the next brightest lights and other lights that lose their intensity from where I am at the centre as they move out of my range of consciousness. On the fringes are presences I know are there though I only seem to have a faint, almost periphery sense of their presence.
If I think of the image in Christian terms, and I hear the voice that tells me to look for the kingdom of heaven within, I find that place of perfection again at the centre. As I move away from perfection there is greater darkness until a point is reached where darkness is all that exists. Out of darkness light was created, the heavens, the earth, life on the earth and then humans. The journey of all humans according to Christian ideology is somehow a journey through life which is a vale of tears, shadows, sin and sorrow in order to return to a Garden of Eden, a place of eternal light called Heaven. It’s a grim tale that doesn’t somehow seem as complete, as complex yet simple enough to embrace both the darkness and the light and all the spaces in between. It is a philosophy that demands either-or compliance, a duality that can never become one in spite of the story of how all springs from one.
When I look again at this image I see it a reflection of an inner space, a world that is unbounded by my ego and body. And I find that I begin at the outer edges on a journey that takes me to the centre, the heart of the universe. And as I follow the trail to the centre I have a sense of deja vu, that I have been here before when I had made the journey from wholeness, oneness to the outer edges of darkness where I became manifest as a human, as an ego.
These thoughts have me wonder about all those other spots of light, all of those other galaxies and it dawns on me that each of us humans is in fact a cosmos, a universe, a light at the centre of a galaxy. I am forced to an awareness that each of us is a light staring out into the darkness in search of light. The more intense the ego, the brighter the light at the centre and the harder it is to see the light of others and, harder still to find that all of these centres of light become one, become a whole. Separateness and duality disappears leaving no distinction between dark and light; the realities, the possibilities, the darkness, the light, the suffering, the joy – all become one, the universe.
We began Valentine’s Day with our usual activities. She spent time with yoga and I meditated. Then as we sat in the early morning sunshine with our coffee, we were visited by a pair of orioles which prompted a rush for the camera. With the camera out, we then decided to take a photo of the two of us to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Then, it was time for our usual two-hour beach walk in sunshine. At the end of our walk we met up with Steve Grad, who is the meditation guide for Tuesday evenings at Layla Guesthouse, and his wife, Jacqueline. After a brief chat we agreed to meet for lunch the next day. Back at the casa, we relaxed before it was time to eat lunch. I relaxed in the sunshine and she relaxed in the shade.
With lunch done, with warm temperatures and no wind, we decided to go to the beach and enjoy the sea water together. However, before going to the beach I went to a seaside restaurant and reserved a table for the two of us so that we could eat well and have live music entertainment by a group called Volando Rumba. The water was cool and refreshing. We kept it simple with gentle floating in the water and staying close to each other until we were ready to warm up again in the sunshine. There was enough time left of the afternoon for me to return to writing.
We then went to Pangea ordered our meal and drinks and sat back to enjoy the rest of the evening and the incredible music by the three men who formed the group, Volando Rumba. The magic of the day swelled and washed over us taking us into a space and place that went deep within skipping by our minds right into our core. When we finally returned home to the casa, we resisted ending the day too soon and sat together sharing these last moments of the day with wine.
We were blessed by the magic of the day and how it allowed the essence of who we were as a man and a woman to emerge from behind the roles we lived as a couple. It was a magical evening of love and music after what seemed to be an almost perfect day that is one of those magical days when what is real and what is beyond the realm of what we accept is reality, the world of gods and goddesses.