In the gaze of the other

"My mistress' eyes are nothing…"


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Today’s Ten Minutes–The Sanctuary

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June 30, 2016

 

Woke up with a pleasant, little hang-over, feeling calm and assured, recalling the spatial quietude both inner and outer of the Rama Krishna Vedanta Monastery in Rancho Santa Margarita. Snapshots of the musty, library thick with sound-absorbing books with titles like Yoga, the Vedanta, and You. I sat down on a faux leather sink-in couch and perused a few images on instructional pages before moving on to the meditation room. This dark sanctuary, replete with incensed-burning altar centered with a framed photo of one of the Rama Krishna disciples, I assume, compacted, thick, chewy air. I did not get close enough to examine the framed face heading the room. No, I stayed back in the sunken square dotted with cushy meditation pillows and blankets in deep wine and maroon velveteen or faux silk.

Pulling one aside, I sat on the pillow and lapsed into my habitual meditation pose, legs in half lotus, palms down and forefinger-thumb circled knees. I don’t know how long I breathed into the space which sucked out all noise save the air conditioner among three breathers. The desert outside did not exist in this room resonant with an abundance of meditations past: innumerable daily practicing monks and others since the 40s. Rich with endeavor and calm, I fell into the room’s focused peace.

The sweaty outdoor hike that followed contrasted deeply with steep climbs and declines along a narrow, mud-hardened, bramble-lined, winding path amid the chaparral—the shrine trail–leading to five meditative spaces symbolic of five religions or practices: Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism and Vedanta. The highest spot is the last, the Vedanta, which embraces both physically (highest climb) and spiritually all the others.

On the way out, the 18 year old son of a friend who accompanied me, purchased in the gift shop a jar of honey produced by the bees the monks keep on the property and allow to swarm the lily-laced fountain pool surrounding the shrine statue located between the mess hall and library. He had never tried honey before. And so the little jaunt ended as it began with the same, sweet, subdued astonishment.

 


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Today on The Mindful Word


Please enjoy a little shared yoga after glow in today’s The Mindful Word.

In a mind-drifting moment during Yoga practice this morning, I flashed on a childhood fantasy about leaping in zero gravity like the astronauts. How fun it would be to float freely without burden, without weight forcing me down to the earthbound reality that I could never fly…read more.


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Ten Minutes More

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June 28, 2016

I breathed into this one a great deal yesterday: Tomorrow will be a day full of challenges small and large, the largest being the lack of time to think. A day full of so much activity (appointments, work, work and work) without any time to ponder the condition of the day–and me–for a small yet centered bit of time used to be every day. And that was just fine. I rather preferred not thinking and just doing. It warded off the demons I was keeping down inside me, in that deep, deep place no one—not even I—can locate. The busier I was, the less time I had to reflect about how my life was going or not going. It suited me just fine and then, of course, delayed the inevitable revolt of the repressed, those wild demonic fears and dissatisfactions named “where am I going and where have I been?”

But today’s busy-ness did not arrive with relish. In fact, the scheduled activities brought nothing more than the challenges of practicing what I know I must do but find difficult to do: appreciate everything more. Yet there’s no question in my mind (first mistaken location to start the day) that I do not appreciate taking my father to his doctor appointment down south 30 minutes in weekday traffic, abiding his ever stream of mad rant. “Why are we going to more doctors? They don’t know anything and just want to take my money and make me miserable. I’d like to give them some of their own medicine. Why do they allow trucks on the freeway? In New York, they only allow trucks on the expressway so the shmucks don’t slow down traffic. Look at that asshole driving so slow, holding up traffic.” This is the running monologue I expect and too often get before he asks me what we’re going to eat when we get out of the good-for-shit doctor’s office.


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Today’s Ten-Minute Write

I don’t know what I think until I write it down—Joan Didion

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In my web journeys today, I discovered a site called Life in 10 Minutes that collects and features ten-minute life writes. Much to my delight, this site celebrates what I do most days anyhow, write for ten minutes to a timer just to get a little heat to my brain and fingers, a warm-up if you will. After the free-write, I am ready to take on larger writing endeavors, like an essay or poem or whatever else that needs writing.

Though I have never thought of publishing these exercises in their entirety, taking only bits and pieces to flesh out into something grander, I might tinker with this idea of setting them out here as-is for a while to see what they bear.

I hope you enjoy today’s ten minutes of life.

June 27, 2016

Today feels like yesterday, except less fatigued and more awakened. My muscles after a half hour of yoga to start the day feel thick and rubbery like those industrial size rubber bands that bind a ream of paper’s worth of words—a manuscript, for example–together with firmness yet flexibility. My strut is glide-easy balanced between the push and pull of gravity.

And though the heat is slightly oppressive and my father is calling me on my cell phone once again from just inside the other side of the house, disrupting my writing—yet again, to ask me one of several questions he asks daily: “Are you hungry? What are we eating? Do you need anything from Sam’s? The answers to which are all 90 % of the time “No, I don’t know and no,” I sit in good-willed contentment and compassion. It is how he communicates, after all, how he crafts the world—plot, character and theme all food.

So today, with soft-hardness under the pads of my feet and surrounding the gooey gray matter inside my hard head, I have promised us both not to take it personally, not to react like night to day, inevitable and expected, even as nothing is ever guaranteed. I let the word “Dad” that flashes on my Samsung phone screen evoke a nanosecond of knee-jerk irritation before I exhale with the word ‘calm’ unformed but sunk-in performed. We will have this day of little perturbation, only small speed bumps that we will drive over slowly, braking down, deliberately pressing the gas pedal with a long whispered inhale and even longer exhale.


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Not all children are poets

Not at all children are poets, but some are.

I remember my four-year old saying, with gravelly complaint and

consternation as we rounded the last lap of tract homes from the 

neighborhood park, “It feels like there’s an elephant in my shoe.”

Those days, I was not a poet myself, so I simply took off her shoe

to see what was the matter, what was in there, a rock or a sock?

Neither of those could possibly be the size or weight of an elephant

but I skipped right over the poetry and assumed the play out of it:

She just meant that something was slowing down her gait, some

obstruction that was making her walk like an elephant, and that

full explanation did not even articulate in my mind, just swallowed

up in the patching up holes and problems, as parents are wont to do.

 

And then those hours of “Mother Goose” nursery rhymes that 

pleased and placated my tiny joy-riding song and wordsters who

pleaded, “Again” after we’d go through the entire night’s rhymes read

before bed time, and all I could think was, “What does this mean, 

‘hickory dickory dock’, mice, clocks and ‘Little Jack Horner’s plum’, 

dishes eloping with spoons and cracked “Humpty” eggs that garnered

so much respect that all the king’s horses and men came to its aid?”

My mind drifted as I sang-sung the words that were impossible to

read plainly, prosaically–meter forced down the reader’s tongue and 

bones–through history, fairy tales and folktales, lore of

cultures and small pockets of rural societies past when these words, 

rules and references made sense, all the while losing the music that 

kept my poetettes lulled to the opiate rhythms of story-song silliness.

 

Only when I noticed their wobbling knees and fatty little fingers 

opening and closing like metronomes to music I forgot to hear, the

pulse of primal iambs that beat like limbic hearts, laughter-ful, wordless 

sense, even while my lips, breath, voice, tongue and ears decoded and 

reproduced the text just as it was meant to be read–filled with 

drama, pause, whole notes and half notes, lento and allegro, 

ha-ha! loud and sh-sh soft as we three piggies word-danced, they

with their poet souls and me with my mimed mastery of lines.


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Searching for the light switch in the dark

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“If a man going down into a river, swollen and swiftly flowing, is carried away by the current — how can he help others across?” – The Buddha

I am that man. Some days, at least. Absorbing the toxic words and actions around me in the news, on the roadways and in my own home, I swell with anger or fear so plumped that I could not pull myself out of the fast flowing river of popular roars and rants if there were a thousand outstretched helping hands lined up along the banks for miles.

 

And yet, I know the flip of the switch we all possess to alleviate the suffering that comes from the world being too much with us. Choosing not to allow the inflow of water or to let it pass through prevents the swollen suffering.

Detachment isn’t a synonym for tuning out, more so tuning in while refusing to participate. The only way to survive this volatile time on the planet and at home is as the scientist examining the world and my responses to it under a bell jar, watching with dispassionate interest the outcome and culmination of all the forces I choose not to be swept up by, like that river that I can fall in and under or navigate with the vessel that allows safe passage–for me and you.

There is a switch we can all turn on that allows us not to react to the chaos and frenzy around us but to observe it without attachment. I keep looking for that light switch in the dark.


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Stillness and Presence


“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,

But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, 

Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,

Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,

There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”

T.S. Eliot, “Four Quartets” 

The dance is ongoing. It is presence. It never was nor will be but at the still point of our ever turning, evolving world–that is us. And the dance is lovely and freeing if you stay there.