Monday, October 20, 2014

Polio Shot


Years ago I had to get polio shots. The first one really hurt. So I told my mom that if she gave me five dollars I wouldn’t cry when I got the second one. I just focused on the money.

Today I will be getting one of my fingers fixed. It doesn’t have very much strength and won’t close all the way. The painful part (I had my thumb fixed three years ago) is the shot to knock it out.

I wish my mom would give me five dollars.

Oh, mom, where are you?

Maybe I should take five dollars from what I inherited from her and spend it on something I really need. When I asked her for money, she would ask if I just wanted it or whether I really needed it. I’d say that I did need it, which is probably why my nose got a little longer.

I’m not sure what I’m going to get with the five dollars. I know we won’t have time to go anywhere on the way home. Maybe I’ll send it to Hefner International so someone, somewhere, will have part of a goat.

I’ve been reading so much about offerings in the Torah. Yet my offerings have been so minuscule. Or I could send it to a pen pal in Kenya. For $5, he and his sister can eat very well for a day. They can get meat or fish, and a variety of other foods.

I’m always surprised, when working with my trainer, how I can move one part of my body while focusing on another. For example, I can move my shoulder and my hand moves. How does it know to do that?

In the same way, I will think about the five dollars when I’m getting the shot in my hand. What can I do with the five dollars to make the most difference in the world?

I’ll write a little later in the day to tell what I decided. Thanks mom for going along with my scheme to feel no pain. That’s it. No pain, world gain.

So I worked with my trainer this morning and we came up with an idea that I’d give $5 to the clerk at our local gelato bar and tell them that I’m paying for the next customer to come through the door…but they shouldn’t tell the customer it was me. Then I could watch their expression as they learned that their gelato was a gift.

After that, I started to realize that maybe meditation was the best procedure… that I would meditate through the entire procedure, from the shot to when they put the bandage.

We’ll see how that goes.

__________________________________________

Ok. I had the surgery and it went fine. I’m even able to type, though the operated-on-finger is numb.

I didn’t think of giving away $5 nor did I meditate when I got the shot to put my hand asleep. I just breathed as deeply as I could and soon it was over. Before the shot they sprayed my hand with something that was so cold in hurt, which probably hid the pain from the shot. The surgery was easy. It just felt like someone gently touching my hand.

Now back to the rest of my life.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Eye Glasses

A” insisted that there is one basic truth, that things are “as it is.” You might wonder about the grammar here. The great American Zen teacher, Suzuki roshi, said this because in his mind, all is interconnected and interdependent, so “it is” works better than ”they are.”

I told her that idea is just one more lens through which we can look. One more pair of eyeglasses. She disagreed, saying we might not know what that thing is, but it is, nevertheless.

I remember an intro to philosophy course that I audited for awhile. The teacher went from one philosophy to the next, attempting to sell each one. Just when I was ready to buy, she went to the next…and the next…and the next.

I should have realized then what I realized later that one doesn’t contradict or verify the other, but rather that they are all right.

An art teacher and I were listening to Buckminster Fuller and afterwards he went up to Fuller and said that he’s been thinking of some things that are similar to what he said and could he share his ideas with him. Fuller said that he was very busy, but that he knew my teacher was right.

I didn’t realize the gist of his statement until recently. How did he know? Perhaps because we are all right. 

I wrote something about searching around for the best religion when Jim Jordan, the recently deceased priest and husband of Barbara Kohn, one of my Zen teachers said, “In the end they are all comic books and they all say the same thing.”

I had lunch with three women today, all of whom had serious Christian backgrounds, and all of whom are straying from the gospel. I got a sense that their new beliefs were really no different than their old beliefs. Their attachment to their beliefs was the same. 

What is right? If all the comic books say the same thing, we can think that they are all right. But suppose they say different things. Perhaps one says that the world is 6000-10,000 years old and the other says it is 4.5 billion years old. Can both be right?

Most intelligent people would say no, they both can’t be right. So they ascribe to one view or the other. But another way to look at is that they are systems for viewing reality based on assumptions. The Intelligent Design people say that the Bible is factual. Their conclusions follow that assumption. Others have different assumptions. Geologists assume that carbon dating gives reliable information. That assumption gives another date for creation. We can choose this theory or that, but we should let the others have their view. 

Where this gets tough is when conclusions start to cause wars, like when Hitler decided that Aryans should live and others should die. What do we do if we don’t agree with that view? I think in the same way that we should let our neighbor alone as long as she doesn’t interfere with our lives or property, we can allow people to have their Aryan stories until they start to make it impossible for non-Aryans to live with their stories.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Forgetting Be Here Now

Around 1980 I went through EST, and then took a few “graduate seminars,” one of which was called, ‘Be Here Now.”

I remember nothing about it, other than the title of the seminar.

When meditating, one of my gauges about where I am is how startling it is when I hear the bell at the end of the session. If I’m startled I take that as a sign that I was off in la la land. If, on the other hand, I’m waiting for the bell and the ringing doesn’t phase me at all, then I know I’m looking out for the bell rather than paying attention. I’m not “here now.” I am for the middle way. It doesn’t catch me at one extreme or the other.

The key, here, is paying attention. One of the neat things about psychotherapy is that you have someone (when it is good) that is paying attention to you. Not someone who wants to tell you what you should do. Not someone who is worried whether or not their car will start. But someone who is listening to you. Someone who is there with you.

Maybe I should capitalize “YOU” because they aren’t just listening to another person, but they are giving you permission to be YOU. Why is that so difficult for us to do for ourselves?

Being alive, really alive, is all about paying attention. I wish that we didn’t have the word “meditating” and instead we had the word “attending.” The therapist listens to the other. Can we listen to ourselves, focusing on who we are—who we really are? Can we gently hold ourselves in our arms, lovingly, as we watch our breath go in and out? Can we watch thoughts come and go, without beating ourselves up for thinking this or that, or for thinking at all?

We don’t need to medicate with outside stimuli or “feel good” substances. We can simply return to our being, our Buddha nature, our original self. Even if we do it for just one breath, we see Buddha in us for that one moment. We are back in the womb, attended too from the other, gently floating without aspirations or anxieties. We are “here and now.”

Try that. One breath where you pay attention to the breath going in and out. Breath in and notice its distinct taste or smell. Feel as it cools the area below you nose. Hear the sound of breath coming it, and the breath going out.

Now look at your hand. Don’t name it hand. Just look at its color, its texture, its variations, and its repetitions. That is what “Be Here Now” might have been about.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Meditation

I’ve been procrastinating writing about meditation.

I usually don’t know what I’m going to write when I choose a topic. What I say or think is often a surprise for me.

What do I really think about this or that? Usually my thoughts are pretty limited. When I think of the word “meditation” or whatever, I’ll usually have one thought or image. Maybe I’ll think about sitting last night and how afterwards I lied when I asked everyone to say in one word how their meditation went.

I said “busy” and actually I was preoccupied with a pain in my leg. It takes a lot of strength to sit up on a chair. I sit on the edge of the chair and try to sit so that I’m neither leaning backwards or forward.

My left leg seems to hurt when I’m leaning one way or the other.

I decided to work on counting my breaths to ten, and then starting again. Sometimes I would get distracted and start thinking about things, then I would feel my leg, and then go back to the counting. I’m usually tired when I start sitting, but more rested at the end. 

I remember hoping that the time would end. I don’t do that so much anymore. 

Sometimes my eyes were closed, and sometimes they were open a little.

Maybe I was busy.

Am I convinced that meditation is a cure-all for my ills or the ills of the world? No! Am I more alive when I’m meditating that when I’m in a busy environment. Yes. 

Sometimes I think that if I had an hour to live then I’d want to sit. Some of the people in the group used “peaceful” as their word to describe their sitting. 

I will write more in the future about this curious activity. In a Zen temple, it is so public and so private at once. I like that dichotomy.