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Posts tagged ‘buddhism’

Sleepy Sunday Sangha Sitting

Still maintaining some semblance of serenity.

Still maintaining some semblance of serenity.

The past few weeks I haven’t been meditating much at all, even at work.  The humdrum cycle of school-work-schoolwork-work-schoolwork-work-school has been zombifying me a bit.   I also haven’t been as desperate at work for the silence as I had been previous weeks since the unit has calmed down a bit.  There were also a coupla coffee first-meets, some schoolwork, but generally just eating dinner in the office near the nursing station where we usually eat – our unit doesn’t officially have a break room for the staff, go figure.

I still find it difficult to make that space/time at home.  I’m contemplating shutting myself in the bathroom for 10 minutes before or after showering, though it will bug the heck out of my zoo.  🙂

Today I got floated to a unit that didn’t end up needing me, and my unit was adequately staffed.  Thus, I asked for a day off and my wish was granted!  At some point the idea that it was Sunday and sangha happens on sundays crossed paths, and I resolved to go.

It was nice to be back, Rock Blossom Sangha is always so welcoming.  🙂

My back, however, complained given a lack of recent exercise and sitting time. Despite thinking I had propped myself up adequately, the first 20 minute meditation alternated between relaxation and random pains, and I adapted accordingly with slouching.   I was also rusty on battling my brain and I spent most of the time chasing after thoughts rather than remembering I could let them go for now.   My brain brought up thoughts and feelings from the past and future, a few of which I entertained  in order to provide some compassion to help their release.   What’s different now vs. when I started meditation in November (albeit irregular) is that I’m not beating myself up for not being able to reel in my brain and focus on my breath.  I Just keep reassuring myself I don’t need to act on these things, I have permission to be in the present moment and appreciate it, to just sit.

For the second 20 minute seated meditation, my body decided it was going to entertain serious sleepiness and that became the battle.  Battle?  Why is it a battle?  Let’s just call it a deep relaxation – though perhaps I should have just laid down for that 20 minutes and made it such.   After I regained some consciousness, I did become somewhat irritable hoping that bell would ring, but it didn’t.  I sat, dozed, thought, let thoughts go, breathed, sat, listened to the noises in the room, and eventually the bell rang.

I couldn’t quite shake the drowsiness during the dharma reading which was a passage by Pema Chodron that appeared in a recent issue of Shambala.  In it she discussed  meditation and the need to keep necessary things under consideration, though the human tendency is to make things a big deal.   Fortunately I can still read it online.   If I met a guru, I would sadly  forget 3/4 of what they said anyway, even at my most alert.  *sheepish cheesebrain grin*

Hopefully having the opportunity to sit with a sangha today will kickstart my meditation wagon again.

Now, time for schoolwork.  I’m doing pretty good with that this weekend considering there had been a bunch of procrastination the past coupla weeks too.

Afterwards hopefully will play some cards against humanity with the waiters.  🙂   I never played, though I have bonus cards from over the holiday – including a card with my name on it!  Woot!

Meditation day 19 – 12/20/13; Relaxation

1 min prep; 15 min sit.

Revisited my friend the exam room at the start of my lunch today. Upped the ante back to 15 minutes, did a few little stretches and breaths to loosen up a smidge in my minute prep time, and settled onto the exam stool.

15 minutes didn’t take “that long.” I had more success with breath watching today, counting after each exhale.  Not sure I concentrated long enough to make it up to 21 as they suggested at newbie meditation
@ KTD Monastery when I visited in August.  I know I made it to atleast 10.  At some point I took the suggestion of someone else and
focused on the sound of the fan blowing when it distracted me for a few moments.  The fan drowned out the wifi router squeal, but not quite the whirr of the COW.

The observations on my thoughts escape me at the moment.  What stands out the most was feeling how relaxed my body was after a few minutes in spite of the various tensions it has at the moment [sciatic, clavicle] that were still present.  Now I find I dislike having to open my eyes and resume activity when the bell rings.  This is becoming a constant, even if the session had been a squirmy one –
except last night with the restless legs.

Of course I want this to be profound. So on the topic of Mu (does a dog have buddha nature?), I leave you lucas chasing his tail, obviously very much in the present moment.

Meditation Day 17 – 12/18/13: Chronic lateness, Original fear/desire, Present moment.

My subtitles are out of control.  🙂

Sat for 15 minz today @ ZCCC

Originally my plan was to go to zccc tonight for zazen, but I might be taking a random drive to Darien, CT to accompany a friend to an xmas choir rehearsal.  For me it’ll be as good as watching a performance.  🙂

So, after dropping off my last paper for the semester – yay! – I decided to attend the lunchtime meditation at zccc.   I dilly-dallied showering and getting out of the house so I got there 15 minutes late.

On the train I read a few pages of Reconciliation, in which TNH discussed a few things including habit energy. TNH says that when we act out of habit our ancestors are acting with us.  One of my habit energies is chronic lateness since  grammar school, which is the habit I am trying to change right now.   I say I “inherited” it from my mother since she was always late.  As a kid I remember struggling to wake her up to help me get ready for school…frustrated, crying.  My mother also suffered from depression. Last week in therapy we did some EMDR on this memory and coincidentally I was on time for work this weekend.  I will reserve claiming correlation though.  🙂  It is an interesting notion to think of both those habit energies, lateness and even depression, going back further, beyond my mother.  Depression not so strange, but lateness, yes.

TNH also discussed original fear (helplessness, needing others) and original desire (survival) and knowing we have everything we need in this moment to be happy, that the child inside needs to recognize it is no longer helpless.  We do not need to reach into the past or future.

So, of course, all this was floating in my brain when I sat.  There was a lot of grounding monologue involved before I was able to let go of wishing I could see a distant bff tonight, wishing I hadn’t been late to meditation.   Grounding involved saying to self that I was sitting for my ancestors, sitting for me, for my friends, for world peace.  Ha!  Then I had to let go of self-importance for doing such a thing.  Oh, the humanity!

I was uncomfortable watching my body since neither my heart or lungs were relaxed.  I thought about how by having cats it keeps my body somewhat inflamed since I’m allergic, not to mention my diet isnt exactly anti-inflammatory.   I needed a shot of my asthma pump on the train which helped my lungs but got my heart going.  I was kneeling on 2 pillows so that wasn’t so bad but my body and breath still had trouble relaxing.   There was a part of my being  that I sensed was relaxed, that I was sitting, and was grateful.  I find discomfort less likely to make me want to stop meditating now.

Finally I found a mantra of sorts to rest with and repeat: “Present moment, this is it.”

Above the meditation hall altar at Blue Cliff, there is calligraphy that says “this is it” which I find so enlightening and amusing.   I mean it is true.  All we have is any present moment.  Maybe we walk into a meditation hall expecting some kind of shazzam-pow satori, or that’s what brought us there.   We are like, oh my gosh!  I’m here! I’ve arrived at the super spiritual land monastery meditation hall!  What now?

Above the altar are the words “this is it” taking center stage.  It can be anticlimactic (hence amusing to me, sarcastic) or it can be an invitation to be with yourself in this ‘present moment’ and enjoy it for what it is.   I am reminded of the phrase, “wherever you go, there you are.”

Present moment,
this is it.

In breath
Out breath

Really, I swear, I did keep trying to return to the breath.   *giggle*

Getting to places on time for me has that duality as well.  I have to mindfully appreciate that my psyche and the universe lined up for me to do the right thing, since being on time reflects integrity and respect for others.  It also gives me a fair chance to succeed instead of setting myself up for failure.   The lack of adrenaline rush of sorts (for survival, for pleasure …even though being late feels bad) is anticlimactic.   Some of this was already explored throughout the years, but it was nice to have a comparison to reflect upon.

It’s intriguing, also, to notice how pre-meditation factors can influence the quality of the thoughts that float by in the session.  Not surprising,  of course, but encourages me to consider reading a brief passage of something prior to sitting.  Or not.

I always have the present moment, whatever, whenever that may be.

image

Pic of Lunch today: ZCCC holiday party leftover ziti dressed up with green beans, chicken fontina spinach sausage, crushed tomatoes with green chilis, mozzarella, parmesan.   ❤

Meditation Day 10: Wed 12/11/13 – Part 2 + “World peace and a cure for cancer” vs authentic healing

I “needlessly” “suffered” the wrath of playful puppy – I had forgotten I had made an acupuncture appointment.    It was to be a day of distraction, though.  While I was getting prepped for it, I had discovered my Ipod was dead, so no Moses code meditation for this session.  Thought about queuing up something on the phone/youtube, but decided to keep it simple.    As it turns out, “keep it simple” apparently meant let my brain run wild.    It wasn’t that noisy – I was tired, so it became a cycle of watch breath, feel buzzy needles, let thoughts float around, and doze off a tad.   It was relaxing nonetheless, but certainly not mindful.

That’s okay, though.  There was more meditation coming!  Woohoo!    I had been reminded recently about Zen Center for Contemplative Care, whose volunteers and chaplains I often see visiting patients at Beth Israel.   As it turns out, they had zazen on Wednesday nights, so I went.    It was nice to be sitting in a room full of people…well, sitting… again.  I felt at home as I did sitting in the meditation hall at Blue Cliff, feeling like I was surrounded by spiritually like-minded people, regardless of differing backgrounds and lifestyle beliefs.    I still felt partly shy and awkward, though.   30 minutes went by faster than some of my 10-15 minute sessions, followed by a walking meditation, a brief talk by the chaplain in which we were reassured of our mind being likely to leaves us 1,000 times during zazen, and another brief sitting session in which I kept reeling my mind back in and focusing on my breath.

Since I’m writing this several days after the fact I’m having difficulty recalling specifics of my meditation challenges though there were definitely some challenges adjusting my body initially.  I ended up sitting on one pillow and supporting my right knee with another.  I’ve had some sciatic strain on that side since September, hence the acupuncture.  It worked out, though, and my back in general didn’t feel too much discomfort over time.  My hands didn’t know where to find balance, though, and given a height difference in my legs a traditional zazen hand position wasn’t happening.

Afterwards, I talked the ear of the chaplain off, and cried a bit.   

I have this line I use.  When a waiter or customer service person asks me if I want anything else, I often say “world peace and a cure for cancer.”    It was just world peace until my mother got sick and died of pancreatic cancer 3 years ago.  If I don’t ask for them I’ll never get them, I argue. The chaplain, whose name I wish I could remember, reminded me that such a statement could cause harm to someone, which for some reason made me cry.  Not sure why I was so sensitive, except for being present in a space/community that was aligned with my goals – providing compassionate care to the sick and suffering.  Plus, I don’t like the idea of hurting people.

 Usually when I ask for those things, I get one of two responses:  “it’s impossible” or “I’ll get on that/I’ll see if we have that.”   Often it is an experience that makes people smile from incredulity or amusement.  I had grabbed a snack at Pret prior to meditating and the cashier was so rushed and unhappy seeming.    When he implied peace was impossible, I broke out the line from a t-shirt I had bought at Blue Cliff:  “Peace begins with your lovely smile.”  He said he’d give me half a smile, and I commented “Half a smile to go with my half sandwich.”    It actually led to a larger smirk.  

                I was able to recall an instance where a waitress who had grown up in Colombia did not believe peace was possible, understandably.   I continue to hold hope for her.   Did I cause her harm by bringing peace up?   I also think that my being able to identify with other persons who are affected by cancer is a chance for mutual identification, rather than a harm-causing event.  

                I look at this from several angles.   I think about Dr. Wayne Dyer, trying to help shift the gears of unhappy people we have brief interactions with.  The chaplain talked about interdependence, which I had also just read about that morning in Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child, and entering into the other person’s experience.  I also think about a concept that had come up in my English class this semester about authentic vs. inauthentic healing.  Though the context was about daytime talk shows, it came to mind about this situation.   The lines I use aren’t neccessarily an authentic way of entering into someone else’s experience.  They are a line, a gimmick, a shocker – I have lots of those sorts of lines.  

 Don’t New Yorkers need something gimmicky though to catch their attention?  How can I authentically enter into/make lighter the person who is “stuck in a miserable moment” when our interaction will be brief?    What percentage of the time are my lines likely to cause harm?  I do recognize that when I was working 12 hour shifts on a busy medicine unit, it was very similar to a busy waiter shift, and I was too busy to focus on my problems, which was a relief.   Am I interrupting their work zen-peace?  Am I possibly being too intrusive even with these simple statements?  

I can’t even just say “you can smile” to your average NY customer service e person because it would be perceived as rude, regardless of tone, a majority of the time.    Further, if I never ask for world peace and a cure for cancer, and possibly inspire other people to do the same, we might never think it was possible at all. 

With the chaplain, I was also discussing how I could better help patients.   After meditation the first thing I said to him was “How can you help me save the world?”   *grin*  I have a goal of leading nightly meditations when I work, which is not so easy to implement on a psych ward given the diverse diagnoses.    I also expressed frustration with not having meaningful conversations with patients every time I work.   I was reminded by the chaplain that even giving a medication or having a brief conversation might be all a person needs in that given moment.  I realized that chasing profound catalytic therapeutic conversation was chasing the high I would get from feeling I have connected with and helped someone.    A coworker had said that as psych nurses we are speed bumps in the insanity our patients had been living.   Just being there at work, looking out for these patients, interacting with them in the slightest, I am still a speed bump – a brightly lit, pink-haired, speed bump. 

Sitting with ZCCC and talking to the chaplain was an unexpected speed bump for me for which I’m grateful. It helps stimulate me to cultivate more intentional effects.  I seriously hope that the next year contains more speed bumps than the potholes this past year and a half has held.    A spiritual mentor and community and artistic collaborators would be nice, too.  

Meditation day 10 – 12/11/13 – Part 1

After fuzzcare, I bribed the dogs with peanut butter inside a bone. 

Sitting on a pillow at the edge of my coffee table again, I did a little stretching in the minute prep I set the timer for.  When the bell rang for stillness, I found it challenging to focus on my breath because my chest felt tight again.   When I asked Andrew-san why my chest felt tight when I started to focus on my breath, he pointed out the obvious – that I was just noticing what was already there.

I have been fighting away a cold the past few days, and had used my asthma pump after awakening because my chest had started to feel like congestion was settling in.  I don’t have asthma, per se, but I had an annual bout of bronchitis as a kid (thanks, smoking parents) and I am technically allergic to cats, which only flares up from time to time as a cat owner.  Before owning cats, I would also get exercise induced wheezing.   I don’t always now, but the combo can’t help things.   So, my chest is tight, and I watch it… (fyi, not asthma attack tight – not emergent!)

I still feel other parts of my body start to relax, I notice my mind still wanders but the thoughts aren’t as loud, aren’t screaming for attention.   Perhaps it is because my chest is yelling at me for the irritants I challenged it to adapt to. 

My posture wants to wobble, too.  Sitting further upright helps open my chest, but it feels tiring to do so today.  I contemplate that a sun salutation before meditating would really be a good idea.  I try to focus on my breath.

The puppy monster finishes his task earlier than intended and starts seeking my attention.   I keep hoping he will follow my example and sit too.  🙂   He jumps on my leg, jumps on the table, tries to give me his toy..

image

(Taken after session over)

At some point I move my foot to trap the toy.  Sometimes all I need to do to “play” is a passive pseudo tug like that…but he gets another toy.

When I moved my foot it was a shock to my system though,  a rude awakening, and I probably shouldn’t do that again, though I continued to sit until my time was up.

Obviously the puppy won.

Can’t wait to try to mix in kids and meditation someday.   🙂

Meditation Day 9 – 12/10/13

FYI, I put the date in my subject because when I look at posts by category, the date disappears.  If someone can help me rectify this it would be awesome.  

Today’s meditation just happened, for 15 minutes.  Doing it at night should not become habit because in the past I’ve tended to get restless legs when trying to sit at night.

Gave the dogs some new bones to distract them and sat on a pillow at the edge of my (very sturdy) coffee table.  I had buckets of coffee while writing a paper at the cafe, so my heart is pounding, and irregularly given my sinus arrhythmia, my chest also felt tight.  Why does my chest often feel tight when I start watching my breath?

To ease the “gotta do this other thing” and “I should go swimming tonight but first I would need to get new goggles and….” I repeatedly gave myself permission to sit in the moment.  That seemed to be the most recurrent thought, was my consciously saying to myself, in my head, I give you permission to sit right here and observe this moment.   After a while of that, I could feel my body easing.

It’s interesting to observe the body melting into relaxation, and the breath and mind become that much more visible, clear.  “Gotta do…”  No, self, feel the body relaxing, all that can wait.  Observe this moment… Amazing how hard it is to sit in the moment with my eyes closed and body still.

Interestingly, at some point, tidbits of a dream I had last night that I had already forgotten came out.

I was with my family in a K-mart lobby of sorts, we were on a road trip and stopped here to pick someone up.   I remember finding Nanny (my deceased maternal grandmother) in a dressing room, though I think we were still waiting for someone else.  When I thought of merely her name coming up in a dream a few weeks ago, and then my use of her to provide nurturing while creating an improved “memory” experience during EMDR today in therapy, I thought to myself … maybe that’s a sign that she is hanging out, keeping an eye on me, and I got a bit misty.   Returned to focusing on the breath, though, which had calmed a bit at that point, instead of sitting with that notion – I’m not sure why I didn’t.

I find it absolutely fascinating that in the mental stillness, a portion of a forgotten dream resurfaced. What else might come up?

At some point I became concerned with time, wanting the meditation to be over already.  I had to surrender…”it will be time when it is time” I said to myself.   I’m unable to recall whether my upper back started getting achy before or after that.  🙂

One of my cats joined me at my back on the pillow once or twice.  She was the first interaction I had when re-awakened, being at my feet for some scritches.

When the bell rang, I didn’t want to move.

I felt peaceful.

Meditation Day 8 – 12/9/13

The school pool is not kind on Monday.  They don’t heat it over the weekend so it is cccccooolld!

I didn’t think today’s meditation would happen in the pool, but it did.  After my laps I decided the temperature was tolerable enough.

I floated for about 10 minutes with the buoy between my knees, bouncing myself off of the walls and lane divider as needed.  Last week the divider was my “wake-up bell.”  I tried to appreciate the coolness and the benefits it may provide to my body, despite warding away a cold that is trying to sneak up on me – though I feel no worse for having been in cold water instead of heat.   I appreciated the buoyancy of the water and the way my skin and the body of water embrace, giving thanks.  I may have even remembered to watch my breath for a few moments.  🙂

I observed as thoughts of yummy pervy pleasures floated into my mind, as they seem to do every meditation, sometimes coming with a strong wave of ecstatic recall.  The ice bath kept that heat at bay, but I took time to consider the reasons these thoughts keep deciding to show up during meditation.

My rationales include meditation fighting for space in my brain’s pleasure centers and second chakra (power, sexuality, money, creativity) programming.   My unofficial meditation mentor Andrew (A new BFF I met at Blue Cliff) said that they are normal thoughts to come up and that he just observes their passing. I’ll keep both my over-analysis and his suggestion for practice in mind.  😉

addendum: Andrew-san also relayed that “The traditional abridger antidote is to meditate on the body and how its a sack of bone, pus, and muscle.”

A sexy sac of pus. *grin*

Eventually, the coolness fought for attention and won, aided by my bladder.

Tomorrow I should just, ya know, sit.

sitting dude

Meditation Day 7 – 12/8/13

Today before work I made a smart move.

After fuzzcare, before coffee/shower, I gave the boys some bully sticks to work on and consequently got an undisturbed 15 minute sit session in.   I might have to avoid meditating on the couch in the future if I have to go to work, though, since right after finished I put my head off to the side and promptly fell asleep.   Thank God I woke up before I had to be at work, though I was late.

What stood out about this particular meditation was feeling a sense of relief as I settled into it.  My being was looking forward to it – perhaps sensing benefit already even though a week of meditation at home hasn’t shown profound results as a few days at the monastery did.  🙂    Also, I thought the timer was broken…15 minutes seemed to take an awfully long time today even though my brain wasn’t particularly noisy.

Of course, I am writing daily.  That’s an interesting “side effect.”

I would like to figure out where the meditation session fits perfectly into the daily routine, though.

I seem to crave routine now when it used to be something I hated unless there was great variety. For example, when I was in school and worked 3 completely different part-time jobs:  Tutoring, body piercing, exotic dancing.  🙂     I can’t say I was very well-balanced during that time, of course, and that is what I am seeking now.   Balance, peace, bounties of love and joy, serenity with planned chaos and adrenaline-laden activities.

Just keep practicing, right?

I will find the way.

Steadfast

It’s four am
here it is, here it is
it’s Suffering
peeking out again.

No rhyme or reason
Post-productive treason
When I should seep out proud
Suffer tries to steal the crown

Let go, little girl, of that grip on the past
Rest in my heart
steadfast for Peace
at last

-cmb

Meditation Day 6 – 12/7/13

Didn’t really have the time or headspace to meditate before work today, so resolved to meditate at work at the beginning of my break, which I did.

Started in a conference room chair with the lights out, planning to sit for 15 minutes with a minute prep time.

In less than a minute, decided the whirr of computers and squeal of the wifi router and tick tick tick tick of the clock was overwhelmingly annoying, and there was also a likelihood of getting interrupted.    Took it to the exam room which would only be entered into for an emergency or supplies.  Still whirr-squeal, but no tick tick tick.   So, I sat.

Shhh brain, shhhhhhhh.  My chest felt tight trying to watch my breath, sitting up on the stool felt weird, then leaning my back against the exam table was annoying so sat up tall again.  Whirrrsqueealll!   Kept having to lasso the brain in, though there were a few milli-moments of feeling relaxed.  Thought about bringing ear plugs tomorrow, though in such a room I would still perceive EMF’s were effecting me even if I couldn’t hear them.  (Reminder – prioritize moving cable modem and wifi router out of bedroom at home in the next few weeks!)

After the chime rang and I opened my eyes though I realized my body had been more relaxed than I recognized, at least from the waist down and in my head.    There was more going on than my mind’s eye perceived.  🙂

Tomorrow, if I end up meditating at work again I’m going to bring earplugs and sit in the seclusion room, which we don’t use very often.  Although I did have my Ipod and could have played a music or guided meditation, I also want to learn stillness, watching breath, observing self. Meditation music and chants are fab but are not entirely self-directed journeys from within.   I can’t believe I’m saying this.  A few years ago I thought just sitting and watching one’s breath was annoying and stupid.  🙂

Onward we journey.