(Originally written on January 20th, 2016)
Short sweetness in a glass
Because knowing that all things are empty
Sometimes is not enough.
Short sweetness in a glass
Because sometimes at times all I see is doors closing on my face
Though I know they are just my thoughts…
Sweetness in a glass
Because today I’m not held tenderly and perhaps that’s all I want:
A gentle word, caring…
Empty of anger…
A touch that says, “I get you…: wind-blowing
Short sweetness in a glass half-empty
Warmly caressing my guitar
No echoes for my heartfelt longing,
Except the loneliness of the teachings from afar.
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December 31, 2014: A weird day… Let’s see…
Yesterday I wasn’t doing too good. I woke up in a bit of a funk, sadness, and of course, with a tinge of anger. I thought about my good ol’ friend, Samsara: Do I get sad around this time of the year just because of the force of habit? Looking back, last year I spent New Year’s Eve by myself in my apartment. I dressed up a little, put music on my computer and I danced. I also played guitar and sang, and I talked with some friends and/or family members. I connected with long distance friends on FB and Skype. I think I had a glass of wine, and that perhaps I even wrote. But I remember being upbeat, happy.
This year is somewhat different. My dogs are with me yet I’ve felt lonely. So today, when I woke up, the funk was still there, keeping me company I guess. I watched an episode of Doctor Who, and it helped. I have always loved stories with heroes and possibilities… I had wanted to bathe my dogs, and when a plan to get some freelance work today failed, it somehow felt “right” to bathe them, today, and one dog at a time. First, Hollins. I always need to use the furminator on him, a tool that helps remove a lot of his shedding. So I locked myself in the bathroom with him, and after furminating him, I helped him get in the tub. He was not too happy about it, but the promise of a treat kept him there until I finished towel drying him. After finishing with Hollins, it was Niki’s turn. She does not like being bathed either, but she will go in the tub on her own and look OFFENDED until I’m done. I took Allegra in order to do this without too much sneezing or itching, and it helped that after finishing with them I got in the tub and purified myself. I felt lighter. The funk did not feel as heavy.
I guess this is my own little tradition. I can start the year acknowledging 2014 on its way out, being clean and dancing or singing. Gerard had asked me if we could take the dogs out together for a walk. I said yes. They were very happy to see him, and to go to the park in spite of it being a very cold day. I had had music going on while I was bathing the dogs, and after Gerard left I turned it on again. It is dance music and music that touches my heart, with a little bit of nostalgia. I know I will dance at least a piece or two (if not more) tonight to celebrate the New Year. I might even call a couple of long distance friends back in the island, connect to FB, or drink some wine.
I had not wanted 2014 to end without my writing and sharing something of my heart, myself. This has been a somewhat difficult year: new job, deciding to declare bankruptcy, some health issues, friends that died, friends that have undergone major surgery, friends having babies… and I have the sense that 2015 will be a year of further opening for this heart/person. While I know that I can always close myself in fear, I also know that the dharma has helped open the wings of this heart, and so it is that I raise the soft voice and I pray:
Heart of all and mine,
Allow my life to be of service
And continue to rent the veils that keep me hardened.
Take my voice, my skin, what’s left of me
That I may learn new songs of light and joy.
May all beings be happy.
May we all be free from suffering
and the roots from which it grows.
May we rest in the space that can hold it all without naming it
as “mine”, “refused”, “ignore”.
May our actions spring from a heart that thinks
and a mind that feels,
both with and without thoughts.
Happy New Year!
While through most of my life, I have been exploring, attempting to uncover who or what is at the core of this human being called Rita, I have not always done so with a sense of sheer curiosity and openness. Instead, I remember/recognize that I have mostly conducted my exploration from a sense of conditioned panic, and mistrust; from a lack of friendliness toward myself and the world. The image that comes to mind as I contemplate what this exploration feels/felt like, is that of a medieval armor complete with shield and a helmet, bearing the visor down. This particular helmet and visor have very tiny slits that allow the warrior to see what’s ahead and breathe; and which also have the function of limiting or narrowing what can come in. When used appropriately, the armor served to protect the warrior in battle. When used inappropriately, say while swimming or while attempting a loving, physical encounter with one’s lover, the suit would have simply worked against the warrior. He would have probably not been able to swim or move in the water very well; nor would he have been able to caress or feel the touch of his lover. Keeping the image of said warrior in mind, I imagine he would have sweated, and bled inside the confines of his armor until the moment when someone would come and help him take it off.
This image and the sense that I wanted to share this arose while I was reading a dharma book, sipping my coffee on a lazy Saturday morning. Fear, doubt, lack of trust. Not knowing what to accept and what to reject. Manipulation and struggle. All of these together in a seemingly cohesive bundle constitute the core of ignorance and ignoring, ego, monkey-brain. At the very moment my mind shuns or disavows that I feel scared or that I might be experiencing doubt or mistrust, I lose the ability to act from a sense of openness, and may instead act from a blind and blinding sense of struggle, and of wanting to manipulate the circumstances around me, and/or my environment.
In order to realize a sense of genuine, open space where all situations, thoughts and feelings can be allowed to coexist within myself I have had to learn to “stay” when ego is screaming for me to run, or lash out. And truth be said, I am still learning to “stay”. I confess that staying is not always comfortable. As a matter of fact, it is quite frequently or almost always uncomfortable. For me, it is tricky to describe this sense of “staying”.
Borrowing from my understanding of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s use of the phrase ‘idiot compassion’, helps me clarify that the quality of “staying” I am attempting to describe is NOT an ‘idiot sense of staying’, a sense of blindly allowing myself and others to get hurt because of a misguided sense of duty, such as that of a wife or husband that remains in an abusive relationship until it is almost too late. Instead, it is an open sense of staying, of allowing all thoughts and feelings and their trails of discomfort and pain, or of comfort and joy, to be and follow their natural course, where they may resolve. My concern is that while my heart’s eyes seem to be opening, they seem to be doing so at a truly rough time for myself, and I suspect for everyone else on this planet; and I still doubt that I have the soft-strength needed to do what is needed without unnecessarily hurting others.
I teach 20 Pre-K kids in my new teaching job, in an environment that is new to me. I am currently dealing with lawyers and people helping me look at, and rebuild my financial and livelihood ‘houses’ which for the past five to seven years have been very difficult to inhabit. I have habitual and trained fears of growing old, being single, being unworthy, feeling like a foreigner, dying. In sum, I am human, with one tiny blissful caveat. I am seemingly very, very slowly waking up. I am slowly uncovering that jittery, sweet, baby-like, incipient, embryonic, sense of self and trust that does not need to push away the feelings of discomfort, and thus can stay present.
The armor: I am slowly, extremely slowly beginning to see that when I disavow my feelings and thoughts, I leave my body, I am not present to others. Shedding the armor: I am slowly, extremely slowly beginning to see that when I allow my feelings and thoughts to be, while I remain aware of myself within this process, I am more present, and therefore able to remain, stay, and act from a sense of precious space, and time. So, this is just a baby step; after all, baby Buddha can only take, baby Buddha steps.
So, cheerful Birthday to a baby Buddha who is becoming young at heart as she sheds her armor while the years pass! May all beings be happy!
So, today, December 28 2013 I am home. Like I was this time last year, I am in retreat. Only this year, this is my first solo retreat, and I chose to do it here at home. I am following the guidance given by my meditation instructor regarding schedule and what to do…but the actual experience is my own. So if I were to look at it from a conventional point of view I’d say, Are you crazy doing this at a time where you tend to feel so vulnerable? But I guess that’s the point isn’t it? We live a life of aspirations in order to uncover the Shambhala Kingdom within us, among us, right here, right now from whatever corner of conventional life and mind we find ourselves.
So I shed a couple of tears as I was about to resume practice. A phrase from what I had read , in response to Moh’s question, “what is real is intangible”, just got to me. We struggle to understand what reality is, what existence or non-existence really mean, only to be reminded that none of what we/I can fixate on, latch onto, really gets to it. No definition will suffice, but we need teachers to touch our hearts so that the words can point the way to our own understanding, so that we can then touch it, be touched by it and then let it go/be. We are at best, space for the teachings to take place again and again, for the teachings to remain alive and save humanity from itself in this dark age. We are this space. Nothing else but human heart-space.
Solo 1, Day 3 Sunday December 29
Trust that the words that want to come out are the words that need to come out to be heard (if only by me).
So today I woke up with the alarm, but little by little I snoozed it and remained in bed, with the result that I came out of bed an hour or so later than the designated 6:50 o’clock wake up time. I relished being in bed, feeling the warmth of the sheets and the softness. I woke up tired. But how could I not? Last night I started my distraction around 8 pm, attempting to fix the problem(s) with the applications on this ASUS. I got distracted, looked at Google Books, looked at Apps, downloaded the podcast player and some Dharma podcasts…and by the time I mentally yanked myself from doing this it was already past 11:00 PM. I felt the sense of dread I commonly feel when going to work, to my new school. And almost immediately, I felt the voice of inner reproach saying something related to “you should know better, or do better…you are in retreat….how embarrassing…” And when I finally got out of bed the same voice started saying, “you are not a full human, you’ve never felt alive, or wanted to be alive…”; “the Sakyong would be embarrassed or angry if he knew that you wake up every day without feeling content, without a thought for enlightened society, without a thought for others…” And deep and on it went.
How sad to realize that in general I still rely on the angry voice, on self punishment or self-deprecating, in order to train myself. How sad indeed to see, that when it comes to my thoughts, feelings… I do not honor them but instead corral them almost out of existence.
thoughts/beliefs….? I guess one good thing has come out of all this blah blah blah. I understand a little better that the cocoon protects me/us, and how it does it. I also understand a little better, that really we all have our cocoons/shells.
Solo 1, Day 4 Monday December 30
Another day of sad, deeper understanding; of begrudgingly being humbled by the teachings and their depth. It’s like this. If I am to be honest, borderline brutally honest, but with gentleness, with myself…I must come to term with this, say it, and then be…
At this point, much of the vulnerability, softness, and fear I feel are centered around the issue of there not being time, not simply because there is a lot of work to be done for our world, but because I, me, am getting old; and I am afraid of the loneliness, not having a mate, dying without having made peace with my brother, dying without legacy-childless, without having done anything of consequence. And my fears sometimes paralyze me; and then it all begins again, the up and down merry-go-round of kleshas, depressive negative self-deprecating feelings-thoughts, disguised within waves of anger at myself under the guise of: You should have known/done better if indeed you had been as seasoned a practitioner, or as deep in your understanding as you thought you were. But I see it with sadness and a small sense of relief. I saw it rearing its ugly head, the habitual self-deprecating thought that truly does not help me or anybody else. And while I know, there is a part of me that is still trapped by believing it; I can choose to remember that for the most part, it is just a thought, and as such it will come and go, only to come and go again.
When I choose to remember, I can also then see that where I am, or seem to be is just right. No matter how pissed angry confused I may feel at any given time. Even when visited by the trap of doubts and fears that scream: Why is it that you do this? Why are you studying the dharma, seemingly forgetting God, and your place in the universe? Even when the doubts are at their loudest, I am comforted by the notion that the Path touched my heart when nothing else did, and that I want others, anyone that comes through the doors searching for something, to be welcomed thee same way I was. I want to help provide the multiple spaces needed for the Dharma to flourish: the space of place, the space of the mind of the teacher(s) and the space of the encounter, for the Dharma only happens when the space of the student-mind and the teacher-mind come together as one. So, humbled and grateful. Ki Ki, So So…
Solo 1, Day 5 Tuesday December 31, Half Day/Closure
[Contemplations based on reading, Stroke practice; Shambhala Sadhana with Feast; Protector and Closing chants…][Se acaba cuando se acaba…]
So today I step out of the enclosed space of this retreat, and walk back into life…whatever that means…and I suspect I can only find out by living my life as fully as I can. Tomorrow, we start 2014.
Prayer for the New Year
I pray that I can live my life according to the Dharma. I pray that my understanding deepens. I pray for humanity to open its eyes to its own beating human heart before it is too late, before we reach a point of (environmental) no return. I pray that I can listen to the teachings. I pray that I can be of service when others make the choice to approach the teachings. I pray for the teachings to multiply, and that for each person that wants to hear the teachings, the right circumstances manifest. I pray for the leaders of this world, so that they may be guided by the truth of a tender-hearted humanity into creating a world for generations to come. I pray that we decide to not wage war against each other as a way to solve our problems. I pray that we walk out of our self-imposed slavery to the principles of greed, and narrow heartedness into a self liberated view of all-encompassing acceptance. I pray…I be.
This is the seed of my prayer for this new year about to start.
May all beings be happy…may they be free from suffering.
It is Tuesday and I am at home on a school day, not at work. I felt an overwhelming need to let the mind-heart be, without the sense of imposed obligations or duties that I experience while being in teams, or in projects. I have always been somewhat aware of the dynamics of groups, and I must confess that as of late I have been feeling overwhelmed even at at my Austin Shambhala center. I have experienced the space at the center as tighter, rushed, pushing, pulling. And I had not wanted to acknowledge that I felt this way about it. I am not sure as to why this note on the center needs to be written here. I only know that it needs to be here. So it is.
This particular exploration began because I did not feel quite at home during this recent Maitri workshop and I usually feel very at home, contented, when I am coordinating programs. My experience of this weekend felt constricting, and somewhat of a mirror of how I have been experiencing the center itself. So I felt/feel the need to explore. So I’ll go on. This program is about energies, working with the energies that inform our lives as individuals and as members of a community. So, if I were to place myself in the center space of my personal mandala, my Buddha is being pulled or hit by what seems as excessive Karma, Ratna and Vajra arrows. My Padma and Buddha are depleted, and seemingly lashing out, gasping for a little air, space. And the lashing is just that: lashing, flapping. When sinking in quicksand the initial tendency or response is to move around trying to grab onto something. This initial response can prove deadly because it sinks us further. So the idea would be to stop flapping our arms… this would slow down the process of sinking, and in turn provide time for the emergence of a solution that might help us see and take the best course of action.
I could not believe the speed at which everything seemed to be happening IN MY HEAD, and much less, the fact that I was not able to stop or slow it down in spite of knowing that I was creating it. Everything I noticed or that I reacted to was met what seemed as someone else’s hostile demands or reactions precisely because I was in such a tizzy. I was experiencing things that had not usually manifested in the context of my coordinating or staffing Shambhala trainings, but that were more common in my work-life outside the center. And it scared me. It scared me because I wanted the experience to save me from myself.
On top of this, on Wednesday of last week, while cleaning the vacuum cleaner at home I pulled on something that had been stuck, and a cloud of very fine dust landed on my face. I breathed and swallowed who knows how many allergens and dust mites, all to the effect that, I had felt fine right up to that moment, and after this I did not. My upper chest felt heavy, clogged, dirty. I could not breathe because the air passages at my nostrils were swollen, and I developed a cough.
I did not want to bail out of coordinating. And I am glad I didn’t. The physical congestion provided the space where the following projections could happen, and hopefully the corresponding understanding and warmth as well. Because I did not feel completely well, I felt as if the world around me was closing up on me (Get it? Me, me, me): Things were happening too fast; people were moving and talking fast and nothing I said or did contributed to our collective slowing down. I was too fixated on things needing to slow down for me. And now, here at my home, truly resting for a day, I can see that I was the one who needed not to slow down, but to relax with what is or was happening.
What is happening is that the school year cycle is coming to an end, and the students, other teachers and administrators are all in this maelstrom, and this is happening in most schools in the USA, and perhaps the world. The end of a cycle comes every year with its need to destroy, finalize, and complete itself, while the seeds for the new cycle are being planted, or collected. What is/was happening is that the group taking the class felt lopsided: there were more women than there were men; and from my perspective the women were very strong, opinionated, resourceful and either used to being in charge or testing how it felt to decide for themselves what to do and when to do it. And, I was very irritable. Things that do not normally irritate me in the context of my Sangha were getting on my nerves and it was not until I acknowledged to myself how irritated I was, and how this was beginning (at least in my head) to affect what needed to be done for the overall good of the training at hand, that I could take a mental sideways step out of my own way and that of the group.
I pray/prayed. I pray/prayed to the energies embodied in clarity (Vajra) and compassion (Padma) to help me be and do what is best for all inhabitants in my worlds. I pray/prayed for the ability to see, feel and invoke the space needed for all that is desirable to manifest, and for all that needs to die, to do so in as much peace as is possible. And I am thankful (whether Ego-Monkey-Brain believes this or not) for the ability to see that when I am tired, I take what comes not as transparent energy, but as overwhelming, heavy heaps of stuff; and that when this happens I need to look and deeply feel the connection to my heart by listening to it; and also to wait or be without reacting to the seeming push and pull of the dance happening around me.
What is happening or rather happened, is that as if on cue, one of my old friends from the Dominican Republic and I chatted the night before the vacuum cleaner incident. He was very much as he was before…only older on sight. And I too, responded much as I did before, only while inhabiting this older body, now, before the training. He cracked what was a sexist remark which I at first did not get, and then did. And when I did, he laughed, and I said nothing. Only later, to myself I was able to acknowledge how I felt about it…and then was surprised at how I felt, and at the fact that this small incident (together with many other things that happened this past week) shone light to one of the modes of being that I frequently adopt when tired, overwhelmed, afraid or surrounded by what I interpret as typical male (chauvinistic) energy (or extremely feminist energy). When in the midst of this type of energy I retract, and play as if I endorsed it or share it, with the result that not long thereafter I am disgusted by my own reactions and pretenses. Can you “vicious circle”?
What is happening or was happening, is that an innocent race in Boston was bombed by another human being that was perhaps acting from a heartfelt conviction of what is right (and therefore from a sense of basic goodness); and that right here in Texas a plant exploded with destruction and unexplained deaths so sadness and anger and fear permeated the news. And I felt raw and vulnerable and alone. These incidents punctured my heart, and touched my fears, and my own humanity.
And thus it is. Simple. What is happening is that my niece called me from Hawaii. I saw her, and her husband, and her dog. And looking at them, I remembered that I had been missing them, missing my own dogs that are currently with Gerard, missing a husband or company that I could call my own; missing the warmth of my own language and “plátano-eating and merengue-dancing” culture. And here’s the kicker. Ready? When I am tired, Ego-Monkey-Brain does not want to see/feel the ups and downs of being human, or the transience of what happens which it experiences as a fickleness or flighty quality. No. When I am tired, Ego-Monkey-Brain wants safety, someone to tell me that it will all be ok. What is or was happening is simply what is or was happening, but sometimes, I am too tired or tight and therefore unable to let it all just be, as it is.
I am grateful for the intelligence that was aware and helped me take the time to look and feel within in order to look and feel that which is seemingly, just seemingly, outside. Perhaps, I can rest today, and let things fall where they fall for the remainder of this week.
Well, that’s it for now.
A tortoise carries her loneliness, her home, upon her back.
When she looks out the window, she’s inside…
When she peeks in,
deep within are her memories, her wishes, her dreams…
as if constantly blown by the wind.
But she’s alone
whether looking out, or looking in…
Step by step she walks,
treading the Path along her way.
Her master beckons
with a whisper writing a message in the sky.
And as she barely grasps the first word
the others vanish,
leaving her alone, and treading,
slowly, left behind.
And so, she keeps on walking, even dancing,
still carrying her home upon her back–
grateful for the whisper,
and for the loneliness
that quietly welcomed her master’s sign.
(Written after reading for class)
October 6, 2012