When thinking “thank you” brings out tears
Water washes away the sand…
Water washes away the dirt…
Waves stir the stars, sky above us and the wind…
Earth shakes, again shattering this heart…
Earth shakes
Earth shatters
Earth burns…
Air cools the fire from within
Air moves ashes and the dust
Rain clouds-thunderstorms now begin…
Written on Tuesday October 10, 2017

Two Gifts from a Week Full of Mondays

Two Gifts from a Week Full of Mondays

This past week was one of those weeks which I call “a week full of Mondays”, with stressful, heavy long days punctuated by moments of opening. These openings were brief moments packed with tenderness that I was privileged to feel and to touch only because I somehow allowed myself to do so… So I guess the good news is that I feel that the path of meditation works: it walks on me, treads on me ever so gently reminding me that my task is to be there with my walking or dancing steps, but moving, always moving fully present with every step.

Framing: Three days without a working toilet in my pre-k classroom, and the cold weather that prevented us from going outside to play framed the week. The kids seemed restless, talkative, clumsy, careless with each other. On my part I was dealing with feeling sick, and not having had enough sleep. So by Thursday, I was really tired and painfully aware of how short my supply of patience and energy felt. This provides some context for the remainder of my Thursday after work visiting with a friend and then at choir rehearsal later that evening, and for Friday.

Thursday after work. My friend and I just chatted about our week, our day… and as it is with me, when I relax in the presence of someone I trust, I allow my questions, topics, jokes, laughter, sadness to flow without too much mental editing. Within the stream of our conversation I had asked a question which I cannot remember but to which he answered with a simple: “I don’t have a dad”. I followed with: –He passed? Died? And my friend’s reply was: –No. He had surgery and is now a woman. There are no words that can completely or remotely adequately describe my experience(s) at that moment. My-Mind-Heart-stopped. I felt time and things around me slowing down like when witnessing a car accident. I turned away from my friend. I looked away in order to hold myself without pushing thoughts, comments, feelings away. Blank. I needed to look away in order to hold myself without giving in to the thoughts, and feelings that were mine and mine alone. I needed to look away to my own reflection on the glass window panes that surrounded us so that I could feel and hold the sting that I heard on his voice when he uttered the phrase that I myself had uttered so frequently before: –I don’t have a dad.

And then, my gaze returned back to him and I just wanted very much to hold him, soothe him, take any sting from pain or anger away from him. Protect. In truth, I knew that these were/are my interpretations of what he had said. He never said to me that he was feeling pain or anger as he was speaking to me. But my heart-felt reaction was that I wanted to provide comfort, and space. And later on, I wanted to provide assurance: I wanted my words and my whole being to reflect to this other human being in front of me that the wholeness and light of his presence, his worth and the value of his being on this planet were not at all diminished by the content of any of the stories that contributed to his being the person that he is today. I wanted to convey to him that even if he were to take the same path as his dad, his integrity and worth would not diminish. And then, slowly, time and things around me recovered their usual speed. And as they did, I knew that I had been punctured and blessed by something precious. An image of a cartoon by Argentinian artist Quino came to my mind. In the cartoon strip there are very young children talking among themselves saying, What does a turtle have to do to be a turtle? A dog, to be a dog? Why do I have to go to school to become something? Instead of comforting my friend, touching his hand or sharing a gesture that would indicate that I SAW HIM through that and other stories that he has shared with me, all I managed to do was to say: Isn’t it amazing? we are the only creature always striving to be or become something that we are not. Breathe. I am not talking about not going to school, nor stopping our personal search and growth. The image of the cartoon in question represents the extent that we will go as humans in order to find our core, and/or be at ease with who we think we are.

Friday. Then, Friday came and I went to work. The kids were still wild, seemingly regressing to an emotional and social state reminiscent of where they were at beginning of the school year (perhaps related to two new students I got in January and their effect of the chemistry of the group). I was still tired and feeling somewhat ill. And then in the morning, bam!!! Someone had gone to our bathroom, and thrown dirty (poopy) toilet paper in the waste basket and floor. The smell. I noticed. As a group, we had been talking about this habit since August, the beginning of the school year, but there has been a relapse on the behavior and on not coming forward and telling the truth. So, in the morning I picked the toilet paper up, threw it in the toilet. Then, I congregated the group, and we talked about it. We agreed that we would be more careful and we recalled where the white paper goes after it is used, and what we have to do (flush and wash our hands). We moved on to work on our projects, and then we went to lunch, did music, and had our rest period. And then, again, bam!!! The waste basket in the bathroom was full of poop-laden-smelly toilet paper.

At that point, for my aide and I, the most important thing became trying to find out who had done it so that we could work with that particular child. And for me, it was also important to bring the group to the understanding that accusing a person likely to have done the deed would not necessarily relieve the group from having to act responsibly and that telling the truth is important, no matter how scary it feels. These are tough lessons even for adults to live by, so I felt for my kids. It was time for bad cop, good cop. My aide and I took turns asking them to let us know who had done it. We wanted the child who had done it to come forward with the truth. I said that if the person who’d done it would come forward and let either one of us know, nothing (bad) would happen. I also said that if nobody stepped forward, then I would have to let all parents know about the incident, so that they would take the retraining of the desired behavior in their hands. It was at this point that one of the boys started to cry. He had done so in the past when we have said that we would send notes home, or sad faces for everyone.

His crying somehow indicated to me something positive, i.e. that his parents actually read my notes and that they are actively involved in educating their child as a whole person. On the other hand, on that day he seemed brittle, anxious. I decided to take him out to walk with me in order to calm him because I had a very strong sense that it had not been him who had thrown the dirty toilet paper in the trash can. So I told the aide to handle the room: she was to allow them to be on their own to talk and when the person who had done it was ready, they should come to get us. She simply had to wait outside our classroom door. I took the boy by the hand and we started walking down the hallway. I prayed: please get me out of my way so that I can say what’s needed to be of comfort.

However, what I wanted to accomplish with the group and with the boy I had by the hand was easier said than done. As soon as the group saw me walking away with him, they wanted to escape too, so other boys started to cry to no avail. The aide, more like the other teacher, stayed with the group while I left with the little boy by the hand. Deep breath. My mind was frozen watching his tears and sobbing. I wanted to hug him, but I did not. Instead there was an exchange of words and gestures, mostly in Spanish and with translation because to top it all, he is one of the kids in my bilingual class for whom Spanish is not dominant, and I am never sure of how much he is really processing/understanding in any language. The exchange went something like this as we walked hand in hand up and down the corridor:

[While my walk with the boy was happening, the aide came out to stand by the door, and about three time a kid would come to get us saying so-and-so did it. After the third time, I went back in and I said: I do not want to hear: —he/she did it. I want to hear: –Teacher, I did it… Silence fell on the room as the understanding of what I wanted dawned on them…]


Me: –I know I am ugly. I think I look ugly when I am scolding you. Are you afraid of me?
Boy: (He nodded yes glancing at me, and not holding his gaze.)(I felt stung by my own long held beliefs of being an unattractive ugly person not just physically…)(Breathe….)
Me: –I am really sorry that you are afraid of me. I don’t want you or your friends to be afraid. I want to know the truth. And then softly, sweetly: Was it you that threw the dirty paper in the wastebasket??
Boy: (He looked up, held his gaze and nodded No.)
Me: –Then you have nothing to worry about. You should not be afraid and crying; nothing is going to happen because you told me the truth, your truth. You did not do it. You know what to do with the toilet paper.
Boy: (Still sobbing.)
Me: –I need to know who did it so that I can teach him or her to be a champion like you.
Boy: (Furtive glance at me, with the beginning of a smile)
Me: –If the person who did it tells me the truth, then I don’t have to talk with your moms and dads because I can teach him/her what to do with the toilet paper. But I know it is hard to tell the truth because I look mean and ugly. So you are very brave for telling me the truth, your truth. You don’t have to be afraid.
Boy: (Crying stopped, glance, serious look followed by a quick smile.)
Me: –If the person who did it does not tell me the truth, you also don’t have to be afraid because you have already told me your truth.
Boy: (Kept walking, and then yelled): –I don’t have to cry??? I don’t have to cry…
Me: –Why not? (Me sounding hopeful…)
Boy: –I don’t have to cry…I didn’t do it…I am a champion…
Me: –(Relieved because he had understood deeply…) You got it buddy!!! Can we go in there now? (He nodded yes.)Will you cry? (He nodded no.) (We walked together into our classroom.)

As we were walking in, my aide told me who had come forward. I was a little girl that has been with us from the beginning of the school year. I thanked the girl profusely in front of the group. I told them that she was very brave for telling the truth in spite of being scared. I told the group that I knew I looked ugly when I was angry, but that they should not be afraid of telling the truth. I said that since the truth was out I could now help the girl, and that moms and dads did not have to become involved. I instructed the aide to have the class sing and dance, to dissipate or move fear around before we resumed working on our projects. I asked the girl to come outside with me.

A bit of our exchange
Me: –Thank you for telling the truth. You are very, very brave. Now tell me, what happened that you threw dirty paper in the trash can? Is this how you do it at home? (This could be true in homes without proper plumbing or septic systems…)
Girl: –No.
Me: –When you’re at home, where do you throw the paper after you are done?
Girl: –Inside the toilet, in the water.
Me: –And then what happens?
Girl: –I flush.
Me: –So what happened today?
Girl: –I forgot… a mistake…
Me: –What can I do to help you with this so that it does not happen again?
Girl: –Happy face… I don’t want a sad face…
Me: –You are not getting a sad face today at all. If I put a sign in the bathroom with a drawing of the paper going in the toilet, will that help you remember?
Girl: (Big nod yes with a big smile on her face…)

And then back in the classroom, I announced: We all make mistakes. We all forget things. I make mistakes and forget things… it’s okay to make mistakes and forget things. What is not okay is to blame others for something that I forgot or for a mistake I made. And I know that sometimes telling the truth is very scary and does not feel good. But now, now we need to pick up our projects and line up. It’s time to go outside. (I needed time out.)

I pray for space… I pray that I can get out of my way, so that the words from my heart can flow. I pray with gratitude for the friend and students that like true teachers forced me this week to step outside the institutionalized-rotten-roles in which we all fall so that I could simply be: human-frail, human-brittle, human. Not a role. Not a category. I pray again with gratitude for the friend that punctured my arrogance, softening me with his shared truth. I have yet to milk all of the deep-felt understandings that stem from these two gifts for they both touch upon the notions of roles I play, how I play them, the beliefs I/we carry around from childhood. And the gifts also touched on the need to be fully present to ourselves so that I/we do not shut down and start acting from the constructs and concepts that I/we have adopted as the truth about me/us. In gratitude for the dharma that is in all, and for the ability to be touched by it.

I wrote this on a week of Mondays that marked the end of this dön season. May it be of benefit.

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Ego-Monkey-Brain: Still Here

This was originally written on December 30th, 2015.
[Warning (to self and others): I may or may not publish this. And/or I may edit some details.]

So here we go, almost New Year’s Eve, Nochevieja and I am at the page.

I had danced and kicked my way through class at the gym both Monday and Tuesday evenings but something of a wake up call happened; something worthy (to me) to look at through the eyes of the path. After I left the gym on Monday, I saw a friend. As it usually is when I see this sweet person, my mind-heart just melted/stopped. All there was, was BAM!!!, light!!! I felt my face lighting up a grin without my permission to do so; and I felt angry at my face!!!

Then, when Ego-Monkey-Brain realized that I was angry at my face and at the fact that I had broken my promise to myself that I would not let this person’s presence make me happy or affect me, I heard Monkey-Brain say: —I can’t do this anymore; I’ll just stop going anywhere he might be. I will simply stop going anywhere outside Shambhala where I may meet women and men with whom I would like to talk, or become friends… Monkey-Brain went on for a while, and I had to do some serious breathing to stop myself from stopping my membership at the gym, and from not accepting an invitation from friends to go out on the 31st, and on the 1st. Monkey-Brain was on a rampage, and I had forgotten how seductive his arguments can be. Since 2015 has been a difficult year for me in many areas of my life, and also a year of opening up my mind-heart, and moving through and out of the dark comfort zone of my own personal cocoon, I decided to let Monkey-Brain say what it wanted to say. I recognized fear…. but I digress…

Ego-Monkey-Brain got angry again: –What???!! You want friendship or a relationship of any kind with people who most probably operate under the ruling of “no social interaction with guests/clients/people-you-do-music-with”??? 
Sheer anger: Monkey-Brain was angry and I was angry with Monkey-Brain. But truth be said, when I just sit and feel/listen to the deeper grooves where my anger runs, what I sense is a yearning for wanting others to come and play with me, like when I was a child and I was not really allowed to play with everybody. When I listen deeply, the anger shifts, it melts a little and I can hold myself with some warmth and understanding, with some maitri. I had isolated myself for so many years in so many ways while partially blaming others for my isolation that I forgot myself, my sane-self: I do not need to push myself nor my wants and/or needs onto anyone else. Nor do I have to pretend not to feel.

Fortunately, I do not do what Monkey-Brain wants as fast as I would have 8 or 10 years ago. It’s not that I don’t act spontaneously, or from a space of being genuine anymore. It’s more like I can now recognize Monkey-Brain’s edicts and ways of cowering from the discomfort of feeling vulnerable, and the possibility of being seen as weak / vulnerable. I seem to be able to recognize Monkey-Brain’s habitual actions a little sooner than I could before and when I do, some times in that very instant I can “drop out” of his circle of influence and do nothing while still hearing him scream. I can just wait, and be with the discomfort knowing/trusting that it will be clear to me, to my deeper and saner mind-heart, if I were in any true danger and really needed to heed Monkey-Brain’s warnings.

Habit-mind says “run away”; shut him out. Habit-mind has begun to arm itself against him saying things like: he does not like you; you’re old; you’re a thing to fix, to keep away, a guest, a client, a patient, a person with whom he does music… And Ego-Monkey-Brain says all these things in an effort to build up my cocoon, to protect me from the newfound fear of thinking that I will not be in a lasting loving relationship again in this lifetime. As these things come up, they build a prickly cocoon around me that 1. does not allow much in, nor out (precluding genuine engagement in things as they are) and 2. is really not effective. Sad.

But here is the thing: I am grateful to Ego-Monkey-Brain and the cocoons he had built for me in the past, for he has been a faithful protector and defender… And also because with all his antics he has helped me keep in touch with my own humanity. I am grateful for his willingness to dance/play with the saner part of my mind-heart while taking a side step so that I could dance to the melody, silences and spaces of the teachings. And I am grateful, to the teachings that have allowed me to listen to him scream while I breathe and some times even take the risk of asking, as if in some cosmic playground: Do you want to play? Do you want to be friends?

May this be of benefit.

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A short message of gratitude for a wake up call

This was originally written on December 30th, 2015.
I have been extremely lucky in having found a long time friend. I help him by reading his research papers on the peace process in the Middle East, a theme that matters to this heart of mine. The last paper I edited touched me. It was about Syria and the conflict(s) that still ails that nation. Here is a short message that I sent him after having finished my reading. I am not sure why, but I felt the need to incorporate this in my blog. So here it is. May this be of help.

Hello Dear Friend,

Here is the chapter. I wanted to send it back to you before the end of the year…And I’ve made it!!!!!!

My head spins every time I edit one of your chapters. It’s a good spin, don’t worry. When I read your papers it makes me wonder about the type of training/education/faith that all humans would need in order to avert wars. We are so used, as a species, to endless arguing and fighting against each other, that I don’t think we would know what to do with ourselves if this world’s nations were not at war. With so many countries and cultures (the USA included) where the arts, music, philosophy, values, and folk wisdom(s) and traditions are not being taught at school and in many cases (due to modernity) at home either, the maturing population has no choice but to grow at best with an emptiness of the heart-mind, and at worst with an almost maniacal need to fill its time with something to do, and almost anything will do. But this population is also growing up, and growing older, not knowing how to make choices, and not even knowing that choices can be created. It is growing up with a facile attitude toward not thinking-feeling deeply. And I thank you because your papers serve as a reminder.

May this 2016 bring you, your family and country the rest, peace and love you all need, and merit. May you always have loving friends.

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Thanksgiving 2015

Originally written on November 26, 2015.

There is a thread weaving through any and all of my experiences and though I may not always be aware of the thread, nor particularly happy about it when I am aware, it is nonetheless there. So, on a day like today, I wonder what to do about an aspect of my existence as a human being that is elusive at best, and as un-graspable as when a child tries to grasp air with his bare hands… And all I can come up with is a sense of deeply felt and quasi-arrogant gratitude.

I feel deeply grateful for having been born, for being alive. I am grateful for every breath I take, and for the whiffs of cologne, or incense, or all the scents of our world regardless of my opinions of them as pleasant or not. I am grateful for they are reminders of the fact that I am alive, that I have a beating heart, and that I can feel, breathe, see, hear, touch, taste and share the loneliness of never being quite able to make another human see or feel what I feel. But the art and the dance of this life is in the willingness to share, and be… So, I am grateful for this precious-fragile human birth.

Needless to say, not everything I have experienced in this life, nor contributed to, has been beautiful or benign. And therein lies the savage, wild, raw beauty of the human experience: if we are brave enough to let ourselves be touched by it; better yet, when I am brave enough to let it touch me and when I maybe look or touch back in return, then there is the possibility of being awake, soft-hard, sadly-joyful…in touch with the very moment in which I am, and with the vastness of time and space from where all moments and experiences arise…

I am here in this very precise moment totally present with heartfelt gratitude and with certainty that I have done this before, that I have felt this way before, and that this knowledge needs no confirmation. I know that for as long as there is consciousness encased in a human body, caught in this fleeting precious human birth, there are reverberations or ripples for each and every action charged with intention which I effect. And I know that this sense of ripples, like the rings that form around the spot where a stone thrown within water in a pond falls, this sense of ever expanding ripples, opens and travels and inevitably encounters those of other people. What I do has effects that touch others and carry over time… So I am grateful for the opportunity to be touched by others, and the ability to clarify not my each and every action, but the heart and intention from where I act and be; i.e. the ability to choose what to accept and reject so that the field or vast space where my heart-mind resides, interacts or plays with others remains clear.

The waves of gratitude for being alive are truthful waves… The waves speak of the constant changing of the cells in my body, of the movement of the different people that I may encounter on a daily basis, of the socio-political changes that I have seen in the world…of the wars, invasions, genocides, of the emergence of new faiths and world views… The waves speak of the human tendency to desperately want to freeze or fossilize any one of its experiences. I still do. With humbleness I recognize that this is just a part of being human, and something that may help soften me/us: seeing that change simply is; that it is inevitable; and seeing with an open hearted attitude, that in spite of instinctively knowing about the inevitability of change, we will still forget about it in our attempts to be happy by capturing or freezing those fleeting expressions of life. The truth carried by the waves of gratitude for being alive is simply this: change bound to life, is also bound to death. And opening to change, regardless of (my) being able to do so for very brief moments at a time, also brings with it the possibility of starting out from a softer space, of being awake, and of being present to my world.

And then there is this, this last wave of gratitude. I live in this merry-go-round like world where I have had the opportunity to visit and revisit past mistakes, relationships, good deeds, falling in-through-or-out-of love… All of it over and over again, as if to say: what will you do differently this time? Anything? And I am grateful because it is in the ups and downs of this merry–go-round that I have been given teachings that touch my heart and speak to a life worth living as long as I allow myself to feel and share the openness, as long as I am open enough to embody as much as the teachings as I can, so that others, in turn can be touched, softened, lit from within.

And so it is that in a moment of crystal clear awareness I can both feel and express my gratitude for the depth and power of the priceless teachings, for the presence of those who teach me whether or not they are called teachers, for the willingness to be taught, and for the circumstances dark and light, painful and loving that mark the path I share with you today. Because it all served to bring me here, ¡Gracias a la vida!

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