This Past Week: Quickening comes in threes

This past Tuesday Oct 10, while at work, we were told at the end of our daily meeting, that two of our supervisors had resigned, effective in two weeks. I was hired into this job I love doing, into the world of interpreting and translating in a hospital, by one of them.  I had not met the second supervisor until earlier this year, but she is also a sweet soul. I wondered if this the was equivalent somehow to two quickenings in terms of this piece.
Fast forward. As they were telling us at the meeting that they would both be leaving a wave of numbness rushed to protect me from feeling pain or anything else, and to hold me propped up as if from within. At first, for some seconds I thought that only one person would be  leaving. But, the heart that had been momentarily wrapped in the numbness, knew better. I stayed there watching the racing thoughts go through me like needles burning their way out… watching as small tears wanted to pour, and the pressure settled on my throat and upper chest. I stayed with it… I told my supervisor that I didn’t have to like the fact that she was leaving. She asked me if I could at least accept it. And that was easy to answer. It was a simple yes, simply because I want her to be happy, whole, with a sense of moving forward. I just sense that for her, staying is not the option that would allow her to be satisfied. The week kept moving…
On Thursday Oct 12, my paycheck for two weeks came for around 700 low-dollars, and one of my childhood friends called me to tell me that she is really ill. On that phone call, she also thanked me for the long friendship we’ve shared. In essence, she said goodbye to me.
I am not sure why, but my friends call shifted something in me. It was a knife parting, cutting through, a veil. I wanted to be near my friend but I could not. We live in different countries, and I could not afford the trip. In the midst of the sadness and fears I was experiencing, I understood, with the clarity of freshwater that lets you see deep within a lake or pond, that I want and need to be able to at least care for myself, undergo surgery, or treatments, or make a trip if it were needed to be by a friend’s side.
So, I decided to grow up: I would/will go back into teaching if necessary so that I can have a steady check and be covered by insurance, regardless of the fact that I would still much rather stay working as an interpreter/translator. I also decided to grow up and speak truth, be genuine with the director of my department. I would let her know directly that I wanted to help her rebuild, create something new, and I would tell her about what I bring to the table (without tooting my own horn, just my truth). And then, I would ask her if I should wait or if I should shift gears completely in order to teach again. I am happy to say that this conversation took place.
As a Dominican I grew up believing that hard things seem to always come in threes. So as soon as my phone conversation with my friend ended on Thursday, I wondered what the third thing would be in this triad. And for a while I thought it would have to be the low paycheck I received and the discomfort of being again in that place where money is an issue. But either I was wrong, or there are two triads going on for me at this moment. The latter does not seem likely, though it is not impossible either. The triads are usually signaled by 3 events or experiences that shatter parts of ego-monkey-brain, break my heart or do both.
BOTH. On Friday 13th another friend had invited me to a talk, and I decided to go. The friend that invited me was there, and I am thankful because it makes it easier for me to have the anchor of someone known. Childish. And yes, judgmental  but that is Monkey-Brain raising its head. I am shy and awkward in social and/or new situations.
In the midst of the awkwardness I was feeling, my eyes caught something that again called forth the protective wave of numb. And, I remember how I started telling myself in that instant that I had not seen anything, that I was inventing things. However, I also willed myself to look over and over again, in order to see. I was not prepared for what I saw. And I was thankful for being able to access the wave of numbness that allowed me to momentarily remain in place. In dissociating myself from pain, at least a part of me can remain and do what I need or want to do, and even enjoy it.
The space where the talk took place had a simple huge decorative cage, very similar to the huge cages (almost floor to ceiling) one of my friends has for the 15 to 20 odd birds she keeps indoors, inside the house. I remember staring at the structure when the first presenter began to talk, and wondering what it was. But since I could not conceive of a bird cage in that space, it did not register as such.  I could not see it, very much like the natives in the Americas could not see the conquerors’ ships in the horizon for they had no conceptual formation, no words in which to wrap said ships. I kept listening to the speaker, and letting my eyes move between her face, the flowers, the lights in the room, and the people in the room. And then her part of the presentation ended and we moved to another area where the next speaker had set her space.
I had a chance to sit close to my friend aware of the wave or wrap of numbness that still enveloped me. The wave describes what it feels like to be in the active process of becoming numb. The wrap describes what it is like to be aware of what’s going on around me and within me. It allows me to think what is numb and not feel it. It is as if the thoughts and my interacting with what is around me cover the pain/fear/sadness/joy, or whatever I could be feeling full force. And then, I saw it! I actually looked at the cage and recognized it for what it was. I saw it and for an instant I was mystified by my previous inability to see it from the other side.
As I felt bombarded from without by repetitions of what had originally disturbed me, and from within by the thoughts that poorly masked my feelings, I was at least able to stay with the parts of me that remained present and aware. What I had seen was simply tenderness. That’s all. It was a tenderness that I perhaps wanted for myself but seeing it, admitting that I wanted it, and feeling envy was too much to grok. So I stepped out mentally. Well, a part of me stepped out.
I am aware that I called forth the wave that became the wrap that allowed me to step out. I am grateful for that ability. And I am sad. I am sad not because of what I saw, since I also remember the sense of feeling joy that someone could feel that tenderness, and that it was reciprocated. I am sad, not because I faced the death of seeing the tenderness as “not for me”, “not mine”; nor because I saw envy rearing its ugly head again in my life. After all, envy is just klesha, and it’ll go back to where it originated.
These were small hues of the larger sense of sadness I felt/feel and the anger aimed at myself for knowing that for years I have carried and held myself captive in a personal cage of sorts. I sustained the cage(s) in which I have hidden most of my life. The sadness and the anger is due to understanding that from within my cage I forbade myself 1) to feel, 2) to show what I was truly or completely feeling to anybody, and 3) from trying to share feelings, or felt-thoughts verbally except with very few people. The sadness is that I never allowed for depth to truly touch me.
Looking Within. Since I became a Buddhist, dismantling what keeps me from truly loving and/or accepting myself and any-and-all others on my path has been my guide, and my path itself. I believe it is necessary to look at my cocoon, where I close up or call forth the wave/wrap of numbness and in so doing move towards expressing my true-feeling heart.
I am content in the knowledge that I see a difference in me since I started on this path. That I see growth, regardless of how small that growth feels or is. My karma and kleshas burn when I look into their seeming darkness. And because of this, I may choose to not be near the tenderness that so hurt me recently because I am not part of it, or because I cannot give it. And I may also choose to be gentle enough to not completely isolate from others or wall myself off, and to at least speak-write about my path instead of simply continue to feed a cocoon that would separate me from being present to my life.
Growth and Karma: In writing I can allow myself to feel the yucks of envy, sadness and anger, and thus the wrap that numbs is not as tight, and I can process parts of this week quite soon after the triggering events. However, I am not blind. This tendency to wall myself off, and to ward off touch from people I love is ancient. In my family of origin, in this lifespan, two messages were clearly seared between my ears: The first one was, I am hurting him/you for your own good, because I love you. And the second one was, you should not open your heart, nor love your friends or others outside of the family so easily, because they will hurt you. I honestly do not know how to not buy into these false messages because their roots run deep, and I am susceptible and easily caught in their web. So I lay down my shield, my walls, again and again, little by little. And I pray that I can learn to feel tenderness without fear and anger, and that I can learn to bestow it and accept it without recoiling.
With this piece I have briefly opened the eyes of my heart and its wings. And while I truly do not know where this will take me, I know that I am grateful for the teaching(s) that allow me to see the gem within my heart, and to those that teach me, though I don’t always like the lessons as I am learning them.  Burning heart. Sad heart. Common denominator: Heart.  May this writing be of benefit to others on their paths.

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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Opening and Shutting

This was originally written on October 29, 2015.

So here we go. I have not written in a while… rusty… the words struggle not only to come out, but to express the heart without oughts, without shoulds or shouldn’ts… to express what is, what simply is. But it is not always easy to express what is because my heart’s truth at any moment may not be politically correct, or nice, or even conform with the view of the majority. Breathe. Tears.

Perhaps it may be also difficult to express that which is in my heart, because in spite of all the teachings and how friendly and forgiving I can be to others, I am still a baby in terms of allowing myself to be ok with whatever is happening within me. In brief, my ego-monkey-brain still wants to look good in the eyes of others, and responds to an ingrained habitual sense of shoulds and oughts. My ego-monkey-brain still wants to be liked, confirmed.

However, my tender and more courageous heart knows that there is no ego, no monkey-brain, no confirmer, and no confirmation needed. And it also knows that there is the depth of each and every moment felt. Each moment truly felt is a step that allows true humanity to shine. However, from this ego-monkey-brain mode, it is still very hard for me to admit to myself that there are people with whom I shut down or rather people with whom my walls come up really fast. But the walls are not the problem. Nor is the speed with which they can go up or come down. The battle begins, the real trouble, the aggression that could escalate into wars if enacted (by groups of people) without questioning or reflection, when I do not allow myself to feel as I do, because “I ought to like her/him, she’s just a child…” or because “you should not feel that way, it is not nice…” or “there are no reasons for you to feel that way” or “you should know better…” that’s when the real trouble begins.

This is how habits and conditioning begin. Phrases uttered by well-meaning parents and the various teachers that we encounter in our lives, doing the best they can to raise us. So we learn to shut and mask our true feelings. But I don’t think we learn this anew. It is simply that their teachings trigger the memories accumulated through eons and add more potential seeds for karma in the course of our inhabiting a precious human body.

So at the moment that I shut my feelings, that I numb myself because I don’t trust what I feel, and start acting based on being afraid of how I feel, then I am simply stepping into the setting sun mentality, the perspective of living from the cocoon. This feels true. May this be of help.

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All Around Topsy-Turvy

This was originally written on June 28, 2015

It’s been a tops-turvy three to four years, for sure. But if I were to look further back I could say that mine has altogether been a topsy-turvy life. I suspect that this is what most people feel about their own lives.
I saw yesterday that I have hidden for some time now. I have been hiding with fear, and a deeply set feeling of unworthiness. I don’t write much anymore because I fear the consequences, and because I am afraid that no one will like what I have to say. I sit behind anger and fear related to getting old, being alone and unwanted, and not having anything of value to leave behind when I die.
Last night a flash of understanding hit me: that instead of valuing this life, this human life for being, simply being, I had cocooned myself in price tags: how much have I done for you; how much can I do; how much-how many… I remembered last night that since a very early age, I thought that I had to earn my keep, the right to be alive and/or loved. My family of origin was not really affectionate or demonstrative of love, but it demonstrated very clearly when my brother or I were not in good standing, or merited anything other than very harsh words or physical punishment. For the most part demonstrations of love served as coinage, means toward something else. So I learned what I needed to do to survive, and within that I learned to not value myself.

I feel that I am slowly crawling out of the cocoon in which I initially hid when I brought my niece to live with me, and was coming to terms with my decision to leave my companion of eleven years. (All of this happened in 2010 and 2011.) The walls of that cocoon were made of shame, of feeling that I was a failure as a woman, a failure as a sister, as a writer, as a human. The walls of that cocoon were tied with fears of survival, and the belief that if I could not prove myself, I did not deserve to survive, or be happy.
But, I cannot hide from myself. Not really. I am a Buddhist and human in training. The call is to cause no harm, extend my heart to others, and learn to experience this/my world as sacred. The call is to help manifest enlightened society, enlightenment on the spot. The call is a deeply felt sense that we are needed if this planet is to survive. Thus, as I break through the walls of my cocoon, I do so with a sense of wonder: how would I show up in my life if I felt whole and worthy? What can I do to extend this beating heart to others who might be in a cocoon of their own? How do I train in seeing or experiencing my world(s) as sacred? And for now, I leave this page with that. May it be of help to someone.

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Letting Myself In: Writing

I had not published anything to my blog in 2015 and right at this moment, I feel that I want to add some of the unpublished writings, and perhaps some images from this year, before it ends. Overall, it’s been a hard year, not bad, just powerful and intense. Perhaps this is why I could not make myself do one more thing. Perhaps it was fear, laziness. Maybe even a combination of all these… I am not really sure. But this has been the year of voluntarily putting myself on the spot in many ways, as if to say: Wake up!! The world needs you to be awake…!! And there were also many things that simply came my way, like most things in life, as if for me to learn to stay as grounded as possible with anything and everything. Perfect training ground life is!!! (A Yoda moment.)

Here are some of my year’s highlights: This is my second year as a teacher in a different school district; I declared bankruptcy in the first quarter of the year; I moved to a new apartment a week or so before the end of last school year (May 2015); I started working out in June; went to Maine and Canada; I became a Vajrayana student on my path; I have continued editing as a freelancer; I started playing the guitar and getting my voice more or less ready to sing again; I have made new friends and reconnected with old ones…

I guess 2015 has been the year where in many ways I’ve begun opening my heart again. The thing is, that once one of my heart’s doors open, other doors open as well…feelings arise, and my path becomes clear: the task is to remain as soft and as open as possible, while participating fully in my world(s) at the same time. And to my amazement, somehow more seems to fit in this heart-mind of mine than I ever thought possible: love, falling in love, tiredness, creativity. And I am grateful.

I am grateful to my Guru-teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche; to all my teachers, whether obviously Buddhist or not; to the teachings…

So I’ll start uploading to my blog sites some of the pieces, notes, poems, photos I have from this year.

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Gratitude 2014

Earlier this morning I reached out to the sangha, because once again, I am under serious financial stress. I am being sued because of debts, and in order to file for bankruptcy I need to pay the lawyer’s fees. Knowing this, it is pretty awesome, I think, to feel the gratitude I feel tonight, in spite of those fears. And I would like to share about this deeply felt gratitude.

Today, I reached out in spite of ego-monkey-brain’s screaming that it is embarrassing to confess one’s needs, especially financial needs, to people outside one’s household. That is simply part of the very ancient programming, or habitual mind, that I carry. But becoming a Shambhalian Buddhist means that I get to listen to all those voices, and I get to cradle them in that cradle of loving-kindness, because they are afraid. And knowing this, I feel sad for the adults that so many years ago trained me to believe as they did, because they were afraid and embarrassed too. While I was forbidden to speak about our financial problems, they felt the brunt of the fears. I did not believe necessarily that being poor was a reason to not speak, ask for help, or be embarrassed, but I was bound by the shame I learned to feel, and the desire to not cause them pain.

However, times have changed and the winds of faith and Shambhala have cooled me enough that I can move in spite of my fears, and go against the screaming voice within me to follow the softer voice of sanity. Today that softer voice said that I needed to ask friends and sangha for help. And also today, shortly after I wrote, a sangha brother responded that he will help me with the fees. My heart sank and bounced up again partially in disbelief, and partially in awe and gratitude. A little later, I felt a second wave of relief when I realized that those who had responded to my message of need were not saying what my monkey-brain was saying: WHAT? YOU ARE ASKING FOR HELP, AGAIN? Instead they were kind, supportive, and caring; not punishing me as the loud voice in my head was doing.

The winds of faith and Shambhala have cooled me enough that I listened to the softer voice of sanity a second and a third time today. The voice whispered: go practice, and I did. I sat with White Tara, and I did my Ngondro. And while practicing, I saw that Monkey-Brain felt embarrassed to ask for help even from the lineage. I cried, the tears just rolled and I kept practicing because, what else was there to do? After I finished practicing I felt lighter. I remembered that tomorrow is Thanksgiving so I decided to write this note of gratitude.

The sense of gratitude I feel at this moment goes beyond the help and words I received today. I am relatively healthy. My niece has become a dental hygienist (still waiting for her license, so no job yet). My brother and his wife are doing well. I like my new workplace. I have found true friends in my new job. I have friends that I love and care about, and friends from childhood that I keep in touch with. I have friends from the larger sangha. And I have Shambhala, and the Austin sangha.

I am grateful to the Sakyong for choosing to remain as our beloved teacher. I am grateful to Chogyam Trungpa for the bravery to cross the Himalayas and come to the West to teach and bring the teachings. I am grateful to all my teachers in Shambhala and outside the context of Buddhism, because I know that it takes heart to stand in front of others with the intention to help them develop their potential as human beings. And finally, today I am thankful to the soft voice, for not giving up on me. I guess that soft voice is the voice of Basic Goodness. And I guess that Basic Goodness is that soft sanity that can also be immovable. But I am just guessing.

I wish you all, together with your friends and family, a very Happy Thanksgiving wherever you happen to be. Peace.

Request and Gratitude

Please help me get to Sacred World Assembly, the next program in my Buddhist Studies. I just created a page with the Offering Bowl. Every little bit helps…. All you have to do is go to The Offering Bowl’s website and donate! You will help a fellow practitioner continue her studies and you will accumulate good karma! Thanks for reading this….