Sorting (written 2009)
“I've got the peace that passeth understanding down in my heart.” Words of an old hymn, popular in family and kid groups, run through my mind as I sit on the floor of our bedroom this morning, coffee in hand, glancing at my watch on the rug beside me, because writing time is limited. The morning kennel routines await. It's breezy and cool again today with enough cloud to indicate that the rainy period is not yet over. But today I will have a space, if all goes as the day is planned, of nearly two hours of solitude in the afternoon. Knowing this smooths out this ragged waking time. As did sitting this morning. Watching the morning sponginess dissipate from my brain, a kind of stretching, like the bends and yoga poses I do afterward for this body.
I think of the idea we have of “mind”, of “self”, as permeating the body. Then another idea: of consciousness as the ether we live in, the body like an antenna tuning in to different stations. It seems I resonate with certain “messages” at certain times. Lately, to live in my body, not retreat into thought/head. And to not take myself so seriously. “Life and death are a hide and seek game” the Tibetan prayer for the dying tells me. And “game” is key here. When we play board games or card games with children and they throw things or rant and cry when they lose or some play goes against them, we tell them “It's only a game!” We mean, lighten up, have fun, enjoy the valleys as well as the hills, be there for the ride. There have been valleys lately. Worry, aging, menopause and some hard struggles in communication. And I've spent time lying on the floor of those valleys, weeping and fussing in the mud or kicking my heels in a tantrum. It is freeing and funny to look up and see the sun on the hill on the next horizon and to see the mess I've made and to just smile and trudge on, enjoying the slip and slide of moving forward.
In a few moments, the working day begins, and time will move in the strange way it has. The flurry of activities pulling us through at frenetic speed. Yet in moments (crossing the gravel drive, folding laundry, climbing into bed at night) I'm caught in the familiar as if in an eddy that never moves, just turning round and round in the same moment.
Keeping calm, good intentions in my heart and an ear open to the guidance of the universe, my toes pointed in a wished for direction, that's my task. Some of the inner joy bubbling up is really anticipation beyond the taste of space that today's two hours will bring. Change coming as we move toward retirement. In sitting some days my mind is all scattered planning. I see the potential for suffering if I cling to plans, allowing hope to become expectation. Desires color our perceptions. I reflect on khamma and lessons and try to imagine in previous lives where my head was to bring me here. Life is good. But in youth, like so many, I followed my whims without a moral centre to guide relationships. I regret and grieve some actions...yet it was all a road leading here and to this spiritual path.
Lama Surya Das, a favorite Buddhist writer of mine, says that journaling is spiritual work. I think he means the kind of reflection it makes possible. I am so often surprised by what pen and page reveal. In the going we find the destination. The connections that the page makes clear. I've been boxing up things to purge. Stuff that belonged to my parents, or to me when I was young, or even to the boys at earlier stages. Identity in boxes. The way we box up and label our own memories and mind lists in order to understand, creating the illusion of things, of something that lasts. Even me. Even me. Dad's records to the collectible shop. Scribblers and texts and novels to the Heritage Society. My grandmother's Speller. I hesitate over novels presented to my parents as kids in 1931 and 1940 and in the end keep them on my shelves. Will they matter to anyone in a few years? Sometime they will be ignominiously trashed. A twinge of regret at this truth. Simplification calls though. We are stewards and everything is on loan.