Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sick of this weather?

Worse, my body is officially sick again - a kidney infection, at least - and I've been observing some things about being sick.

First, you don't have to be miserable.  If your serotonin is up - and it is April, after all - you can be in a  good mood while sick and tired. 

Second, if you hurt a lot, and my left kidney really does, you can forget about it while concentrating on something else.  In my case, it was picking up the antibiotic and $100 worth of no-effort food at Kroger's after the doctor visit.

Third, being sick gives you permission to indulge yourself.  I picked up various little things I like, including ~
Double-stuf golden Oreos (quick low-blood-sugar treatment), on sale
Two bars of nice-smelling soap, on sale, for my dresser drawers
A package of those pink cupcake things with coconut on them that used to be made by Hostess.

Now really, I thought, why do I have to be sick to treat myself to these little things?

A pointer:  Be prepared.  Feeling ghastly last night (serotonin way down) I bought a dumb e-book for my iPad.  I took the iPad along to the doctor's office where it amused me while I waited, and so I would have it if they decided to admit me right then, always possible.  They take transplant patients seriously.

The infection is in one or both of the old kidneys.  It would have been nice to take them out when they put the new one in, but it doubles the length of the surgery (which is over 3 hours anyway), and that's riskier the older you get.  Or younger, if you're getting younger.  Haha.

I also realized that understanding Buddhist thought is as important to my happiness as meditation is.  I don't know how many times I've chanted The Five Remembrances and told people about them (they are at the bottom of this blog).
I am of the nature to grow sick; I cannot escape sickness.
Really, you can't.  Therefore getting sick is not your fault, no matter what your father said.  Shit happens.  Karma is very complicated, and most of it is out of our control.

This is why so many people have been disappointed by TM, Deepak Chopra, and a squillion other gurus and programs and face creams that promise to fix you.  We are of the nature to fall apart, and all repairs are only temporary.

Not that I like it, you understand.  You don't have to like it, as long as you get it.

Monday, March 24, 2014

It's a Long, Long Trail: Some Thoughts on Spiritual Practice

This is a popular quote, and there are a lot of images of it on Google.  I like this one, which shows a woman who is experiencing some "negative" emotion.  Negative emotions are those the culture doesn't want women to have, like being royally pissed off.  Men are allowed to have those; in fact, they're the hallmark of a Real Man, the kind who beats his wife, then apologizes abjectly, blubbering, drunk, of course, then beats her again and again and so on until something gets her to a safe house.  It should be called Rage Disorder, but the women could not get that into the DSM-IV.  There's a whole book about that.

Or maybe she's experiencing the astonishment of realizing what she's been put through because she was born with a vagina.  Not leaving out you men; there are victims among you, too.  But in my category - intractable PTSD caused by childhood sexual-and-emotional abuse, it seems that more of the victims are women. This is usually not diagnosed.  Instead, the locked-off pain manifests as chronic depression or bipolar disorder or fibromyalgia or underachievement, or all of these with anorexia and psychosomatic ailments thrown in.  Don't leave out the alcoholism.  Girls Wine and Whine.  And then, Smile!  There are no effective medications for any of these effects of abuse.  How could there be?

Here's the truth that pisses me off: the quote is true.  Reality is sometimes hard to face.  That would be why a lot of people don't.

What you think when you start meditating is that it will cure you, relieve your stress, make you happy, and also nice.  Yes, it does allow a space for healing, it will relieve stress for a while, maybe even for a few hours afterward.  But that just gives you fresh eyes on your condition, your life.  After a while, little unwelcome insights will start creeping into the meditation itself, Yow!  The mind clamps down on that, and the meditation becomes boring.  You get restless.  You think, This isn't doing a thing for me.  You decide to try something else.

The road to realization is less traveled for a damn good reason, in other words.  There are passages on the Way that are subject to avalanches of unwelcome memories, tears, rage.  Most people - even those who've had a chance to work with  genuine teachers - quit the Buddha way.  From where I live, it looks like half the Buddhist Teachers in America are in California, but you wouldn't believe how many unenlightened people are lying around beached out there.  People with opportunity.  Some of them - most of them, I bet - tried meditation.  My (estranged) sister once told me she went to hear Thich Nhat Hahn.  Shrug.  "It didn't do anything for me."  Well, neither did the desert in bloom (a wonderful metaphor and fact.)

If you are practicing outside an authentic system, if you don't have a teacher who's actually walked the whole damn path, you haven't got a chance.  Facing life will scare you to look for another self-styled Life Coach or Guru, another cheery book, another sweet quote, a great new recipe, oh, of course, new shoes! - in short, another way to escape reality.  That's the road more taken.

You wouldn't believe how I had to search to find a version of this as I remembered it.  Thank you, Kenneth Moody-Arndt.   I especially like this verse:
You must go and stand your trials.
You have to stand them by yourself.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What to do when you just can't meditate

Can't, won't, don't want to, whatever.  Seriously, I did enjoy watching this amazing invitation to a mixture of overwhelming self-pity and glee.

You didn't watch it, did you? Five minutes is more time than I am usually willing to give a video these days, and I understand that's now normal.

But if you did, it might destress you some.  That won't last.  I liked it and laughed at the sheer joy of surfing, but I had to think, I so wish I'd done that shit when my bones were good.  Latest bone scan showed severe osteoarthritis with high risk of fracture.  I'm supposed to see a specialist.  Yet another specialist.
I am in what I was trained to think of as a "bad" mood, i.e., one that made my parents uncomfortable.  Can't you ever smile?  On the other hand, if I was smiling, my father was likely to say gruffly, What're you smiling about?  My mother always tried to get me to ignore him by saying to me, Oh, grow up.  Just the kind of thing that makes you want to sing the Peter Pan theme song,  "I won't grow up."  You do see from this, perhaps, that I was not a popular item in the house I grew up in.

Why don't I blog more often these days?  Well, yes, I'm sick 50% of the time with a weird cycling depression no doctor so far has any explanation for.  There's that.  Should I waste a couple of hours on a good day writing this?  What's in it for me?  And same with my status updates on my Facebook page.  It does not grow because why?  Because the people who subscribe FOR FREE don't share anything, and rarely comment.  Why?  Because they got it free, and don't value it.  Just hit "like" and move on.  Same reason you readers don't bother to comment or write to me.

But see, I'm no fun.  As a blogger I'm nowhere, since I'm not hysterically dramatic in recovery famous holding contests, and blablabla.  I'm not selling fun.  All I have is reality, and that's never been big.

I've been doing a little Naikan lately - GIYA - and it has made me notice what I give and what I receive.  I give have given used to give to this blog, over 1000 published posts, and people think it is quite sufficient to mention to me or Tom in passing that they love my blog and follow it religiously.  But they don't write to me to ask why I'm not publishing, do they?

I should have been an electrician.  That's all.  Do something concrete, important, and well-paid.  This contemplative English major writer introvert thing - the only way it pays is if you write a book about it. That's hard to do if you're depressed.

Anyway guys, I have an excuse.  I'm sick right now with an internal infection in addition to my usual pain in multiple places.  On an antibiotic, which seems to maybe be doing the job, but will fuck up my digestive system for weeks, despite my good probiotic.  Maybe I'm just cranky, the way kids get when they're getting better.  Maybe I'll be back some day radiating cheer and joy and stuff.  We'll see.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Died and Gone to Heaven, Metaphorically speaking

Your brain on Buddha
I feel like I just won the lottery - got a long-awaited call from my nephrologist that I can very slowly ramp down on one of the immunosuppressents I take to keep my donated kidney from being rejected by an alert immune system.  Why would you want to go down on these lifesaving drugs?  Because they suppress your immune system.

Take last night - I was suddenly stricken with Herpes on my lips - cold sores to you - so suddenly that it scared me.  I felt unwell, and the whole left side of my face felt irritated and involved, including that eye.  My eyes are one of my favorite organs.

A whole lot of people have had cold sores and harbor the herpes virus forever in their bodies, but it is dangerous to the elderly and to the immunesuppressed.  I happened to have a doctor appointment today, so I mentioned it and he looked at it and talked to me about it.  It looks okay, and he didn't prescribe an anti-viral, but I should call immediately if this infection gets worse. . . .

This is why it is said a transplant is a treatment for kidney failure, not a cure.  So, you know, you do what you have to to stay alive, but you don't always enjoy it.  Even if you meditate.  Zen is not about eternal bliss, but about being fully alive.

I always like to post pictures, but you sure don't want to see pictures of cold sores, or if you do, GIY.  Above, one of these pictures intended to make you want to meditate.  Perhaps I should note that my kidney was given to me by a woman I hardly knew, who had sat with our Zen group one night when I was doing orientation.  That's quite an outcome of being in a meditation group.  Unusually good karma, indeed.

And that makes me want to post a favorite puppy-dog picture, which I may well have posted before.  So here:

May you have some good luck today, too.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

What good poetry is

File:Gerard Manley Hopkins, Rowan Gillespie.jpg
Sculpture and photograph by Rowen Gillespie
I am periodically suffering keenly these days along with a dear friend who's in the worst of the chronic illnesses, profound depression.  I can be too empathic, having experienced that myself.  It was long ago, but it was a long trek out of that landscape.

And I hate not being able to help someone else much.  You aren't, you know.  I was taken aback when I read in Bernie Glassman's book, Instructions for the Cook, that a bodhissatva goes to the well for a teaspoon of water, climbs the hill, gives a thirsty person that water, goes back to the well.  What?  I thought surely one could do more than that for the world.  Glassman himself keeps trying to do grand things - he once vowed to end homelessness - but I'm not sure how much they work out.

I found myself remembering the last line of this poem.  I, of course, would revise the penultimate line to read, "It is the blight we were born for."  I really dislike the use of "man" to represent the species.  It's part of that invisible water of patriarchy we all swim in:  men are human, women, are - other.

Hopkins was a deeply spiritual man (who has been described as "gloomy.")  I imagine he would appreciate the correction.  They didn't know better back then.

But how the good Jesuit nailed it in this poem.  It is ourselves we mourn for.


Spring and Fall
     by Gerard Manley Hopkins

to a young child
Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.