Saturday, June 11, 2011

Things are always going to hell

"In human life, if you feel that you have made a mistake, you don’t try to undo the past or the present, but you just accept where you are and work from there. Tremendous openness as to where you are is necessary. This also applies to the practice of meditation, for instance. A person should learn to meditate on the spot, in the given moment, rather than thinking, “...When I reach pension age, I’m going to retire and receive a pension, and I’m going to build my house in Hawaii or the middle of India, or maybe the Gobi Desert, and THEN I’m going to enjoy myself. I’ll live a life of solitude and then I’ll really meditate.” Things never happen that way."
The above quote by Chogyam Trungpa made its way to my inbox this morning, a salvation from an aggravating payment mixup on Ebay (don't you wish something would go right once in a while?).  It was titled Accept Where You Are and Work From There. It's the first two sentences I'm interested in because I just got a lot to accept. I wish they didn't keep me so busy accepting.

The title of this post is an unofficial but right-on definition of entropy I once read. It is true of all made items, or forms, and super-true of the human body.  It is running down all the time, and often you just don't know it yet.

I had the lumbar MRI a couple of weeks ago. Last Friday I talked with Chad, my physical therapist, about it, but not in detail.  I did have that underground feeling while we talked that he felt compassion for me. Yesterday, though, I met with the doctor and we talked about it, and I got a copy of the report.  Reading it over I got the message - severe degeneration of all the vertebrae down there. A mess.

For this, the doctor didn't even talk about surgery.  We did talk about why I'm not electing surgery on the rotator cuff, a decision he agrees with.  He did warn me clearly that the pain may take a long time to fall away.  (But that is also true if you get the surgery.) He is quite okay with my use of Vicodin at night, more or less said, "You can do that forever, it's fine."  I already found out I can't not do it, or I am wakened often by the pain. Yesterday evening I took one early.  The back can hurt in several places at once.  Maybe I had done too much driving (though using the left arm very little, and being cautious about how I wore the seat-belt), or maybe I was somewhat depressed by this news, and that mysteriously makes pain worse.

What is there to say?  Suzuki Roshi has summarized Zen like this:  "Things change."  When you first hear that it seems meaningless.  Yes, trees lose their leaves, nations rise and fall.  But as you go on experiencing your own life and becoming more aware, you see that it's the profound truth.  You change all the time, accidents happen, people suddenly die or leave you, most things are beyond your anxious control. If you can stay right there with what is you can work on adjusting to it - accommodating to the actual body you have.  Being aware that your good luck (being alive) can change any moment.

Hitting a wall like this one is a good example, I think, of why it is important to practice being with reality.  I've done a varied lot of spiritual practices in my time, and all have benefited me, but meditation has done the most.  And it is time to go do it now.  But I want to mention that at the bottom of this blog you will find an ancient chant called The Five Remembrances. I don't recite it in cemeteries at night, as some Buddhist monks do. But I have said it enough to learn it by heart, and it pops up at times to remind me that I knew this, I'm just experiencing it more deeply now.


  1. I love your blog. I am sorry for all your pain right now and so hope it lifts soon. If it is a small consolation, know that you are truly inspiring. :-) Pixie

  2. There's a story about golf-playing Brits in India during colonializing times. They loved golf; the monkeys loved the golf balls and made off with them. After several attempts at controlling the monkeys, the Brits realized their solutions were becoming another problem. So they changed the rules: play the ball where the monkey dropped it.

    I guess, being with reality is just that. Playing where the monkey dropped the ball.

    May you be free from pain.
    May your body find moments of ease.

  3. Thank you both, Pixie, it is indeed a consolation to hear that from you. Genju, what a wonderful saying, a great way to see it with humor.