the mercer weave

Think. Don't Think. Breathe. Write. Roam.

New Year, New Challenge 2014

I was gently (or not so gently) reminded this afternoon why meditation needs to be a more consistent element in my life. As I sat on my cushion, I decided to jumpstart my practice by listening to Sharon’s CD from her first book, Real Happiness. I settled in, closed my eyes and grounded myself on my cushion. I listened intently, feeling like an old friend was giving me private breathing lessons. Then…

A text message came in from one of my co-workers notifying me that an arrest had been made on a case we had worked all week. I’m ashamed to say, I looked at the text and of course, was pretty distracted.

I settled back in.

Then the Fur Mob came screaming downstairs, doing a Nascar worthy lap around me that culminated in an extended play date in my lap and on my cushion.

I kept coming back to the breath, recognizing that I will not always be lucky enough to sit in silence, that interruptions, while annoying, are often there to strengthen the practice.

The Fur Mob

IMG_1364

 

Keeping Mr. Z

Firstly, I have a couple of caveats;
 I was born and raised Catholic.
 I am no longer a practicing member of the church.
I start with these statements because I don’t really have a dog in this race. But I love and respect people who do. And I also happen to be gay although frankly, I don’t think that really matters.
There is an interesting debate going on in and around Seattle. A local vice principal was recently fired from his position at Eastside Catholic High School when fellow teachers confided (I prefer the term ‘tattled’) to the president that he’d recently married his male partner.  Now I don’t claim to have an insider perspective but there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of disagreement over the facts. Here are some links for reference: http://blogs.seattletimes.com/today/2013/12/gay-vice-principal-loses-job-at-catholic-school-after-marrying/
The president of the school said the teacher resigned. The teacher said he was fired for being in conflict with Catholic doctrine. Many of the  students at this high school were furious as were their parents. They protested, created Twitter and Facebook feeds and pushed the issue to a national   forum. https://twitter.com/KeepMrZ2013 and https://www.facebook.com/keepmrz2013
I innocently jumped into the fray by tweeting something like “proud of these kids” and went back to watching the news. Suddenly my twitter notifications blew up and I was besieged by replies from complete strangers from everywhere but Washington. And they were on a roll. Clearly very conservative and fundamentalist in their opinions, they tried to paint anyone in support of these students as ignorant and/or subhuman. Your choice.
I should have known better. Because I have friends and family who are devout Catholics and who love me and my (now) wife despite our ‘gay’ marriage, I was a little startled by the virulent trolling I received. After all, I’d just tweeted ‘way to go kids’, not ‘viva la gay revolucion.’
It didn’t matter and of course, I engaged these folks in a relatively civil manner. In the police academy, I remember one piece of advice that I have carried with me to this day; if it’s going to feel good to say it, don’t say it.
 Here’s a sample of one response:
“@ lewandowskijohn: @ debdog would you prefer I called you trash? Because that’s what you are.”
Nice, huh? (And believe me, I mustered a HUGE amount of restraint in my replies.)
I know, I know – it’s not good to feed the trolls.
But they’re so cute!
I’m not a big fan of conflict and I really don’t go out of my way to engage with people who apparently (at least based upon the thousands of tweets they put out) do this as a full time job. They are way out of my tweet league.  I mean really, how does one generate over 230,000 tweets as one of my ‘fans’ does?
What I do find fascinating is how threatened, defensive  and misinformed these folks are on the subject of sexuality. It appears they still hold to the opinion that gay people have no business teaching children because – I don’t know – they’re incompetent?  Lacking the requisite degrees? Not Catholic? Fabulous?
 Mark Zmuda has multiple degrees, was well respected and loved, and by all accounts, a marvelous teacher and administrator. He’s a practicing Catholic and I’m sure, quite fabulous. I can’t speak for him but I’m guessing he never asked the church to sanction his marriage or a priest to marry him.
And while we’re on the subject of marriage, my partner and I were married in August of 2013 after twenty-two years together. I’m not sure either one of us were really prepared for how different it felt to be married. It did.
Are these the type of folks  the Catholic school system wants to wash out? How about a good solid education from a teacher who has a passion for teaching and who no one has ever suggested acted in an unprofessional manner? You know, unlike the multitudes of priests who molested children and then were protected by the church.
Want to know what one ‘traditional catholic’ had to say about that?
“@ TradCatholic1: Active homosexuals should not be teaching our children let alone work at a CATHOLIC school.”
OK, well I guess that settles that, doesn’t it?
(Twitter isn’t private, by the way. All of the tweets, some if which were pretty reprehensible, are public and open source. )
For the sake of my friends and family who are Catholics, I just want the church to be just and compassionate, and at the very least, consistent. Don’t tell me that Mark Zmuda’s sexuality didn’t factor into this decision because if he was truly fired for violating Catholic doctrine, then when are the other ‘violators’ on staff going to be terminated? You know, the birth control users, the out of wedlock scofflaws, the ‘non-pro creative sex-having folks?’
There are truly wonderful and faithful members of the Catholic church. I received an amazing education from a Catholic school. But I know an equal number of gay Catholics who have left the church because of the cacophony of dissonant voices who continue to push them away, suggest they try celibacy and ‘reparative therapy’ and email them happy little ditties classifying homosexuality as ‘disordered.’
There is a lot of good the church can do and those resources can and should be spent on the poor and teaching people how to be kind and productive. That’s what I learned as a child. And I do my best to live those teachings out every day. But I can’t change who I am. I was born this way and I still believe I am a child of God.
#KeepMrZ2013
G4JoBFSG

 

Driving While Compassionate

This morning as I drove to work, I found myself behind a car with a bunch of bumper stickers that on their face, pretty much proclaimed the vehicle owner’s political bent.  One of the ‘messages’ combined religion and politics into one snarky message that, without naming a single person, made it clear exactly whom they were addressing. As I often do, I immediately decided I disliked the person behind the wheel. I even contemplated driving up alongside the car to get a glimpse of my new nemesis as though that was going to seal my suspicions about the person’s true nature. Ironically, this event served as a lesson in compassion. I forced myself to stop forming conclusions about how this person would feel about me or my friends or my vocation. And it was hard. I wanted to dislike him or her solely for what they displayed on the outside of their car. Granted, what we display to the world often says a lot about what we feel inside. One doesn’t have to be a Nobel Prize winner to know that members of the Westboro Baptist church who picket everything from funerals to religious services, hate many things but most prominently, ‘the gays.’

I’m not a bumper sticker person, myself. I don’t like to disfigure my car and I hold no real desire to express something to the world that must be interpreted in a matter of minutes by someone in a motorized cage behind me. Bumper stickers can be misinterpreted, especially if they are trying to convey a message subtly about a subject that begs for a broader perspective. I’m embarrassed to say that I draw pretty clear conclusions about people based on how they adorn their modes of transportation and I suppose that is the point of putting a message on your bumper that basically says, “I believe this and if you don’t agree, you are wrong.”

So, this morning I imagined myself meeting the person in the car in front of me and having a civilized conversation about politics and religion and tried to steer myself into appreciating their humanity. I focused on having compassion for someone despite our differences. And I thought it was apropos of what I have learned from Sharon Salzberg and in my own journey down this spiritual path. It’s ultimately about seeing the commonality not the difference.

Lovingkindness is Hard

There are a few reasons I decided to investigate meditation several years ago.  For one, I felt I was sorely lacking some kind of spiritual foundation – something intangible I know, but for me it was important. The faith in which I was raised (I’m a cradle Catholic) wasn’t speaking to me. In fact, when it did, the words were not consoling or welcoming. As I wrote this, I noticed that I used the present tense to refer to ‘my Catholicism’ and that speaks volumes, I suppose. There will always be a part of me that craves the ‘smells and bells’, the ritualistic communal gathering on Sunday morning and the regimen of the liturgy. But the human element of the faith in which I was raised has (in my opinion) created obstacles too high for me to overcome.

Lovingkindness is harder the longer you put it off. I find that if I don’t include a metta practice at the end of my meditation session, I struggle to stay on task. And that struggle invades those parts of my day when I deal with difficult people. Taking the ego out of the equation is imperative. Being able to stand back and understand there is nothing personal about the interaction takes patience, equanimity and more than a passing familiarity with the power of selflessness.

But as they say, practice makes perfect. And I get a lot of practice.ht_nypd_homeless_man_jef_121129_wmain

Home is Where the Breath Is

As I stepped out into the cold and dark at 3:30 this morning to water the puppies, I looked back at our house and counted my blessings. The night light in the kitchen threw just enough warmth to cast shadows down the stairs to the living room and onto the maple floor. It’s a big house, way too much for the two of us despite our recent uptick in canines. An open design, the architect provided spaces that encourage community, from the expansive kitchen that centers the main floor to the family room that anchors the western end of the house. And from every room, I can see the Puget Sound stretching across to the Kitsap Peninsula and beyond. We place so much importance on our homes, our castles, our domains, and our defense against the ‘other.’ And yet ultimately, our real home is always with us, no matter where we are. It’s in our breath, in the beating of our heart, the softness of our eyes as they rest upon something beautiful. I learned to meditate in the Vipassana tradition, concentrating on the rising and falling of my diaphragm or the sensation of the air at the tip of my nose. When it’s broken down to such simplicity, when that is all one must focus one’s awareness on, it is genuinely a primal feeling of home.

No matter where we are, our breath is our home.

 

Peace and Sleep

I woke up this morning, rolled over and came face to face with a puppy nose and my first thought was, “It doesn’t really get any better than this.” I hope that when I sit, the look upon my face is as placid and peaceful as that of a sleeping person or animal. It is the most vulnerable we can be – no opportunity for pretense or posturing – just pure innocence. Whenever I start to become irritated by someone, I try and imagine them in one of two states; as an infant or asleep. In those incarnations, there is no room for animosity and I can easily find compassion if needed or indifference if necessary.

If we look at the faces of those deep in meditation, there is a profound grace and contentment despite what may be swirling below the surface. What a wonderful state to aspire to and what an incredible journey to get there.sleepingpups

Endings and Beginnings

I’m 80,000 words into a writing project I’ve been working on for what seems like years. Like so many things I start, its ending is eluding me. There is something so tantalizing to beginnings. It’s the promise of a change of venue, the excitement of discovery, the rush of feeling like I’m looking down a road less traveled. Endings spell finality. How often  do we try to hold onto beginnings, to the middle, just to avoid the end of something that gives us a sense of purpose? And does the end of one adventure mean the cessation of all of the experience gained? It should give us a moment to pause and then journey on.

It’s time to finish what I started.

Puppies Are Us and the Return of the 28 Real Happiness Meditation Challenge

So on Saturday, my partner and I did something that most of our friends and family thinks is crazy – we adopted two eight week old puppies to add to our family of two Bichons and one very elderly cat. Today was the first day I literally found time to sit and I did it through two (supposed to be napping) unhappy pups in their crate. I breathed through the whines, the scuffle of paws and the pleading yawns and growls. As I write this, they have finally fallen into that twitchy puppy sleep saving up the energy to spin and twirl around the house and yard in a couple of hours.

 

It will be especially challenging this time around to find the time and peace to sit but so it is in the best of times. And there is nothing like the smell of puppy breath and feel of razor sharp teeth to bring one back to the present moment.

 

I feel blessed to be back. IMG_0744

Speaking of being blessed, here are the two newest additions to our little family.

 

Crime Crushing Canines

I took the photo on my way to work almost as a lark. Then I loaded Lucy and Bella into my car took them to work with me in a boring detective cubicle. They slept all day.

I showed the picture to my friend who works in the Public Affairs Unit for the department and he asked if he could post it on Facebook.

The rest is history.

Lucy and Bella are now asking me to separate out the red biscuits from the brown as part of their contract. I just knew this would happen…

So Proud

I’m so proud to be a Seattle Police Officer. This is pretty cool.

 

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