the mercer weave

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

Archive for the tag “Mindfulness”

Concentration in the Face of Disappointment

I’m almost embarrassed to post about this, but what the heck…

Technically, this is day two and as a grieving Seahawks fan, sitting this morning came as a wonderful relief. I worked in our operations center during the game and sat with guys who were far more devastated than I when that last play ended in disaster. For me, there was a momentary sense of sadness but that was immediately followed by a wash of gratefulness – an acknowledgment that while disappointment was inevitable it was not the end of the world. And yes, while it is a sad cliche, it is just a game. Sitting this morning reminded me how simply accessible ‘real happiness’ is because it’s really only as far as my heart.

In the meantime, here are our fur children celebrating the Seahawks despite the loss.IMG_2627

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

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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.

 

The Terror

There has been a fascinating conversation going on at The Daily Dish  about ‘catcalling’ and it’s influence on women (and some men.) This link references the last in the series of posts but  it is worth reading back through the previous entries. In particular, I was struck but this piece by a reader of the Dish:

“You struck a nerve with this one, as I was just discussing this very thing a few weeks ago with a group of high-school freshmen in my English class. We were discussing homosexuality because of an allusion to it in the book we were reading, and several boys made comments such as, “That’s disgusting.” We got into the debate and eventually a boy admitted that he was terrified/disgusted when he was once sharing a taxi and the other male passenger made a pass at him.

The lightbulb went off. “Oh,” I said. “I get it. See, you are afraid, because for the first time in your life you have found yourself a victim of unwanted sexual advances by someone who has the physical ability to use force against you.” The boy nodded and shuddered visibly.”But,” I continued. “As a woman, you learn to live with that from the time you are fourteen, and it never stops. We live with that fear every day of our lives. Every man walking through the parking garage the same time you are is either just a harmless stranger or a potential rapist. Every time.”

             The girls in the room nodded, agreeing. The boys seemed genuinely shocked. 

            “So think about that the next time you hit on a girl. Maybe, like you in the taxi, she doesn’t actually want you to.”

As I read the posts, I was surprised to feel the rush of  memories of my own experiences as a young teen and what struck me was how my memory wasn’t of anger, but of fear. And one could argue that the fear wasn’t rational – I wasn’t in a darkened alley or parking garage – it was broad daylight, but the discomfort was overwhelmingly real. It happened mostly when I was a teenager, shortly after I began to ‘blossom’ as they say. It was startling, disarming and ultimately left more of an impression than I realized until I took that walk down memory lane while reading these posts.  Although it continued after I moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington, the last straw for me happened in Italy. With my family on a crowded bus in Rome, I endured what we in the business refer to as ‘frottage.’  You know the drill; some creep helplessly ‘crammed’ into you by virtue of a crowded bus, has no other options but to rub his crotch against you for the duration of the ride.  Keep in mind, this was Italy in the 70’s. There was nothing to be done. But that was it for me.

When I moved to Seattle, I quickly adopted the look for feministy leaning women with a ‘y.’  Cargo pants and plaid flannel shirts. And that was before I realized I was gay. In hindsight, I think it was my unconscious effort to steel myself against the comments from strange men on the street. It was kind of like cotton kryptonite, if you will. And for the most part, it worked. Now I see my niece-in-laws and how they dress and how they hold themselves and I am so proud of them. Woe be to the idiot who says the wrong thing to them on the street. He’s likely to be tasting his nuggets by the time they are done with him.

And lastly, I was reminded of a conversation with a male friend about his experience in an elevator of his new apartment building in a largely gay area of Seattle. He recounted how uncomfortable he was being propositioned daily (he’s not gay) and I just laughed at him. The look on his face belied his confusion. I simply said, “Now you know what it feels like to be a woman.”

And it felt so,  well, vindicating.

 

Love, War and Spring

Love:

Birds at 4:30 in the morning.

The sun sneaking up over the horizon before my eyes open.

Trees putting on their Sunday best.

New growth struggling up through the still stiff soil.

Raindrops just a tad warmer but drops nonetheless.

The promise of sun.

War:

Pollen. Damnable pollen.

Sounding like Kermit the Frog.

Kind of looking like Kermit the Frog.

 

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