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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

cowgirls, Buddhism, and the ‘t’ in meditation ~

I can’t run anymore. Haven’t been able to for years. My doc told me that if I fell one more time on either knee, I’d lose a kneecap. All that’s left pretty much is bone on bone — cartilage went MIA years ago. And I don’t walk on a treadmill, since my joint replacement. Worst of all, I can’t wear cowboy boots.

Digression: I love cowboy boots. Actually cowgirl boots.  They’re comfortable, and sooo cool! They remind me of my father, in a very good way. I remember his long strides, me running to keep up. They’re my own piece of family history. When he died, leaving only a very small insurance policy, we four daughters split it. I bought Dan Post boots, like Daddy’s. I’m sure he would have approved.

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So I’m not running — something that kept me sane through a lot of growing up. And I’m not treadmilling, which got me through some later bad spots. I’m barely riding that cool new bike. But I’m a lot happier, still. Yes, I’m dumpier :). And yes, I’m gimpier, as well :). But I’ve changed as I grow older (up?), and I’m okay w/ these ‘losses.’ It’s the upside of aging.

What has changed is my approach to everyday life. I don’t need running or treadmilling the same way I used to (I can’t say that I don’t still miss them — especially the boots!). When grief and frustration and anger come in to my life — as they always do — I’m a little better these days at letting them go. Sloughing them off like an outgrown snake skin. I try hard to live within the moment, these days.  Because as friends and loved ones leave my life, I realise that every moment is a gift. Even anger — which I’m prone to — can be owned and inhabited. I can breathe from the inside of anger as I do from the inside of joy. At least I’m trying to learn how. Not as much fun as whacking something, but ultimately better for everyone.

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I don’t think my attitude adjustment is as simple as medication. I think it’s more the meditation — and yes, I find it pretty funny that the ‘t(ea)’ makes all the difference. It feels more like my practice — which is polyphonic, like Tibetan Buddhist chanting — has helped me lengthen what teachers call ‘wait time.’

In the morning, there is tea. A tray, a cloth, a cup & saucer, a spoon. All arranged  mindfully, the beginning of the day. It’s a kind of practice — the morning starting. That first scalding sip a kind of opening of the heart, which sleeps through the night, and is jolted into daylight, no matter how gently I prod it.

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Midday there is writing — a poem, a start, this blog, working in my journal. Sometimes an essay, others catching up w/ an old friend via email. This too a practice: trying to find the words to bridge my thoughts w/ the reader’s understanding.

Later in the afternoon, there may be tea again, but this time green, in a mug, one of several bearing bees, given to my by dear friends.  Guaranteed to make me smile and bask in the knowledge that life is very good to me.

After dark, I will sit in the armchair and write in my black gratitude journal, a gift from my younger son. Who ‘just knew,’ he told me, ‘that you’ll love a journal covered w/ a recycled tire!‘ And I do. Mostly I love what focusing on the many things I have to be grateful for has done to the way I close down my days. If a tea tray begins the day, with quiet focus and silence, then gratitude is the other half of that frame ~ reminding me that every day has so much to be thankful for.

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And throughout the day there is work: teaching, primarily. My students, who teach me about love, about learning, about so many things every moment I’m working with them. And there’s the garden, where cutting a perfect peony reminds me that there is beauty even in this ‘before’ picture of The Secret Garden. Or filling the bird feeders, as the grackle and blue jay (and a cheeky sparrow) scold me for their emptiness. So that watching the birds feeding is a gift, as is the surprise of the peony (I forgot I even had any in that jungle!).

Sometimes I worry that I’m too Pollyanna. Then flames blaze at the newest injustice leaping off the Facebook page, and I’m reminded of my total inability to stay calm.  But just like Sister Ellie taught me, I breathe in, and try to focus, once again, on the exercise. I was so happy when she told me that ‘coming back’ (coming home?) is the point to meditation. NOT ‘quieting,’ or even ‘calming,’ but just returning, over & over, to the point. Stillness. Observation. Which creates a longer moment between the reading of injustice and the flare of flames. Wait time, in other words.

That’s my practice. It has as many facets as my birthstone, the hard-headed diamond :). But it’s also, sometimes, as beautiful and useful ~

 

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