Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

wake-up call (and a peaceful Rohatsu to you, too!) ~

Tomorrow is Bodhi Day, or Rohatsu ~ the celebration of Siddhartha Gautama’s enlightenment, the transformation of the man into the  spiritual teacher we know as the Buddha.  I’ve written elsewhere about Bodhi Day, here and here. But it bears repeating. :)

Because we all need a wake-up call. We need to remember how ephemeral life is, how transient both pain and joy, and pay attention.We need to remember that we can do this.

It seems a bit disingenuous to note, once again, that everything passes. And that a certain sadness underlies much of life. It’s a human state of mind, this suffering — Proverbs 14:13 details it  lyrically: Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness. Buddhists call it dukkha — not exactly sorrow or suffering, more like the ‘heaviness’ Proverbs  references.

So Bodhi Day is a time of celebration — someone got beyond this. Not a god, or a demi-god, or an angel or anyone divine. A guy. And that means there’s hope for me. Which in the middle of a chilly grey day, when the sun seems like it might well have gone to sleep for the winter, is a warm & lovely thought.

Hence the wake-up call idea… It’s so easy for me, this time of year, to whine about my 1st world problems: putting up the tree is such a hassle… shopping for stuff they might not even like… cooking… wrapping… All in the middle of my everyday life. But this IS my everyday life — this moment, this day. Today, it’s going to be working on an upcoming deadline project — not something I love, but something I committed to finishing. And I’m going to try (hard!) to remember how much I’ve learned doing this task that is far more complex than was billed. :)

I’m going to wake up to the little enlightenments that now & then wing through my days like bright birds. If, as Thích Nhất Hạnh says, we  pay attention to — are mindful of –what we are doing, then small daily tasks can become amazing: the smell of fresh warm laundry on a cool evening, taken from the luxury of a dryer that works. The oceanic whisper of a dishwasher, once loaded and turned on. Even the crisp white path a mop makes over a grimy floor, or the cool sweep of sheets shaken over a bed. Each of these will never come in the same way again.

Bodhi Day — Rohatsu, if you’re Japanese :) — isn’t until tomorrow. But it’s not too early to get ready. So ahead — streeeettttch… And wake up!

material girls: or, how a nice Buddhist girl found happiness giving Christmas presents ~

I love presents. Getting them (of course!), but also buying them, wrapping them, giving them. I like French ribbon in loopy old-fashioned bows. And shiny foil paper. I like looking for tiny ornaments — feathers, vintage tags, a candy cane, maybe — to put in the center of the bow.

And I love stocking stuffers: buying fingertip flashlight guns for the guys in the family. A kaleidescope for one my grand-nieces. Pawning off the many ‘free’ calendars I receive: cramming them into the recycled gift bags we use for the stockings all 15+ of us still exchange.

Yesterday my husband and I went out for breakfast, as we do this time of year, to discuss what we’ll be giving various family members for Christmas. For years I’ve been trying to get everyone to do lists. Initially, there was some resistance (actually, there was ALOT, but I ignored it…). Now? There’s still some resistance… :) But they’re wearing down. I can tell.

Because while I may not buy off the list, it gives me an idea of what you like these days. And as the nieces & nephews and sisters & sons and daughter-in-law and all become increasingly busy, it’s hard to keep up. So I may not buy the cooking gear on my youngest son’s extensive list (then again, his list is sooo good it’s hard to go one better!). I may instead buy something his list suggests to me. A better knife. A slow cooker cookbook to go w/ the slow cooker he asked for.

Much of my life is like this right now, and it feels like good Buddhism. When I play with the dog, he loves it. But so do I. So: is my duty to the dog — all dogs need (heck! they deserve!) love & play — coopted if it brings me joy? If it makes me feel good too, is that wrong? Am I doing it because I enjoy it or because I should? Isn’t a lot of life that way?

I love shopping. I know: most of you reading this don’t. And neither do I when it’s crazy, or I’m tired or hungry or ALL of the above! But I really do love buying presents for the important people in my life. These days, I even enjoy sending holiday cards. The thinking about each person as you address the cards. Isn’t it a kind of loving meditation…?

I didn’t always feel this way. Having more time has softened many of my rougher edges :). Much of what I once saw as a hassle has now become a joy. This year at Thanksgiving we used the china and the crystal (well, except for the folks who thought the Eskimo Joe’s cups for the little ones were the ‘crystal’!), because the effort washing it afterwards became an opportunity for visiting. And besides, it turned out the others washed it up!

That’s how you know you did the right thing (and no, it doesn’t always happen… :)). But when you decide to use all the china, and your sister & husband & nieces clean it all up? That means you are incredibly lucky. And just think: you also gave them a chance to be the good guys!

Seriously — it doesn’t have to be a big gift. I guarantee you that one of the favourite gifts for someone on my list this holiday is one that cost less than $5. And it gave me hundred$$ worth of joy to find it, and wrap it for him.

Just because it brings me joy, too, doesn’t mean it isn’t good Buddhism. So go ahead — indulge in giving. It’s a relatively guiltless pleasure. :)

day 30 of Thanksgiving month: all you need is love ~

This isn’t the newest picture of my wonderful husband, nor is it my earliest. But it’s one I like, as it reminds me how much we have in common. When we metmany years ago, on a blind date, that wasn’t as obvious. On our wedding day, in fact, a friend volunteered to tell the folks if I wanted to back out…!

I would have missed so much: travel to exotic places, two amazing sons, the best in-laws possible, laughter & loss & movies & books & eating out & all that goes into years of a lively, happy marriage.

I never wanted to get married, but I’m so very glad I am. Happily. Besottedly. For DECADES. And it’s the biggest, most daily thing filling my gratitude journal: thanks for Husband, thanks for 1,2,3,+ thoughtful things he does, thanks for funny things he tells me. Thanks for the times he MAKES me get out of my comfy chair to come look at a) a really beautiful sunset; b) an amazing moonrise; c) a bird on the feeder… You get the picture.

My mother told me ~ many years ago ~ that all you need is love. That love really is enough. And you know what? She was right. Love is the answer. So today I’m thankful for a major source of my life’s supply of that irreplaceable element. My wonderful, brilliant, handsome, witty, kind & thoughtful husband. Happy Month of Thanksgiving!

day 29 of a month of Thanksgiving: sons

This is my favourite picture of my two sons, whom I adore. And for whom I give thanks daily.

They are grown men now, my two blond children, and will shake their heads at their mother posting a picture of them dressed up as ninja turtles. But in this picture is the essence of these two now-men, and they boys from whom they grew.

First? It’s creative. And I am grateful for the very different kinds of creativity that animate their lives. The elder is a teacher, and has taught me more about math than he knows. Because he does so with animation and creativity (witness the karate stance!), this poet can grasp his analogies. And because he cares, I continue to try (witness how he play w/ his younger brother!). He’s also turned me on to so many important books, from his early Christmas present (a beloved text-less picture book) to today’s fiction & literature. First son also writes beautifully — strong on dialogue and action.

The younger has taught me more about computers and the culture of technology (not to mention the music he pursued for years) than he knows. And because he also does it with creative insight into how these will be useful in my world (witness how well he enters into his brother’s play!), I can learn. While his acute knowledge of the tools necessary (do you see all those toy tools in the floor?) enables me to find exactly those things most helpful. Not to mention he, too, writes.

The dinosaur curtains are their love of tradition, family, and history. Both are great family men, there when cousins propose adventures, there when aunts need help moving. And there to organise a cousins’ gift exchange at the holiday, or spend time with a mother who is in town for a few days.

The colourful chaos has been the air they breathe since childhood — third culture kids, one raised to early childhood abroad, the other born and raised to pre-school there, a few years later. I still remember the two boys whose father was overseas for months on end, reading faxes of bedtime stories. The boys who slept in the floor by my bed during the first Gulf War…

I always wanted children. Even as a child, when I refused to even contemplate marrying a BOY (yuk!), I told my mother I would have children. She explained to me that I had to be married.

Unh uh, I replied, shaking my blonde ponytail. Dogs aren’t married. She pointed out that dogs were NOT people, despite my feelings on that issue. And while that may be true (I’ll still debate it!), what she might have told me is that sons are even more fun than puppies. Honest.

Years later, I am happily married to the father of these two adult miracles.  Who have taught me far more than music, math, technology, writing, books, beer culture, movies, or patience. Who each day creep into my thoughts: what would Elder Son like? What is Younger Son doing? So today, I am (as always) profoundly grateful for my two practically perfect sons. I am grateful for the long nights, the late phone calls, the empty milk cartons, the CDs (mine!) that kept being stolen from cars left unlocked, the cats rescued and left with us, the aging dogs that became ours… All of it. I’m grateful for every single minute. It’s a gratitude that keeps on giving ~

 

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