Minding Love a Simple Pleasure

I’ve learned through my practice of meditation that joy and inner peace are usually wrapped up in the simplest things and we have a choice.

Sometimes we get caught up in the spirit of wanting to our detriment. We think that if we’d just hit the lottery, for example, we would find joy and peace. Having come from humble beginnings, I know money is a necessity but it’s not everything. I’ve seen great suffering in people with money in the form of pain, loneliness and self-loathing. I think we can get lost in wanting when we don’t know who we are or we know but don’t allow ourselves to be.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the renowned psychiatrist who dedicated her life to the study of death and dying believed that deep down, at our core, there are only two emotions that drive everything: love and fear. I tend to agree. I would also add that fear breeds when there is lack of loving. Where there is loving, there is happiness and peace. Where there is fear, there is lack and suffering.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these two scoundrel emotions that we often feel cheat us out of a quiet life. I’ve been wondering how we can make decisions that lead us to joy and peace. In other words, how can we choose love over suffering?

Let me share an anecdote to elucidate my thinking. I woke up this morning and my knee was hurting. I had been running hard on it for weeks. I immediately tensed up and felt worried. Running is an activity that makes me feel happy and anxiety-free. My mind raced. What would I do if my leg stopped working?

I decided to sit and ice it. I put my leg up and chose to embrace the moment as an opportunity to focus on my inner world and breathing. Within moments, I slipped into a casual meditation. I became aware of my thoughts and realized that my tension was fear of losing control of my physical body and simply, getting old. Running for years had made me happy and anxiety free because it makes me feel strong, carefree and my appearance pleasing. I was scared that if I stopped running I would lose all these things which would lead me to feeling weak, trapped and unlovable. Who will want to be with me when I’m old and useless?

Now, I understood the pain in my knee to be insight. It was showing me my self and my self was showing me the condition of the human being. After all, we live in a society that values youthfulness, beauty and utility. We are all susceptible to this thinking. So what to do with this? What does one do when it’s time to stop running?

As I allowed these insights to sit with me, I began to appreciate how vulnerable I am and how vulnerable we all are. I appreciated how important it is to feel loved and useful. We are all growing old and dying is part of the human experience. Everyone loses vitality until we perish. So, what to do? What to do with this knowledge?

Then, I thought about love. The antithesis to fear. I thought about how powerful and precious love really is. What does it look like and feel like to shower love upon yourself at a vulnerable moment? What type of relationship characterizes your love experience? What simple pleasure can we offer ourselves, even in adverse conditions? And, how can we find the courage to be with the lover who makes us feel valued and delicious?

After the meditation, I got up from the couch and walked to my office, slowly and gentle on my knee. I knew I couldn’t run but I could sit and write with ease. It was the most loving thing I could think about doing for myself and for you my dear reader. To share this news. We are indeed getting older with each passing day and sometimes your years on your body will be hurting… but you can be mindful of that simple pleasure, like what writing means to me. You can choose to wrap your arms around your lover, whoever they may be or you can love yourself, in the best way you know how. Simply, choose. Choose the next loving thing and decide only upon those things that will bring you closer to love.

Love in the Time of Social Distancing

Screen Shot 2020-03-24 at 12.16.14 PMIn this time of social distancing, I’ve started experimenting with erotic writing. Sex is about procreation and love needs to survive. I think love and survival are the two things we are thinking about incessantly.

My husband died in November. He was my best friend. Now, months later, the virus has the rest of the world turning in with me. We’re questioning how we live, how we breathe, how we touch, who we let in. In this strange new reality, I watch my personal grief projected onto the outside world exponentially. I’m not alone facing this great mystery.

So, I started writing a chapter about love. It’s a full blown love making scene. It gives me joy and pleasure in a very basic sense. Making tantric love with the right person keeps you captivated by the present. It’s discovering your innocence again. Writing about making love is like recounting what it’s like to fall into the fountain of youth.

When you lose somebody close to you suddenly, you’re left amongst the living but without any sensibility. You’re straddling realities, touching this and that, but mostly gazing into the beyond. This half self is a paradox and very much like the act of losing yourself in love. Suddenly, you’re swimming in darkness only to realize that the sun sets on purpose so the moon can exist.

There is little advice I can share during this difficult time except, try not to be afraid of loving in darkness. You can help prepare for the dawn of a more sensitive world. Try taking off your boots with someone special and laying together on a big cushion or pillow. Try imagining that you’re floating and breathe deeply together. Don’t worry, you’ll begin to feel something… like you’re touching, the great beyond energetically. Now, don’t hold back, that wild in you, and don’t hold back the wild in your partner. When you’re all out, raw and naked, you’ll still be you, except fearless and breathless too. Don’t be afraid to  expose your true nakedness, your vulnerability is love and love is your survival these uncertain days. Kiss each other intimately until you are lost in the cave.

It’s only when we cease to exist, we find togetherness.

Don’t worry about being exposed right now. We’re already exposed because we’re human.

 

Mindfulness Starts at Home. Then Social Justice

“The way to experience newness, is to realize that this moment, this very point in your life, is always the occasion. So the consideration of where you are, and what you are, on the spot, is very important. That is one reason that your family situation, your domestic everyday life is so important. You should regard your home as sacred, as a golden opportunity to experience newness.” 

~Chögyam Trungpa

In the past, I traveled a lot for work. I enjoyed being on the road. I felt free. I had meals prepared for me and the cleaning was taken care of by a staff I could not see. I focused on my work, my thinking, my Self, my needs. I loved my work so I thought this is what it means to be happy. Even when my neck started hurting and my back ached from too much traveling, I accepted it, as part of business.

When my work contract ended, I found myself stuck at home. It was hard to adjust. Even though I was writing and job hunting, my daily routine featured shopping, cleaning, carpooling, cooking, care taking, walking alone. I became the master of our home. I noticed every lint, every dropping. I bought mop heads and knew when my neighbors were coming and going.

Domestic life felt oppressive and ordinary. I don’t remember when it happened, but I remember feeling I had lost my identity.

I felt disconnected from the world. I felt unseen. Less useful suddenly.

People around me seemed to be working on important projects, teaching and traveling, attending conferences, fighting for social justice, saving the planet.

One day, in my research, I came across a Buddhist writer and philosopher Chögyam Trungpa. He wrote about how mindfulness and building an enlightened society start at home. I found this very hard to understand. And even harder to put into practice.

How can shopping, washing the dishes enlighten me, make me feel at peace, make me happy? How can my life at home, with my family, cultivate world peace?

It has been almost two years living a home life. I have learned that mindfulness requires discipline, time and trust. I read and reread, read and reread wisdom writings and traditions and practice meditation and contemplation daily. I join a Sangha occassionally but mostly it’s just me, on an island, listening and grappling with the now, and the very, very ordinary reality.

It has taken me a long time to find calm. And even calm is temporary. I have begun to see how patience and compassion does grow. Awareness of the details matter. I find that in every wrong, I have been there. And the wrongs that I am still unaware, repeat over and over again until I see myself in them, and then I am sad again realizing that all along, I am the misfit, that we are all misfits, and shy of it, and that I am the carrier of every wrong, of every pain and how can I do better?  Understanding and forgiveness is in the Self first, and then knowing that you are the mirror image of every human being, and then multiply that by society.

What is a detail? Each detail is a small view of the bigger picture of the world. Like discovering the simplicity and complexity of a snowflake. One single snowflake in the world of snow. Think about that.

Now, with all this time and space around me, I think about those years on the road. Eating and living in hotels. People cooking and cleaning and taking care me so that I could be an intellectual, thinking and busy.

In some strange way, I have found new meaning for the words, social justice, freedom and fairness. Thinking about how sometimes it is time to say, “Now, it is your turn.” or “Now, it is my turn.”

My turn to make life easier for other people, like my husband and children. Every day they have to go out there to work, commuting on the train. They work, go to school, navigate the real world— which is too often callous and cold and too busy to be sensitive to their needs.

I am beginning to think differently about not having and suffering. About waiting. About what we value in life and society. How we assign worth and status to some jobs, how the traditional woman’s work in the home, is never valued enough. How we need to be compassionate and careful in our treatment of others, who are busy or not busy enough.

How sometimes we have to live it and breathe it before we understand desolation, anxiety, hunger, despair, forgiving.

Isn’t this mindfulness and its relationship to social justice—when we become aware of who we are, outside our role, our helplessness, our vulnerability, and that wheel of fortune turning and turning? Where it stops nobody knows. Isn’t that the beginning of compassion and treating each other with dignity?