Lightly Child, Lightly.

It’s not you.
It’s anyone.
Sometimes I don’t want anyone around.
Some afternoons I lie on my bed and the light comes through the shutters on the floor and I think I never want to leave my own room.

-Joan Didion, Run River: A Novel


Notes:

  • Photo via Mennyfox55. Quote via purplebuddhaquotes
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

True story: One summer, years ago, I went tubing…The sun was blazing, and the water was cool. It was a perfect day to close your eyes and let the current carry you. I was enjoying myself, until we rounded the final bend and saw the parking lot. I leaned back to get my arms in the water and I started to kick and paddle. In a froth of churning water, I passed my mom, my sister, my boyfriend and my brothers, and as I reached the dock, I shouted out, “I won!”

That’s me. All my life, I’ve made lists and set deadlines, never content, or even able, to just glide.

That kind of drive has served me well when aimed at challenges within my control, like writing a novel…I never stopped hoping that if I worked hard enough, wanted it badly enough, I’d finally get the acclaim that I craved…

That did not happen. And my brain, which had propelled me toward so many successes, could not push me past disappointment. Instead of focusing on everything that had gone right, including how lucky I was to make a living as a writer, it got stuck on what had gone wrong. Let’s think about it! my brain suggested, like a Roomba endlessly butting itself into a corner. Let’s think about it a lot. Especially at 3 in the morning. Let’s go over every single choice. Let’s dwell.

I tried yoga. I attempted meditation. Nothing helped. Instead, each spiritual setting and inner-growth-focused class presented new opportunities to compete: I held that pose for longer than anyone in the class. I’m way more Zen than she is. Finally, I remembered reading about how learning something new — creating new neural pathways — was a way to send your thoughts in different directions.

And so, after a 35-year hiatus, I started taking piano lessons again.

I had been an indifferent piano student as a kid…By high school, I had bumped up against the limits of my natural abilities. So I quit. I turned my attention toward activities at which I could excel…


Photo: videvo

Sunday Morning

One day when Buddha was walking with his disciples he pointed to the ground with his hand and said, “It would be good to erect a sanctuary here.” — Book of Serenity, Case 4

“…One day I ran across a single line in a thick book that made it all simple. It told the original meaning of the word paradise before it became a mythical ideal, imaginary and unattainable. Before it pointed somewhere else. The word paradise originally meant “an enclosed area.” Inside the word are its old Persian roots: pairi-, meaning “around,” and diz, “to create (a wall).” The word was first given to carefully tended pleasure parks and menageries, the sporting ground of kings. Later, storytellers used the word in creation myths, and it came to mean the Eden of peace and plenty. Looking at it straight on, I could plainly see. Paradise is a backyard. Not just my backyard, but everyone’s backyard. Teeming with weeds, leaves, half-dead trees, moles, mosquitoes, mud, dust, skunks, and raccoons. With a novice gardener and a reluctant groundskeeper.

Like the entire world we live in, bounded only by how far we can see. I began to garden. I got scratched, tired, and dirty. I broke my fingernails and ruined my shoes. I yanked out what I could have kept and put in more of what I didn’t need. I pouted and wept, cursing the enormity of the task. I was resentful and unappreciative. But when I ventured afield, sidelined by things that seemed much more entertaining or important, I always came back to this patch of patient earth. Time after time I realized that everything I want or need —the living truth of life, love, beauty, purpose, and peace —is taught to me right here, no farther away than the ground beneath my feet.”

~ Karen Maezen Miller, from “Prologue: Paradise” in “Paradise in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Zen Garden


Photo: Mark Benbenek

It’s been a long day

Now the sun begins to swing down. Under the peach-light,
I cross the fields and the dunes, I follow the ocean’s edge.

I climb, I backtrack.
I float.
I ramble my way home.

~ Mary Oliver, “Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches” in West Wind: Poems & Prose


Notes: Poem via The Hammock Papers. Photo: Laurence Demaison. Related Posts: It’s been a long day

Progress

We keep turning one thing into another and calling it progress. We keep machining the beauty off of things as they are, creating more and more things to hide in, as if that will let us live longer. We keep burrowing into everything but ourselves: churning trees into lumber, animals into meat, wind into electricity, vegetables into remedies, and silence into noise; turning the earth, continent by continent, into one giant anthill. We keep eating our way through the arms of the Universe, desperate for something large and quiet to hold us.

~ Mark Nepo, “Short Wisdom on a Long Planet” in Things That Join the Sea and the Sky: Field Notes on Living


Photo: monochrome vibe (via to escape from the commonplaces of existence)

It’s been a long day

Everyone wants you to be Atlas,
to shoulder it all. Even the voice in your
head insists you are behind. But I’ve seen
the light in you, the one the gods finger
while we sleep. I’ve seen the blossom open
in your heart, no matter what remains to
be done. There are never enough hours
to satisfy the minions of want. So close
your eyes and lean into the Oneness that
asks nothing of you. When the calls stack,
answer to no one, though you receive them
all. Just open your beautiful hands, born with
nothing in them. You have never been more
complete than in this incomplete moment.

~ Mark Nepo, The Myth of Urgency in The Way Under the Way: The Place of True Meeting


Notes: Quote via mindfulbalance.org. Photo: Laurence Demaison (via see more). Related Posts: It’s been a long day

T.G.I.F.

As he grew older, his life turned into an agreeable routine, with enough human contact to sustain and divert, but not disturb, him. He knew the contentment of feeling less. His emotional life was recast as a social life. He was on nodding and smiling terms with many… He prized stoicism and calm, which he had achieved less through some exercise of philosophy, more from a slow growth within him; a growth like coral, which in most weathers was strong enough to keep out the ocean breakers. Except when it wasn’t.

~ Julian Barnes, The Only Story (Alfred A. Knopf, April 17, 2018)


Art: Phenomenon no. 1 by WanJim Gim (Seoul, Korea)

T.G.I.F.: “I’m done.”

Onward to the night, which is to say insomnia, cell phone on the bedside table, the mind drilling away with yet more frantic interior list-making. Don’t forget! Remember to … Have you … Did you …? Whole decades can go this way—and have—not just in domestic detail, but awash in the brackish flotsam of endeavor, failure and success, responsibility and reward. My work, as I say with foolish vanity. Deadlines piled upon deadlines. That devilishly apt word deadline, the heart seizing as if shot, hands wringing for a reprieve—a week, a day? But delivering. Always delivering. You can count on me. That, in fact, is the problem…

What a surprise—to discover it’s all about leisure, apparently, this fugitive Real Life, abandoned all those years to the “limitless capacity for toil.” What a hard worker you are: always taken as a compliment. You can count on me. Smiling. Deadline met. Always. You should try meditating or maybe yoga, yoga’s good, someone suggested when I mentioned the fevered to-do lists, the sometimes alarming blood pressure readings, the dark-night-of-the-soul insomnia. But meditating is just another thing. Yoga? Another task, yet another item for the to-do list. I find I cannot add another item. I’m done.

~ Patricia Hampl, The Art of the Wasted Day (Published April 17, 2018)


Portrait: upne.com

Riding Metro-North. With Aglets & Eyelets.

Irritated. 

I’m not going to lay down words here about my non-eventful walk to the train station, the brooding weather (light rain), what morning train I’m running to catch, or what day it was. DrossWho cares?

No. I’m not going to spew my wonder (disgust) as to how it’s possible, on the 3rd train of the morning (pre-6am) to be standing. Standing, Again, on a 56 minute ride to Grand Central. There are worse things you ingrate. Hmmmmm….possibly one or two things worse.

I carve out my less-than-a-square-meter of space in the vestibule, among the other Unfortunates. I set my bag down, and grab the stainless steel pole. Relax. Take a deep breath DK. Look at the others around you, in exactly the same situation, yet remain poised, calm, accepting. 

And then there’s you.

Unmoored by a slight ripple of inconvenience, and your mind is chattering, battering, judging.  Me vs. Me, both sides punching.  This whole meditation thing, is just not there, not in the wiring.  It’s like you wish you had copper piping running through the entire house, but it’s plastic. It will always be plastic. It will only ever be plastic.  So accept ‘that.’ [Read more…]

Riding Metro-North. With Missionary Man.

What does it take to sit? No, I mean Sit. Not sit with your iPhone. Or sit with your iPad.  Or sit with your book. Or sit with your paper.

Just Sit.

He was in the window seat in a three seater. I took the aisle. The middle seat was empty.

It’s a one hour ride on the third train of the morning, the 5:56 Metro North to Grand Central, an Express.

His hands rested on his lap. There was nothing particularly distinguishing. Black loafers. Smart black coat. Black slacks. Thin brown leather case, comfortably worn.

He would occasionally glance out the window. And then return, looking straight ahead.

Man at Peace, of normal height and weight, casting a mountain of a shadow.

My hands would not, could not reach for my earbuds. The iPhone heavy, an anvil. My case, stuffed with other electronics and power cords, and papers, a barrel under arm.

I’m restless, fidgety, and shift in my seat — left, right, and back again. And do over. And over. And over.

I want to be that. Him. [Read more…]

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