So this week has been full of nursing loved ones back to health. Being a caretaker is not a job or even a roll ones takes, but a position you carry in your movements and breath.
To start this week a loved one has been struggling with what I suspect as Bipolar. This illness cycles. As a result of continued involvement in news of current events and disasters my friend’s stress level had risen to an unbearable level. My friend had increasingly isolated himself from family and friends, while blaming others for how he felt. One of the greatest suffering I witnessed was my friend’s inability to understand and release his own perseverations. The more you tried to talk to him the worse it got. Until one day he cracked with emotional outbursts of anger. The next day he was a different person. He presented like someone who had just come out of a longtime illness. He was exhausted and only wanted to be with loved ones. His whole being was purged of what I would call a buildup of boxed in emotion and stress. Life did return back to normal for this friend of mine. Unfortunately his family appears a bit shell shocked. As I learn more about the cycle of Bipolar illness and care of people who suffer from it, it may not be important to feel as if you have to change the person but to be of a support and not put anymore stress on the person as they are walking in moments of heaviness. With the knowledge that there is an end to acute episodes it may be best to be present and breath with them and love them while making sure that they will not hurt themselves. Of course there are different degrees of this illness but I feel that you need to ask questions such as, “What can I do to help you?”. After the acute episode has passed may be the time to talk about gentle self care while remembering that the illness feeds on obsession. I carry with me a saying that Pema Chodron speaks of, “Meet the situation where it is.”
Another being I found myself connected to this week is my beloved Canary. He came to me about 2 years ago as a baby, less than 3 months. The previous owner had told me that he had been picked on by his siblings in the hatch and had sustained what she thought of as an injury. I brought him into my home and found that he had, what some websites call, “Stargazers”, a phenomenon that in all appearances present neurological. I do not understand it fully but last week I witnessed some odd behavior such as his inability to maneuver in his flight cage without hurting himself and increased falling. My bright son suggested that it would be a good idea to put him in the smaller cage so he could not hurt himself as much. I agreed with my bright son and put my Canary (Cheetoe) into the “hospital cage”. He was not hurting himself from fast flying but I then noticed that he was loosing use of his legs, he was not able to control his wings and he trembled in a seizure like manner. His feathers increasingly did not lay down straight. So I started him on bird Sulfa and have given him extra fresh foods such as apples and hard boiled eggs while supplementing his usual diet with high potency vitamins. I have worked to keep him in direct sun by moving his little hospital cage as the sun moves. As late afternoon approaches I cover part of his cage, to help relax him, and turn on an electric heating pad next to his nest. All this being done he does show some improvement but I will know more by next week.
Dogs from the Humane Society. Hunting is a very sad way to entertain oneself. I loved knitting with my great aunt as a teen. Om Mani Padme Hum. Favorite book is Brave New World. Favorite Autobiography is Janet Frame’s. I like a home with lots of plants. My favorite movies are ones I watch with my dad. A cedar chest full of grandma’s quilts. Sunrise is a very special time. I always feel at home where there is a Buddha statue. The Dharmmapada saved my life. Breaking Bad. “Put a Bird on it.” Punk rock of years past. Painful memories fade and love fills the spaces. Fresh farm eggs. Snakes scare me. Guacamole. New Mexico. Sand Dunes Hot Springs. Khenpos. Rinpoches. Dharma brothers and sisters. Art museums. Libraries. Turquoise and Silver. Western art. Jack White. Johnny Cash. Buddy Holly. 1965 Mercury Comet. Tesla Model S. Spinning wool is relaxing but I no longer have time for it so I will sell my spinning wheel. Mount Princeton Hot Springs in the snow. Manitou Springs after a big snow. Williams Canyon hikes. Facebook is a wast of time. Jazz. Live music is wonderful. I like to listen to my mom talk. The feel of crisp air and smell of apples bring back wonderful childhood memories of family picnics. I miss my cousin Bruce, he lives so far away. I used to be a brat and now I am not. Frida Kalho. Chogyam Trungpa. Karmapa Chenno. I sleep better with my husband in bed with me. My children were so darn cute when they were little. Star gazing is best done in a remote high desert. I love the sound of crickets. Charles Dickens. The sound of children playing in a pool is comforting. Women make the best comedians. I have my grandma’s jewelry. Antique clocks. House Margaritas on the rocks with salt. Homemade mead wine. Pictures of loved ones. Home is here.
About 22 years ago I had my first present and complete moment. A very spacious moment. A moment that time just paused. A moment I wished all beings in the world could have shared and enjoyed.
Life can tend to become very dramatic and discursive. As a young adult I was very caught up in this mind play of unsteadiness .I had been very busy and wrapped up into my thoughts of the good, bad and ugliness of life. As a young adult my mind was so busy with who am I, what am I doing and what are others doing that I had not had a moment of clarity.
I remember this moment so clearly for so many reasons. This was the first time that all became complete spaciousness. It was the first time I intentionally took time for myself, on my own dime, thus making my own decision to go and do what I needed for my body and mind. It was a time of a of close friendship; a friend who is so relaxed, open, honest and kind with herself and everyone with who she was with.
So many ingredients came together to make a perfect recipe of complete Absoluteness.
So what is that moment of spaciousness you may wonder. It really does not matter what the moment actually was because it was a close personal experience that you or I would not be able to duplicate. I was on a weekend get away with a friend. I was taking a night swim on a dark, snowy, star filled night in a mountain hot spring pool. I floated on my back and inhaled the sight of the star filled sky when smack… a flash of Nirvana.
I will always carry that moment in my heart because it was the first time I was able to really be a peace. So now my intention is to bring all these ingredients into my everyday life to care for myself and others. To be the catalyst for the openness that people need in their lives.
Today I sat in on a teaching on the practice near and dear to Tibetian Buddhists, Ngondro. The practice is defined as a preliminary practice upon entering into the Vajrasattva Path. My understanding is that even though it is considered a preliminary practice one may accomplish enlightenment by the practice(s) of the Puja. The practice of Ngondro, as explained, is the bridge between the practitioner and the Karmapa’s heart and mind, explaining the meaning of the Lineage of Blessings. Much to my suprise the Lama’s I consider to be my primary teachers were so open and generous with information.
Dear Khenpos went over breathing techniques that are important to clear the head and to begin to open channels in the body. Direction of how to do a proper prostration. One good prostration is more important than many prostrations done with a discursive mind. Refuge is key. In the Mahayana tradition one will take refuge to the 3 Jewels but in the Vajrayana tradition one takes refuge in The Guru, a Deities, Protectors, Buddhas, Dharma and Sanga. To begin with one holds their hands in an Anjali mudra, the hands are held together and cupped closed as if your are holding a precious Jewel, a Wish Fulfilling Jewel. The position of the hands when starting a prostration is at the heart, this is in respect to the Buddhas. The second position is at the forehead, this is in respect to the Buddha Body. The third position that one holds his hands is at the throat, in respect to Buddha Speech. The fourth position one holds their hands is at the heart, respecting the Buddha Mind. When prostrating one will begin in standing position then kneel while placing both hands and forehead to the ground either by half prostration or full body prostration. By touching knees, hands and forehead to the ground one thinks to purify their 5 negative actions in order to increasing 5 positive actions. When prostrating one is to visualize that he/she is leading all sentient beings, of the 6 realms, into refuge. It is very bad if one think only of oneself while doing prostrations.
Devotion as Khenpo reviewed it is as follows: the first level of devotion is devotion from inspiration of a teacher or guru. The second kind is devotion as a result of wanting to be like your inspiration. The third and most powerful kind of devotion is unswayed trust in your teacher / guru.
While this is only the beginning of the this practice so much was taken away from this 2 hour instruction. I look forward to practicing as instructed by my teachers. I look forward to learning and hearing more of the practice in the following months. As much as one reads and reads and even practices a Puja it is so important to have the support from a Master Practitioner. So many blanks and questions are filled in and answered. The completeness of the practice is realized. I can blog about this but it is no more than my own words to describe what I found value in. It is not the practice. It is only hints.
16th Karmapa on the left and 17th Karmapa on the right.
My morning ritual includes one of my favorite things. The Aeropress coffee maker. I especially enjoy French Press coffee but this method is better; Brewing time is less, there are no grounds in my coffee and the mess in very minimal.