Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I breathe in; I am alive

It rained last night. It wasn't enough to make a big dent in the drought damage, but it was exquisite. I was grateful driving home in it, thanking the gods each time I had to turn up the speed on my wipers. I ran out into the backyard with the dogs and stood in the last dregs of the day's light, letting cold drops sting my face, and I cried. The dogs weren't even upset about getting rained on, something they normally hate. Muddy pawprints are everywhere.

I have been practicing Mindfulness as often as I can remember for the last week. I'm listening to the CD teaching set, Living Without Stress or Fear, courtesy of the library. It's a Buddhist retreat, and it is outstanding. It's my first real encounter with the practices and philosophies and exercises, and it has been so positive. I've never been able to center or ground so easily. The impact on my anxiety could be life-changing. Kevin says I've been different, better the past few days.

Other than the exercises I've learned to do, I have learned that being fully present in the moment is very difficult for me. Too much energy, an overactive mind, and the overachiever gene are hard to beat back. They can be handy in magic, bringing lots of focus, oomph, and precise tailoring and visualization - but that's not being present in the here and the now. I thought it was, but it's not. In the rain, I think I achieved my first few moments of being truly present in a week of trying. Nothing mattered more right then, it felt such a rare and precious thing to smell and hear that familiar thing, to have it sting my skin, to feel my shoes stick to the ground as dust turned instantly to mud glue, to sense the dogs running happy circles around the yard. It was great to be truly there in a calm moment, rather than just those of intense pain or pleasure or anger.

The ability to achieve peace quickly is undervalued in Western cultures. We're fast and loud and big. This month has been littered with unexpected expenses, none of them impacting my mood. Abraham, the poodle man, had to get a big chunk of speargrass dug out of a joint in his foot, which had been infected by it. My car stereo ate a library CD and had to be replaced. All new tires. The endless heat equals high bills. My phone is dying. The wedding will be much more expensive than I had hoped. All of that, and I have a deep well of peace. I haven't panicked about money. I've gotten frustrated and deeply angry with Kevin, then had calm, productive conversations that led to equitable agreements better than I had hoped for. I feel good. I feel strong. I feel stable, which is something I haven't felt in a long time.

My hope is that the practices of stillness, peace, and mindfulness will let me hear the spirits more clearly, with better discernment, so that we can make progress together in my learning. I had wanted a teacher, but the woman I would have asked told me that what I'm called to has to be taught to me individually, by spirits, and learned the hard way. All too often, there are no books for me, no tidy guides. Perhaps, though, there are guides to equip us with the skills we need to undertake the learning, like the Buddhist monk I'm listening to. And that? That is a really big deal to have outposts in the wilderness so that we can be supplied on the voyage instead of foraging for every morsel, every sundry supply. Something to be grateful for, indeed.

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