Author Archives: LazyBuddhist

A relationship rant

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If you’ve been in a relationship with someone for 14 years, you probably have learned to overlook a lot of shit that your beloved does that drives you batty. For instance, at the beginning of our relationship, The Boyfriend’s inability to wear a watch or tell time was almost a deal breaker. I pride myself on being punctual, to the point of being downright neurotic about it. So, when he said he would be over at my house by 7pm, and he then he didn’t show up until after 8, I would fume. I would yell. And I would threaten to break-up. Eventually, however, when I saw that his inability to tell time was almost a congenital defect, I decided that I would just have to get over it. His good traits outweighed the bad. Besides, he started demonstrating that he was at least making an effort, which greatly softened my annoyance.

But, he has another trait for which he is absolutely unapologetic despite years of my complaining, nagging, and making snide comments. The man uses a clean dish or cup for EVERYTHING.

The Boyfriend is only here one night a week, yet in that 24-hour period, the man generates more dirty dishes than I do all week.  Whenever I see him take a plate to eat a piece of coffee cake, or a slice of cold pizza, I give him The Look. The Look that says “really? Is that really necessary?”  He acts as if he doesn’t know what The Look means even when I go on to extol the virtues of paper towels.

“Paper towels are wondrous things. They can serve double duty as both a napkin and a plate” I tell him as if I haven’t told him that hundreds of times already.

“Oh yeah. Thanks. Could you hand me one?” he says with no intention of relinquishing the plate.

It’s hopeless. He does the same thing with glasses and cups. He gets out a clean cup even when he just wants a glass of water. It never occurs to him to reuse the glass from which he drank his last sips of refreshing H2O. And I don’t know how he does it, but there is always a plethora of cutlery left in the sink far exceeding the number of utensils needed for what has been consumed. Does he just take them out of the drawer and lick them and put them in the sink?

I suppose this wouldn’t annoy me as much if I had a dishwasher, or if he offered to do the dishes. But, I have neither a mechanical dishwasher nor a human one besides myself. While he does perform many much needed chores around my house, washing dishes is not one of them.

I suppose I could wrap up this little rant with a heart-warming lesson about love, patience, forgiveness, gratitude or some other bullshit. Perhaps if I had more time, I could come up with some meaningful life lesson from this. But, no, I have a sink of goddamn dishes I need to wash.

Your insights, suggestions, condolences or a free dishwasher are always welcome.

The question

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Since I left the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) close to five years ago, I’ve been spiritually promiscuous. I’ve tried on a number of Vipassana teachers and sanghas in hopes of finding some place that feels like home. I’ve toyed with a local Dzogchen teacher, studied Mahamudra with a Vajrayana teacher and earlier this week, I returned from a six-day retreat that combined Dzogchen and Vipassana.

Usually when I return from retreat there is a bit of an afterglow. The real world seems rather harsh in comparison to the quiet I feel inside. That wasn’t the case this time. It was an odd retreat. Not bad. Just different than what I’m been used to at past retreats at Spirit Rock.  This retreat was co-led by two heavy hitters in the Dzogchen and Vipassana worlds (whom I’m not going to name simply because I don’t want this blog to show up when someone Googles them).   The main draw for me was the Vipassana teacher who literally wrote the book on Metta/LovingKindness. But, since I had been dipping my toes back into the world of Tibetan Buddhism, I was also interested in what the Dzogchen master had to say.

I wish I had been warned that this was primarily a Dzogchen retreat with an emphasis on the teachings (approx three-to-four hours a day from the Rinpoche and another hour from Ms. Metta).  In the past, I’m used to four-to-five hours a day of sitting meditation, plus another two-to-three doing walking meditation. During this retreat I barely broke two hours of meditation per day, and the walking meditation breaks were really just 15 minute stretch breaks.

Which is not to say the teachings weren’t amazing. They truly were. All the things I loved about Tibetan Buddhism – the intellectual rigor, the precision, and the magical infusion of “blessings” – came flooding back to me. Ah, why did I ever leave?  But, then in the evenings, when Ms. Metta gave her teachings based in the Theravada tradition, I was reminded why I had changed direction. There is a beautiful simplicity and practicality, a psychological resonance, and a strong sense of morality.  I have found a teacher and a sangha I connect with and my practice is strong, why would I want to stray off this path?

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Mr. Binkles, the overly dramatic rabbit

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I had such high hopes for the month of April. This was to be the month of getting my fitness regime on track. March was all about getting caught up routine medical stuff, and reintroducing myself to my doctor, whom I hadn’t seen in four years. Everything checked out fine and dandy, so the next step was to work with a personal health coach on the exercise stuff, and then in May I was going to start working with a nutritionist. Yup, those were my plans. And you know what they say about plans  . . .

Instead, April became all about Binkles (and I could totally hear him saying “and that problem with that is . . .?”  (and yes, I realize rabbits don’t talk, much less read, much much less read my blog)).  You see, on April 1 (no joke), much rabbit drama ensued.

It was about 6pm on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I noticed the Binks was laying on his stomach stretched out. Warning sign number one of possible GI stasis. When I leaned down to check on him, he dashed into the bathroom and behind the bathtub. Warning sign number two. And finally when he rejected his most favorite treat in the whole world, a banana chip, I knew I had yet another case of stasis on my hands.

Uh oh

Thanks to my friend Judy, the Bunny Bodhisattva, I’ve learned how to treat this life-threatening condition myself at home: take his temperature, then sub-q fluids, heat, medication, and the most fun part, force feeding him this liquified hay goop. Then I confine him to his carrier and wait for his appetite to come back and some poops that tell me his digestive system is once again working. It’s nerve wracking and scary, but I’m getting more confident in my abilities to pull him through these episodes. But, this time something went wrong.

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Lost

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I’ve got a couple of pieces that I’ve been working on. And is the case with postings that turn into opuses, they may or may not ever get finished. So, for the sake of trying to maintain some momentum, I’ll share something I wrote  recently for a class. The writing prompt was “Lost”.

Sitting in a chair whose history is long and poignant, my eyes gently shut. Feeling my body vibrating, parts pinging their presence, settling in. And finding the the breath. As usual, it’s a bit shallow, never quite reaching my belly. And with attention, it lengthens, deepens into the belly and through the back. And again. And again. Its pace slowing on its own. Unwinding, breath by breath. A scene starts to play out in my head. A movie I must have made in my sleep. Characters arise fully formed. Bits of dialogue. Lost.

Finding the breath again. “Start again” as one of my favorite Leonard Cohen songs advises. I wonder when Leonard Cohen is coming back to town. The man puts on a damn fine show. “Don’t dwell on what has passed away” I start to sing to myself, “or what is yet to be.”  Lost.

Coming back yet again to the breath. Finding my home in the equinimity of a quiet mind. There we go. That’s it. Damn, I’m such a good meditator. Shit. Lost again.

The pain in my lower back sidetracks the trip back to the breath. That’s OK, I can investigate that. Stupid pain. Can’t it see I’m trying to meditate. No, sense it. What is it? Tight? Sharp? Deep? Shallow? Ouch. I don’t like it and I want it to go away.  Lost.

Oh. Where did that pain go? OK, back to the breath. Feeling the coolness of the in breath right at that spot between my nose and lip, and reaching for some sensation there on the out breath. Opening once again to this moment. I really should write about this sometime. Lost.

. . . and returning

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The first 24-48 hours after coming off a silent retreat can be challenging.  People move way too fast and speak too loudly. You have to cook your own meals, which are in no way as tasty or healthy as those that to which you’ve become accustomed in the dining hall. Since I’ve been home I find myself  just sitting quietly doing nothing as if  I’m still waiting for the bell to ring, calling me to the meditation hall.  And then looking around at my messy house, I realize I ain’t at Spirit Rock anymore.  And while I love being home with my critters and my comforts, I sure wish I could have a few silent sincere yogis come clean my house, cook my meals and ring a bell reminding me to meditate. Oh, and while I’m wishing, I want to adopt Sylvia Boorstein as the Jewish grandmother I never had.

This was a particularly sweet and easy retreat for me. Unlike previous retreats where it takes me a day or two to land and become accustomed to the schedule and the bed and that blasted hike back up the hill from the dining hall, I settled in rather quickly.  Since this is my third retreat there in 13 months, all that stuff that used to be new and scary is now familiar and comforting.  But, there was one new twist to this retreat, I wasn’t there alone.  One of my closest friends, Frank, decided to join me. This was his first Spirit Rock silent retreat and while I had no concerns that he could handle all the meditation, I was a bit worried how he was going to take to the silence. Me, I love love LOVE it.  I was really hoping that Frank would grow to love it too.

The focus of this retreat was on Metta (or loving-kindness for those whose Pali is a bit rusty. Some teachers even translate it as mere friendliness of heart). So for seven days, we meditated on cultivating a heart full of loving-kindness directed towards an ever expanding circle of beings.  If you are not familiar with the practice, Wikipedia has a pretty good description here.  The practice is quite beautiful and inspiring. In fact, on about the fourth day, the physical sensation of my heart expanding became so intense I thought I was possibly having a heart attack. I nearly tackled  poor Sylvia on her way out of the dharma talk, so badly was the need to be reassured that I wasn’t  dying. She assured me I wasn’t, and that what was happening was actually a good thing. (Yes, a heart full of metta, a concentrated mind and a tendency towards panic attacks makes for some interesting physical sensations.)

Some highlights of the reatreat:

  • I got to be a bell ringer! I’ve always wanted to ring the big bell that summons people to the meditation hall. And no one could accuse me of being tentative with that bell. I whacked the hell out of it. No one was going to miss the 4pm dharma talk because they couldn’t hear the bell. No, not on my watch.
  • Turkeys!! God, I love those stupid turkeys. I was actually quite concerned when I didn’t see them for the first couple of days. But when I finally saw the flock, I was so happy I almost wanted to cry (yeah, metta not just warms the heart, but apparently it supercharges the tear ducts).
  • On the sixth day, when the silence is lifted for a short period, Frank and I found each, embraced, and the first words out of our mouths were “I love you” (and I, of course, started crying).  He loved the retreat. I was filled with mudita. Plus, it was such a relief to finally be able to talk and laugh openly.  For the entire week every time our eyes met in the dining hall, we both had to suppress bursting out laughing.  Nothing was particularly funny, but I think we were like two naughty children in church who can’t help but giggle when everyone else around them is so silent and serious.
  • Coyotes! It’s hard to believe, but I think this may have been my first experience of hearing coyotes howl at the moon. When I first heard it while doing an evening walking meditation, I was transfixed.  And then when I was awoken by a pack of coyotes howling outside my window at 3am, I was in awe. But, when they woke me again at 5:30am, I thought to myself “Jesus, coyotes, it’s just the freakin’ moon. Give it a rest”.
  • When deciding which retreat to sit, there is usually at least one teacher that is the main attraction for me. In this case, it was Sylvia. But, as always, there were no duds, all the teachers add their own hearts to the mix. But, often there is a pleasant surprise, a teacher who I fall a little in love with. For this retreat, it was  Heather Martin. She didn’t  look like the typical Spirit Rock teacher, who tends to look a bit earthy, or at the very least, psychotherapist-y.  Heather looked like the prototypical middle-aged English Rose. But, she was delightfully honest, funny and very wise. I would love to sit another retreat with her.

I think that’s all I want to say about it. It’s funny, at previous retreats, my narrator seems to be ever present, and I tend to instantly translate all my experiences into stories. This time, she was notably absent, and my retreat journal, which is normally voluminous, was quite brief this time.  Which isn’t great for my writing aspirations, but I think it’s good progress towards my deeper aspiration to greet each present moment, no matter what it brings, as a friend.

May you be happy and peaceful
May you be safe and protected
May you healthy and strong
May you live with ease.

Retreating

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On his way out of the office yesterday, one of my staff members stuck his head in my doorway.

“Have fun at your retreat! Bye!” he said before dashing away.

Fun? Is that really the operative word for what one does at a silent meditation retreat? I decided to I simply thank him for the kind wishes rather than debate whether ‘fun’ was the correct word. As a matter of fact, a number of people had said the same thing to me as they were leaving.  Perhaps, it being so close to the holiday season, they were under the impression I was off to some kind of Buddhist version of Christmas.

I’ve worked with this group of people for the last three years so they have grown accustomed to my occasional trips to Spirit Rock to go dwell in silence for a week or so. I would say there are three basic opinions of my desire to do retreat:

  1. Slightly envious. There are a couple of people whom I consider my work sangha (aka “The Namaste Bitches” – it’s not as harsh as it sounds, it’s all in the enunciation).  When we have the luxury of time, we talk dharma, turn each other on to teachers, and generally support one another’s spiritual endeavors. When I’m debating whether or not to do a retreat, they are always firmly pro-retreat.  I think they see me as their retreat proxy. One of them has young children at home, and right now she just can’t be away for days at a time. The other is too young, cute, and gay & living in San Francisco to be spending time in silence in Marin with a bunch of mostly middle-aged straight people.  He calls me boring and I call him a slut.  But hey, we’re sangha, we can do that.
  2. “Not my cup of tea, but if it makes you happy.” I would say most of my colleagues fall into this category. They can see some appeal of spending quiet time someplace pretty, but a week in silence meditating six-to-seven hours a day, plus another two or three hours zombie walking, is not something they would choose to do for themselves.
  3. “Why don’t you go somewhere fun instead?” One of my colleagues, someone whom I now consider a good friend, really tries to be supportive and mostly holds his tongue when it comes to my spiritual quests, but still asks me, rather gently, “wouldn’t you rather travel with your partner and see someplace you’ve never seen before, and you know, maybe talk?”  He loves to travel and would someday like to find a boyfriend with whom he could go to exotic, romantic places.  I think he thinks I’m wasting a perfectly good boyfriend by insisting on going to retreats by myself rather than spending my vacation time with my beau.  The other colleague is not so gentle. When I told him I was going on retreat, he screwed up his face and said “another one? Didn’t you just do one of those last year?”   He’ll then ask how much these things cost and then tells me how much of a vacation I could get ‘somewhere fun’ for the same price. And when I tell him I happen to enjoy going on retreat, he’ll once again screw up his face, and ask “whyyyy?”   It’s at this point I tend to get really distracted because he looks so much like an ex-boyfriend of mine. That is, if my ex was gay and Asian. They have the exact same hair cut, vocal inflections and gestures.  It’s really uncanny, and a bit disturbing too.

So, tomorrow I head over to Spirit Rock for a week-long Metta retreat with Sylvia Boorstein. I’m looking forward to it. Who knows? Maybe I will have fun. But, if I can find a few moments of peace and love in my mind, that will be worth the price of admission.

Resolutions, Facebook and the comparing mind

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Normally, I poo-poo New Year’s resolutions.  I stopped doing it so long ago, I’m not even sure I ever made them at all. Consciously, I’m not a big fan of setting myself up for failure (unconsciously may be a different story).  When I’m ready to make a change, I simply do it.  Maybe it lasts. Maybe it doesn’t. My meditation regime has lasted. My swimming regime, well, not so much. Same with writing. I’m good for a while and then it fades. So, why if I pledged to do something starting on January 1 would it have any different outcome than something I pledged to start on, say, April 23?

This year, however, I’m feeling like maybe I do want to make a resolution or two. Why the change of heart? Maybe because last year I  got a taste for change. I got reintroduced to my body after decades of living exclusively in my head, and my meditation practice is now an integral part of my day.  It’s been good.

The other night I was reading Sharon Salzberg’s book LovingKindness and when I got to the chapter on generosity, it became very clear to me that being more generous with my time and my resources, was something I needed to do.  And being New Years was only a few days away, I thought that it would make a dandy and worthwhile resolution.  I don’t like that feeling of constriction I get when I’m holding to something for no good reason other than it’s mine.  Which is not to say I need to be foolhardy and give away all my stuff and energy, but I think I’m mindful enough to recognize that tightness that comes when I know I could give, but out of neurosis (selfishness, fear of not having enough, ill will) I simply don’t wanna. So, my practice for this year will be to recognize that constriction, and then make a concerted effort to open up – open up my heart, open up my hand, my wallet, my home, my refrigerator, whatever.

The other intention I have for the New Year is to spend less time on that blasted Facebook. It’s insidious, really. When I’m at my computer at home, I pretty much always have a window open with Facebook up. And even though I don’t really post all that  much, I still peek, almost compulsively at my newsfeed, as if I am expecting some breaking news like election results or updates on a natural disaster.  I really need to get a grip.

Like most of us, I joined Facebook with the hope of connecting easily with old friends – the kind of friends that you’re interested enough to hear what is happening with them, but not so close that you’d make the effort to see.  And it is always a kick when I first “friend” someone  I haven’t seen in eons. I check out their pictures, their info, take a gander at their wall.  It’s a quick and safe way to get a sense of who that person has become (or at the very least who they want people to believe they have become).  Maybe we’ll exchange a message or two expressing how tickled we are to be in touch.  But then after that, the connection is pretty tenuous and voyeuristic.

What I’ve been finding lately, is that my excursions onto Facebook are simply an excuse for my comparing mind to have a field day. Oh look, there’s someone who was such a hotshot in high school and now they’re just a suburban housewife. I’m much more interesting than she is.  And there is that guy whom I barely remember, he’s smart, successful, travels a lot. God, I’m a failure.  And why does that girl have so many friends? She’s such a phony. Yet everyone buys into her Super Mom routine.  Wow, and look at my former workmate, she looks amazing!  I look like crap.”  You get the drift, right?  It’s simply not healthy.

So, I’m going to try and find a middle way with Facebook. I don’t need to drop out all together, but I’m going to limit my time. I really wish there were a plug-in that would tally the number of minutes you’re on it.  I guess I’m just going to have to do that whole mindfulness thing and just recognize when I’m checking Facebook out of boredom or some other neurotic impulse.  Hmmmm. Mindfulness and Facebook. Somehow they don’t really belong in the same sentence, do they?

The nightly ritual

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I did this piece of writing recently for a class I was taking. The writing prompt was “ritual.” Since I want to get some momentum going again with my blog, I hope you don’t mind some recycled material.

She knows the sound of my car coming up the driveway. I always drive in rather slowly, vigilantly, because I never know from where in the yard she will pop out. Occasionally, mostly in the winter months, I actually have to call for her, so during those times, I wait in the car a couple of minutes to give her time to make her appearance. Then I get out to find her pacing excitedly in front of my car. I say my first line:

“Oh, there you are.”

I’ll then open up the back passenger side of the car to scoop about half a cup of Cat Chow into an old buttery spread tub.

“Do you want some dinner?” is my next line.

She doesn’t answer, but rather heads towards the corner of the driveway where I have fed her every day for the last four and a half years. Her tail is erect and she keeps looking back at me as if to say “come on, hurry!”

I pour out the cat crunchies on the pavement. I used to use a bowl, but it kept getting pushed down the embankment by the raccoons.

“Here ya go, Pretty. Here’s your dinner.” I say stating the obvious.

Over five years ago, when Pretty was just a kitten, someone had dumped her and her sister in my neighborhood. Perhaps they knew that there were feral cat feeders in the area. Or perhaps it was just convenient. All I remember were these two kittens suddenly started showing up at the bowl where I was feeding another local stray. To distinguish between the two kittens, I started calling them by their predominant traits. Pretty was named such because, well, she’s pretty – a calico torbie, with the most perfect white markings and the greenest of eyes. Her sister I called Skitty because, well, she was skittish. Skitty disappeared shortly after I captured them both to have them spayed. Pretty has stuck around, but has refused all attempts to move her into the house.

When I first put the food down, she takes a couple of bites and then circles my legs, lightly rubbing against me. When she starts eating again, I pet her soft, shiny fur.

“Who is my pretty girl? That’s a good girl, eat eat.”

She takes a few more bites, and again circles and rubs.

“Come on, sweet pea, eat eat. I’m not going to stand out here all night.”

At night, Pretty will only eat while I am watching over her. She’s a very vigilant girl, if not a wee bit paranoid, and I think she feels safer when I’m there to ward off the imagined armies of raccoons, possums, neighborhood dogs and other cats. And perhaps she is overreacting a bit, but her strategy has worked as she is still here after five years whereas other ferals have come and gone during that period.

This cycle of eating, circling and rubbing continues at least three more times (longer in nicer months). I stare up at the stars and try to imagine my mind like a big open sky. Finally, I’ll call it a night.

“I gotta go, sweetheart, Keep eating. I’ll see you in the morning.” I say as I lean down to get one more hit of her soft soft fur.

It’s been like this night after night year after year and I can think of no happier ritual to welcome myself home.

All I want for Christmas

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Every year, a few weeks before Christmas, the Boyfriend asks what I want as a present.

“I honestly don’t know. There’s really nothing I need. I have enough things” I say with a slight anti-consumerist smugness.

Then I’ll divert him by asking him what he wants. And he’ll usually list some boringly practical things that he does indeed need, like undershirts and socks. (You know the romance has gone out of the relationship when you ask for socks as a gift and . . . you get them!)  And then once he has named all his needs, he’ll go back to interrogating me for what I want. This year rather than my stock  response of  “world peace”, I let him know what I really wanted.

“Well, if you really want to get me something, I would love to have the new iPhone 4S” I said half-seriously.

The Boyfriend shook his head. “What is your wrong with your current iPhone? It’s perfectly good. You just got it. I don’t understand this throw-away culture. People always have to have the latest and greatest and coolest.”  I had heard this rant before so I cut him off.

“A) My phone is two and half years old and B) I’m not getting it because it’s the ‘latest and greatest’, but it’s got some features I really need.  Anyway, I don’t expect you to get me a new iPhone, I’ll take care of it myself.”  My tone told him that particular conversation was over.

I wasn’t in any hurry to get my new phone. I figured I’d just drop by the Apple Store on my way home from work sometime in the next couple of weeks and pick it up. But, then I heard that no one really had it in stock, that you had to order it and then wait for delivery.  Oh no no noooo, that is not acceptable. Suddenly I wanted that phone and I wanted it NOW. I found a website called Milo where you can look up a product and it lists where it is in stock near you.  Turns out the Best Buy nearest to my home had them in stock. A phone call confirmed the information, though the clerk said I had better get there that evening because there weren’t many left.

I hightailed it out of the office. I was on a mission.  So, of course, I hit unusually heavy traffic.  Fine, no problem. Breathe, listen to music, think of clever questions to ask Siri. When I’m on the home stretch of the 5 mph traffic, I notice a slow and rhythmic ker-thunk ker-thunk. Really? Seriously? A flat freakin’ tire? Oy!

Fortunately, there was a nice wide shoulder near the entrance to San Quentin Prison to pull over. And as luck would have it, my AAA membership had expired. I asked the nice AAA lady on the phone if  she could kindly just call the tow-truck while I take care of the renewal. Nope. Money first, help later. But, after a few minutes the tow-truck was summoned and within a half an hour I’m back on the road.

Once I arrive at Best Buy (a store I once pledged to never shop at again due to their abhorrent treatment of female customers), I see there are three clerks at three desks helping customers with mobile phone purchases. I was the only person waiting.  Soon, Siri would be mine.  Then one of the clerks walks away with his customer, never to return. The clerk at the middle desk seemed a bit, er, mentally challenged.  I don’t know how complex the transaction she was having with her customer, but it was going on when I arrived and was still going on when I left.  The third clerk had a customer buying an iPhone and every time it looked like the customer was getting ready to finish up, something else would come up – a problem with his account, a problem with his card, or he would wander off to look at accessories.  After about a half hour, finally, the third clerk became available.

Much to the relief of the line that had formed behind me, my interaction was easy breezy, and within ten minutes I walked out with my new iPhone. Merry Christmas to me!

(Oh, and I lied about “needing” some new of the new features. I merely wanted them. And yes, guilty as charged in terms of wanting it because it’s cool.)

I’m baaaaack . . . maybe

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Weird. For the last two months, every evening, I’ve managed to pull a bit of writing out of my ass simply because there was someone on the other end of these interwebs who I knew was waiting for it. And it wasn’t all shit. Some of it was even worth sharing. In fact, more than once I thought to myself “self, this is pretty much a blog post.  You could revive your your moribund blog with work that you’ve already finished.”   Who knows, I still might.

So, what have I been doing for the last six months? I’ve been upping my game, I guess.  Took up swimming, started writing again, and I’ve been studying Mahamudra with yet another Buddhist teacher. The relationship with the boyfriend is back on track despite waking up one morning a couple of months ago fully convinced that we needed to break up. Work is fine. Critters are fine (and I promise I’ll write Binkles In Love, part 2 really soon).

Tonight, however, I find myself feeling rather uneasy, but I ‘spose it’s good that despite the impulse to run away from the keyboard, here I am.  I hope to be here more often.

Binkles in love – part 1

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When Mr. Binkles’ bunny partner, Mrs. Peabody died a couple of months ago, I feared he would never love again. Theirs was a close bond, or so I thought. I would often find them huddled together in the nesting box, and their mealtime rituals and games never failed to make me smile.  Even though I would throw in multiple pieces of carrot or broccoli or banana slices, they would both want the same piece. So they would play the mine/no, it’s mine game and chase each other around the pen stealing the food bit from each other. Eventually, they would settle down a few inches from each other and chow down peacefully and in earnest.

When I’m home, I open up the bunnies’ pen and let them have access to all of the house.  Binkles always comes charging out, eager to check out all of his domain (this is, after all, Binkles’ house, I am merely the live-in help). Peabody wasn’t as in much of a hurry, but she would come out and find some place in the house (usually behind the bathtub) to just hang out for a change of scenery.  While out and about in the house, those two wouldn’t interact too much with each other. Maybe a passing nose bump, but the closeness they displayed in their pen was not evident when they were out.

In the final weeks of Peabody’s life,  it was clear Binkles knew something was up. He became more gentle with her and spent more time grooming her, particularly around her nose where the cancerous tumor was growing. And while he still came charging out of the pen when I opened it, often he would return back to the pen to just hang out quietly with Peabody.

Peabody and Binkles

On the day I had to take Peabody for her final vet visit, I let Binkles remain out of his pen while I left for my sad errand. I wanted to make sure he was distracted when I came back home without his living and breathing partner.

According to house rabbit experts, in order for the surviving partner to be able to accept that his friend is truly gone, they need to be able to see their dead body. Otherwise, they will forever be waiting for their partner to return and would not be able to accept a new bond. Since I want Binkles to be happy, and I know he is a much happier bunny with a buddy, I brought Mrs. Peabody’s lifeless body home.

Binkles was out and about and didn’t notice me tearfully place her limp body in her usual spot in the pen. I took a seat in the living room and waited for Binkles to check back in to his pen. It took a few minutes before he went dashing into his pen (he tends to dash everywhere for no particular reason). When he first saw Peabody’s body, he nudged her playfully. He nudged her again. And then he went up and started grooming her face and her ears. He moved his way down half of her body, all the while grooming her. This lasted maybe ten minutes. And then finally, with a pronounced jump, he turned his back to her and hopped away.

I left her body there for another hour or so, thinking that maybe there was more to his process. But no, he was done. I don’t know what was going through his little bunny brain as he groomed her for those few minutes. Maybe he was making sure she was really and truly dead. Or maybe he realized that quickly, and the grooming was merely his way of saying good-bye.

For the next week, Binkles was a bit needier than usual, so I made sure he got lots of extra attention. I even let him stay out of his pen all night a couple of times.  However, after waking up with a rabbit on my pillow staring me dead in the eye, as if he were plotting something very very naughty, that leniency ended.

At the end of the week, I had to take him to be boarded while I was gone on retreat.  And while I was off in search of nirvana, Binkles would be on a search for a new partner.  More on that in Part 2.

A sangha of two

Standard

Note to self: When going on retreat, drop all expectations about what you think or want to happen on that retreat because no matter what you want or expect, you’re going to get something completely different.

A little over a month ago, I went on a ten-day retreat at Spirit Rock focusing on concentration practice.  Ever since I had my surprising and wonderful samadhi experience at the my last retreat in December, I’ve been quite interested in concentration/samadhi and, as one teacher called them, the spiritual goodies that come with a highly concentrated mind.  The focus of my practice for the last four months had been concentration (vs vipassana/mindfulness) in anticipation of this retreat.  I was approaching my practice with almost an athletic vigor (as athletic as you can be sitting on your ass and focusing on your breath).  My motto going into the retreat was “jhana or bust”.   (Who me? Striving?)

I got to the retreat shortly after registration opened so that I could get my pick of “yogi jobs” (a daily chore either in the dining hall or general housekeeping) and find a good seat in the meditation hall. At my last retreat, after being assaulted from behind by a serial cougher, I found myself  moving my seat to the very back of the room against the wall. There I was safe from anyone stabbing me in the back with their germs. Call me misanthropic, but I found the relative seclusion quite comforting and safe.  So, this time I immediately looked for a suitable space in the very back of the room. I found one nestled between a credenza and a pile of cushions. Yes, this will do nicely.  So, I grabbed a zabuton, a zafu and a couple of knee cushions and secured my space. This would be my meditative home for the next nine days.

By the second day the wall of cushions had been dismantled by the other yogis in this sold out retreat. My left flank was wide open. You can guess what happened next.  I’m not the only one who has the impulse to move away from the herd, so soon I had a neighbor.

For most of the retreat, in my mind (it was a silent retreat, after all), I called my neighbor Mike. I don’t know why. To me, he  looked like a Mike. He wasn’t a bad looking fellow, but his face looked etched with sadness or worry. And while after a day or two of retreat, most of us do appear a bit grim, Mike seemed pained and lost.  Of course, I say this in retrospect. At the time I didn’t see his pain, I just saw him as a pain in the ass.

To say Mike was a tad restless is like saying Glenn Beck is a tad crazy. While it takes most everyone a minute or two to settle into their meditation posture at the beginning of a sit, Mike’s preparation took much longer.  Of course, that could have to do with selecting among, and placing his vast collection of meditation props:

a kneeling bench
two zafus
two gomdens
two knee pillows
two meditation shawls
two chairs
three zabutons
four specialty pillows from home
an extra pair of socks
a wad of dirty tissue

When Mike initially moved into my space I found his shenanigans really annoying. In fact, even outside the meditation hall, I found reasons to be annoyed with him. I found fault with how he moved about on the trails outside, and the amount of food he put on his plate and the speed with which he ate it. At one point I saw him with a bag of groceries, and I even found his choice of food and beverages annoying.  I was developing my first VV – Vipassana Vendetta – a common retreat phenomenon whereby you project a whole awful story upon a fellow yogi whom you find unpleasant. My retreat journal, rather than filled with insights or ruminations about the dharma, was filled with complaints – nay, rants – about Mike and his noisy-ass self.

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