Sunday, February 10, 2008

Falling Down

For the past several years I have rejected just about everything I’ve learned about making my life less miserable. I studied yoga with the most gentle of teachers, being ushered into a practice which demonstratively eased the pains my body was experiencing as it rushed head-long in its sixth decade. After taking three, six week classes with her I not only stopped enrolling with her but stopped any semblance of yogic exercises on my own.

This in spite of knowing in my bones, tendons, and muscles as well, that it was the best thing I could do for my body’s flexibility.

I dove into Buddhist meditations, finding that the simplest of them was perfect for me…just sitting and maintaining a focus on my breath. Wow, I was hooked after the first time it took. I saw and felt the powerful truth of the Buddha’s admonition that ‘we are our thoughts’ and, more so, understood first hand how damming my ‘monkey mind’ was to my accomplishing anything of value in my life. I am the original example of attention deficit disorder in adults (self diagnosed, of course. An amazing rationale for not having accomplished much in comparison to the gifts I was born with and developed over the years!).

Ask me how often I meditated after this discovery. Okay, at first, pretty often, each day as a matter of fact. But, like the dilettante I apparently am, after awhile that beneficial practice fell by the wayside.

Then there was qui gong. Do you know this thing? It’s a gentle way of energy. You know those pictures from China (or major China Towns from around the world) where in the dawn hour there are multitudes of folks doing their Tai Chi or Kung Fu? Off in the background you can see people apparently standing very still, barely moving if at all. They are practicing Qui Gong.

For a lazy ass like me, the perfect physical practice! Especially one form called “stand like a tree”, right? I mean those suckers hardly move at all, and even then only when there’s bit of a breeze, right?

Dropped after the weather got chilly; I mean hot coffee is better than catching a cold isn’t it?

I should point out that while I am being somewhat irreverent in the retelling of these things, dear reader, I experienced some major and profound benefits from each of these things I eventually dropped. So profound, in fact, that I’d like to say right now that as I sit here and input these words into the computer I am resisting the regret of those wasted years when I wasn’t in serious practice.

Even now I am not engaged in daily practices. Sporadically I do my sitting exercise, occasionally I go out and stand with the tall pine in front of our house here, and, here’s one I haven’t mentioned, each day, or at least four to five times a week, I write.

Last summer, Chris Abani, the novelist, uttered words that struck me more deeply than any of the teachers I’ve been blessed to have (and sadly ignored). In a seminar at a writers workshop he said, “Writing is a spiritual practice.” And with those words I realized I haven’t been as lazy as I had thought. I haven’t been as neglectful as I’d thought I’d been.

I write.

But, and here’s the rub, to what purpose? Who, and what, has my writing served aside my own vanity, or more profoundly, my own relief from the pain and suffering I have endured and still carry as I go through each day?

It serves me, certainly. And, again, as I sit here and input into my word processing software I fight the regret that comes over me when I think that I have yet another gift I haven’t used to better myself or others.

Why regret? Because it is one of the primary sources of my suffering and I have come to require it so that I can know that I am human. Boy, it amuses me now, inputting these words how much that almost became my mantra…I am required to suffer to know that I am human.

My Philly personality wants to say something so profane to that but I will not write it here. Suffice it to say this, “What nonsense!” But realistically, that’s what we all do, find our way of suffering and practice it. It is hard, if not impossible, for us to break out of that cycle once we find it.

Writing has been a constant throughout my life, ever since I wrote essays and poems as a teen. But looking back on it, there are huge holes, huge gaps of time, for example, in my journals.

I’m reminded now of the statement a sage gave us, I believe it was Confucius, who said something like, “It doesn’t matter how many times we fall as long as we continue to rise.”

So, let me tell you about getting back up, about rising.

(TBC in my next post…)

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