Wednesday, June 25, 2008

letting it all go (I know the truth about you)

On the train to Salisbury I read a book that convinced me to stop trying to escape fear. There is nowhere better to be, no other time than now, no one else to become. There is an alternative to seeking refuge from fear. I believed for a long time that if I just made it through the moment there would be a better time to come. "This too shall pass" translated into "This is unbearable, but hold on, it will get better." This is true, but also true is that this will return, in another moment, at another time, around the next corner. So, this book suggests, stop trying to escape it. Stop trying to deny this fear, stop distracting yourself, stop pegging your hope that something bigger than you can bail you out. There is no bailing out. Fear and hope are two sides of the same coin, and I want to stop flipping it over and over in my palm, always wondering or worrying what's on the other side. The same dual emotion I felt when I first stepped into the rooms hit me: a parallel of certainty and terror that this is the way and the place to be.

Stonehenge was interesting. A hodge podge of pagans, druids, bagpipes, drunkards, and CouchSurfers, all getting progressively soaked as the night wore on to the 4:18 sunrise. I practiced sun salutations and meditated in the rain. In my new "accept all as it is" mind set, I sought to accept the damp and not try to change it or wish it to be something else. I succeeded for a few hours until my soaks soaked through, and then I said stuff this and went and found a barrel of coals to warm myself by. Enlightenment still alludes, apparently.

I danced in the centre of the stones, touched the moss growing on them, smelled the sweat and wet hair and pot smoke emanating from all the bodies and lungs crowded into the circle and pummeling against each other and the ground to the beat of tribal drums. I sat aways away on a mat and crossed my legs and wondered if this (or me or them) is what spiritual looks like. I slept in a fetal position under a broken umbrella for twenty-three minutes. I walked through a field of pissing men in the pissing rain. I loaned my sleeping bag to a cyclist who rode from London to Amesbury to watch the sunrise. I did not find god. In fact, I may have lost him somewhere on the way.

On anger:
I spent the next two days in London at a friend's flat, walking back and forth to Tesco's and the park down the road in Kensington. I visited a homeopath, I watched some films. In one film, a man murders a child abuser, and wrestles with the guilt of killing another human while being simultaneously congratulated by friends and colleagues. My friend was aghast at the accolades. I sprung to the characters' defenses, justifying their reasoning for rewarding someone for murder. I sprung passionately, angrily. I am so surprised at my reaction - first the anger, and second the side I took. I thought I found killing indefensible, in any case, under any circumstances, and yet I was defending the idea of a justified murder. And I thought I didn't use that kind of angry passion anymore, that speed to jump and attach to a belief. A few hours earlier I read about tonglen, the practice of breathing in fear or pain or anger, of identifying these emotions as human and empathizing with all who feel them, and then breathing out calm and relief and serenity. And how quickly I forget what I read and how it is constant work to practice my beliefs.

On giving up:
So I have too many jobs, too many commitments, too much to do. I have a bank account and applied for a National Insurance Number. I'm going on the books and I'm buying into it all, again. I had some plans about a farm and moving away from everything that I've ever known, but I find myself once again surrounded by familiarity. And before I left I resolved to just stop. I'm never going to find something I keep looking for, so I'm going to stop. Stop changing, stop seeking, stop wondering if maybe I should look over there or maybe I should change that here. The inevitability of change doesn't need me to catalyze it. I can just sit back and be so present doing everything I am, from yoga in the park to buying local strawberries to washing dishes in my kitchen to clearing tables in the cafe. I noticed myself at peace today, I noticed myself being grateful, and for the first time, I distanced from that, too. It's easy to identify with calm and serenity because they feel good. But my work is to realize that they are also transient, that 'good' moves away with the same speed as 'undesirable'. So for the first time, as I smiled in the sun and loved this beautiful day, I admitted that "This, too, shall pass." And I let go a little bit more.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

There is a Calgary sky here tonight. England (the London and Norwich that I've seen) generally have dreary sunsets, where the cloud cover replaces the "set" with a "fade", gradual and unseemly and unnoticed. Tonight, tufts of cloud honed hues of rose and orange. Violet and indigo curved around the outlines of each cloud, giving them dimension rather than just the opaque grey of most English evenings.

I haven't felt homesick at any point in my travels, because the word insinuates that I would rather be somewhere else. I don't have a home anymore, not Calgary or Canada, really. I have things collected in a basement, and family members and friends in this certain place. And after spending so many years there I associate memories and colours of the sky with this city. But I do not miss it in the way I have at other times, where I yearn to be a part of it again, to be privy to its happenings and those of the people in it.

But I am seeking to be away from this moment, and this one, and this one. I am constantly and consistently terrified of where I am: no, not Norwich or England or the UK, but inside this body and this mind. Nothing is particularly terrible, I just know that I am running and hiding from things. My body is telling me with its aches, my mind is signaling, but I am afraid to sit still and wait to hear what it is saying.

I set up a schedule again so I don't have to deal with myself: my ego is very proficient at keeping busy and keeping me from noticing that it is controlling me. I don't know what to extricate myself from: the three jobs and three volunteer commitments, or the mind-set that is telling me I can't possibly keep this up. I know that to set myself the task of decluttering my life is just to give my ego something else to do, something else to think will cure me of suffering.

The moon is up now, a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas. I'll be at Stonehenge for the summer solstice. Some time out of town may widen a perspective the Buddhist Centre and a shiatsu massage have offered.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

external irrelevancy (redundant only until you realize it yourself)

Other things I'm realizing:

The external world is irrelevant. For awhile I thought this meant that I needed to rid myself of all worldly possessions to find inner peace, but I realized...with a little or with a lot, both are just states and therefore erroneous. My revelations are on hyper-speed, it seems. I thought I was moving towards a hippie commune at the edge of the world, but it seems I have supplanted my life instead, creating jobs and schedules and using my Google calendar for the first time in three months.

I thought for a moment this was backtracking, this was falling back into something, but I realize now it is just a continuation of the journey, because it is evolving as it is, instead of me forcing it a certain way.
This applies also to my body, the house of my mind and spirit and soul. Added inches used to mean to me added worries, I thought my body was a reflection of my inner state. I still think this is true, but I realize now that being in my body is more important that being out of it. Gorging or starvation are both extremes, are both distractions. The outside manifestation indicates, but doesn't explain. So while I have had more scones than courgettes or aubergines (zucchinis and eggplants) and now have a delightful little roll again, I realize this just reflects a different state of engagement with food and nourishment, and is neither positive or negative or healthy or hurtful.

The more I learn the less I know. I keep thinking I'm coming to the cusp, that over the next bend I'll be at the top and see everything below me laid out clear, but I'm realizing I'm actually walking deeper into the mountain range, further into the forest. Nature is waiting out there for me someday, but not right now. Right now it's Buddhist Centre and Greenhouse cafe volunteering spotted with cafe and catering work. Good thing I kept my black uniform just in case.

Instead of freedom comes fear. Just as when I realized it wasn't money, then when I realized it wasn't security, so now when I've realized it's not the lack of any of those things, either...then what is it? Being. Vadra Gupta, a teacher at the Centre, said when people begin to meditate they rarely find what they're looking for. They find themselves, and that's never what they want.

So I'm still finding myself, but finding that doesn't mean realizing I'm a "writer" or a "yogi" or that I need to go back to school. It means sitting or standing or lying or leaning wherever I am and saying exactly that and not trying to move or change or be anywhere else. This is my most daunting work.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

My life and head are equal parts full right now.

The house where I sit on the floor is filled with writers who take their masters in Creative Writing at the UEA, the University of East Anglia. Musicians play guitars and accordions and use megaphones in the sitting room and they sound like a band I used to know in Victoria, BC called Colourbook.

In the town with no jobs I've managed to find three plus an interview, one at a place I want to work and another at a place that will do.

I continue to live on the kindness of strangers and find myself amazed at generosity.

I found a Buddhist Centre instead of a yoga studio, where I volunteer in exchange for participating in group meditation sessions and shared coffee with a lady who described meditation in a way I've only heard people speak about AA meetings: if she can't make a session one week, she finds she misses it.

Every morning I wake up in a state of fear. It's not debilitating, it doesn't keep me from getting out of bed (yes, I have a bed, it belongs to someone who doesn't sleep here often, so for now, I can), but I spend the rest of the day reminding myself I am so fortunate for being exactly where and when I am right now, until I go back to sleep with the vague thought that this might all be over in eight hours. It never is, it only gets better, but I forget that every night.

Honesty rose to the top of my list of desirables somewhere along the way, beyond valuing knowledge and truth. Now I want to say what I feel in the moment even if I sound wandering and wavering, which I do most of the time. Things I know: it will always be okay. I will always sleep, I just don't know where. I will always eat, I just don't know what. Money, either a lot or a little, is irrelevant to an inner state. This too shall pass. A little about a lot of things and a lot about nothing in particular. I'll never get there because I'll just be here all the time. Things I believe: fear feels a lot like loneliness. Everything else is a guess.

I also volunteer at the Greenhouse, a cafe and environmentally sustainable business. I met Alex, a fellow CouchSurfer, who teaches me about Kafka and recipes for bad poetry (for analytical, not creating, purposes).

It's amazing what grows when I plant a seed of intention.