Meditation is Hard — But Getting Softer

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I have dabbled in meditation here and there over the years but it wasn’t until this past February that I found myself sitting in the local buddhist temple, which is a strikingly peaceful oasis to sit and soak in the silence.  And to begin my foray back into mediation.  These Buddhist Monks hail from Sri Lanka and I can’t pronounce any of their names except I have recently learned that the equivalent of “Father Sujatha” is “Bhante Sujatha” so I find it’s safest to call each of them “Bhante.”

Bhantes

A few months ago it was all I needed to sit in the beautiful temple to attempt to quiet my mind, which ping-ponged all over the place like a mad chicken on crack.  I was all over the place so the silence did my mind and body good, and I probably tweaked and twitched as I sat there in the silence.  It doesn’t matter, any and all are welcome at this temple and I totally appreciate the warm welcome they gave me.

As the weeks unraveled and I began to recover from everything that had happened over the past year, I was having more and more questions for the Monks and requiring more direction.  Three nights per week they host silent mediations, followed up by a talk from Bhante Sujatha, if he is in town or one of the others.  When Bhante speaks, he refers to the benefits of his mediation and how he is able to allow things to bounce off him and not bother him and is accepting of most situations in life; he is always harmonious with life.  These are my words and not his; he would never say something so arrogant as this.  I’m sure of it.

My questions during class hover around, “so in order to get to this place of acceptance, can you suggest maybe five or six ways to achieve this through mediation?”  No, just continue to practice and you will see.  “But my thoughts stampede out to the wildest situations, usually sexual in nature or something along those lines, but it is never still, always racing.”  Just keep coming here and you will see.

This worked for a few weeks but I knew that I was in need of some direction, because I really want to reign in my thoughts and quiet the mind. I’ve had glimpses of this in the recent past and know it’s possible, so my desire led me to search for more.  It led me to google things!

Another benefit of the exploration years in San Francisco is that I used to take T’ai Chi lessons in the park in the early mornings and I remembered how calming it was for me.  I googled t’ai chi and soon stumbled upon Qi Gong, another Asian healing art I studied briefly a long time ago and was drawn to it because it’s referred to as the Mother of T’ai Chi.

LeeHolden

It didn’t take long for me to have an A HA moment and realize this is where I wanted to spend my time.  I googled deeper into Qi Gong and discovered Lee Holden.  He has a few free youtubes and I was hooked with 7 Minutes of Magic that was filmed in Sand Harbor Beach in Lake Tahoe, as well as taking a class at the Temple.  I knew I was starting to wake up because for the first time in a very long time, I was ready to go some where.  I went to South Lake Tahoe.  I climbed a mountain. I did Qi Gong. T’ai Chi. Yoga. Mountain Biking. Hot springs. Ate organic salads. Had a blast!

 

Of course I made a Vine too (I am @meagburnt on Vine)
meagburnt Vine Lake Tahoe

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OvA9Hg9u8w&feature=em-upload_owner

Since returning home I signed up for Lee’s online classes because his world head quarters are in Santa Cruz, California. Or perhaps it’s his studio!  I am going to give myself 30-days to stick with it — and if I do, I will pursue taking more IRL classes.  So far, the lessons have been wonderful and my QI is starting to wake up!

No seriously, this is serious.  I am enjoying every minute of this.  After this morning’s meditation I felt the qi rising in my cheeks and shins like I had never felt them before in my life.  Who’s body is this?  It’s mine! xo

Here’s Henry the day I came home from Lake Tahoe, he was soooooooo excited to see me, he went airborne!  His qi is incredible too …

LT_larkabouts_13

Going Green, Take Two

I've been waving to the sunsets for decades now; here's me in Big Sur in 1998
I’ve been waving to the sunset for decades now; here’s me in Big Sur in 1998

When I think back to the last half of 2012, it occurs to me that I was in a rather suspended mode and did not make many waves as I waited for yet another holiday season to roll on by.  I knew something was up with my mom, but I was not allowed to get too close, so I numbed it out of my mind.  I remember walking out of my office and I could feel my feet walking down the sidewalk, but it felt like my head was staying in the same place.  I was trapped in a tunnel.  It’s all rather surreal when I think back, because it was literally right after the holidays ended that my mom went south, after her youngest brother went into the hospital and was told he had about a week to live.  Tom did not make it past three days and the night of his funeral was when I first had to bring my mom to the Emergency Room.  They told me they couldn’t keep Mom, they said excruciating pain was not enough of a reason to admit someone.  WHAT?

It was a snowy Friday January evening; I took the bus home across the Loop and arrived at my West Loop neighborhood in record time.  I didn’t want to go upstairs just yet; I don’t even know why because I never usually hesitated.  I walked through the alley behind Girl & The Goat because I didn’t feel like looking at all the beautiful people on Randolph going to dinner.  I smoked a cigarette in the alley and it tasted God awful, I couldn’t even finish it but I held it and looked at it in the falling snow.  I hated that thing.  I flicked it at the dumpster and made my way home.

Twenty minutes later the call came in that Mom was really sick and I needed to head out there.  Ninety minutes later I was there with mom.

I took a leave of absence from my job.  A job I knew I was not right for, but so many of us know that we are not right for a job and do it anyways because it’s 2013, and dammit we should be grateful that we have a job at all, so fake it ’til you make it.  All bets were off when my mom got sick, I knew the gig was up.  I will make amends for this when the time is right.

Now it’s the middle of May and I have radically changed almost everything about my life.  My current reading and doing list:

Crazy, Sexy Diet by Kris Carr
(Eat your veggies, ignite your spark and live like you mean it!)

The Rainforest by Victor W. Hwang and Greg Horowitt
(The secret to building the next Silicon Valley)

Soak Your Nuts
(Karyn’s Conscious Comfort Foods and Recipes for Everyday Life)

Astrology for Beginners (just because!)

The Holy Bible (I pick it up, give it a side-eye, then toss it aside)

Modern Qi Gong by Lee Holden
(a 27-part online series to learn & live the basics of Qi Gong — wonderful to learn how to breathe from my toes and awaken the Qi)

Mother Daughter Wisedom by Dr. Christine Northup
(
also attending the Doctor’s 4-part workshop on Lightening the Motherload, which has been super super helpful and freeing)

I’ve changed my eating, drinking, breathing, address, job and spare time since my mom passed away.  I go to yoga, I meditate with Buddhist Monks, I hike the hills (mounds?) of McHenry and Walworth Counties and every day I learn something new about where our food comes from and how screwed up the American food system is today and I am trying to discover a healthier ways through this.  I teach social media at a creativity incubator and also am doing in-store demonstrations for a smart phone company (I made this connection while at a funeral, so always remember to keep your options open).

I was Meagan the Vegan many years ago when I lived in San Francisco; however things were so very different back, but then again not really.  The cool thing to do was to jump on the “John Robbins, “Diet for a New America” bandwagon; I did it and I loved it, but I think I took everything too far as I was known to do. This was when I first learned how wrong the American diet was (is!), how proper food combining was necessary to thrive, all about food allergies and how poisonous Baskin & Robbins ice cream is to a body.  I soon became convinced I was addicted and allergic to everything under the sun.  I attended 12-step meetings, saw several therapists, tried different religions, worked with shamans in the forest, went to women’s drumming circles, had soul retrievals, studied expressive creative dance, did ecstasy naked on the beaches of Big Sur with hippies, rode my bike all over Northern California (mostly because I didn’t have a car for the first two years) — honestly it was an incredible time in my life and I will never forget the San Francisco years.  I worked in SOMA’s South Park neighborhood (the exact park where Twitter and Instagram were born!) as a 35mm slide designer and then I tripped the holistic light fantastic at night and on weekends.  I lived in Mill Valley with my pastry chef boyfriend and rode my bike to the Sausalito ferry to ride across the bay each day, right on past Alcatraz Island — could there be a more beautiful start the morning?  No! It was cold of course, but absolutely gorgeous.

So here I am going green again twenty years later and I am basically re-learning everything — which is the cool part because I always love a challenge, and naturally it’s all different.  My mother is dead now.

I don’t say that flippantly.  Losing my mother was such an incredible kick in the guts, I was so not prepared. Even though I thought I was and had been preparing myself for the past two years.   The lessons have been hige; my mom’s death is teaching me so much about myself and about life.  I am extremely grateful for this bittersweet message that has changed my life.

I am not saying that it isn’t difficult for sons, but the mother-daughter connection is such a powerful connection, even if the two were not friends. My mom and I were occasionally friends, but mostly not.   I’ve been amazed at some of the stories I’ve learned in the past few months; both heart -breaking and inspiring.  Never in a million years would I have thought it would be me to have a complete meltdown after my mom died, in fact I would have wagered big money that I would NOT be the one to lose it.  No Siree Bub, not me.

I did lose it.  But I quickly crawled up to gasp for air and asked for help in turning my life around.  I was in bad shape. Not on the outside necessarily, but my insides were all topsy-turvy.  I was empty and then shattered.  My mom apologized for being so mean to me for so many years.  She apologized.  I laughed at her when she said it, but it was a nervous laughter because I did not know how to respond.  Then I saw the look in her eye.  She looked away and stared out to nowhere with an empty sadness in her eye.  I knew she meant it.  I knew right then that she was going to die soon.

I was fired twice in 2012 from two shitty jobs, and these back-to-back firings were very challenging to recover from their blows. I didn’t get fired for lack of trying, that’s for sure.  I took this last job out of desperation — even my co-worker mentioned that I seemed “very hungry” when I first started working with the group.  It’s true, I was literally hungry and scared because I had to sell my truck, my jewelry and anything else of value to stay afloat.  It was very scary and I avoided calling my mom for several months because I did not want her to worry.

My Monk buddies tell me there is no such thing as being “balanced”, there is only “balancing” – I agree!  I will continue to attempt to balance things through thick and thin, but I realize there will be challenges and setbacks, along with the successes, and perhaps those setbacks may require a strawberry sundae.  It’s starting to sound less and less appealing but perhaps some rainy day may call for a cheeseburger to make things feel alright.

I couldn’t be more inspired than I am right now to live a right life.  I don’t expect perfection, in fact I don’t want perfection   — I want the real deal.  I intend to remain soft, spongey and teachable as I enter the autumn of my life.  I want this to be the best time of my life and live well for both myself and my Spirit Sister; my mom Juls.

Mindfulness, Good Deeds, Cheeseburgers, Milkshakes

Buddha_Blue_Lotus

The days and weeks since my mom’s death have been quick to pass and full of lessons, if I am in the mood to listen and thankfully I usually am.  I have made some huge changes in my life since her passing and I have been on this continual hunt for information and guidance on what to do next in life.  I have discovered so many things in the past few weeks and one message that came through loud and clear is that life is truly short and should not be wasted or fretted away on meaningless drivel.  Which is all relative to each and every one of us.

My mom knew she was dying. She never came out and said this to me but two weeks before I brought her to the hospital, we spent most of the night sitting up at her house while she told me her directives.  She had it all written down, but wanted to tell me everything.  It was a  meaningful occasion for me because never before have I had to opportunity to sit with my mom and talk with her — especially without beer.  I sat at the dining room table and she sat on the couch. She looked straight ahead and I watched her profile. She was pretty. I had never seen my mom as pretty. I saw where I got my looks! I never ever saw my mom in this light before and that night alone healed a thousands hurts that she and I had between us.

It’s not as if I am sitting around mourning the loss of my mom, no this is not the case at all.  I had essentially been prepared for my mom’s death for about two years; I’m not sure if she had had a stroke or what, but she basically checked out a while back and I was waiting until she called me in for help.  That day finally came and honestly there was no preparing for any of it — it was all very surreal and continues to reveal itself in my dreams and thoughts throughout the days and nights.  I find myself crying over the silliest things and cannot stop myself.  Honestly, I don’t mind getting lost in the tears.  But I am always surprised by it.

The first week in the hospital my mom and I got along very well, laughing together when we could, although at this point the pain was starting to engulf her, so I just wanted to be there for her. Her screams will haunt me forever because she screamed for her mother almost continually.  It was like a horror movie.  Chilling.  As the news of her condition worsened, she began to communicate to me with her eyebrows and then soon she became angry at the fact that she was dying.

She did not want to die. Not here. Not now. She was not ready.  She got mad at me.  I struggle with the guilt.  It was happening.  Her death. I just happened to be the only one there with her.

I’ve seen two people go off to hospice and both times these people were already in some type of coma to kill the pain or whatever they were experiencing.  Not my mom. I had to tell her we were going to hospice and she almost stabbed me with her eyes.

“Nooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!”

The doctors told me we had one hour to say goodbye to her and I was the only family member with her. I had to ask her if there was anyone she wanted to talk to (I couldn’t yet say the word “goodbye”). “No! I don’t know! Noooooo!”

I sent out a group text that we have one hour to say good bye to Mom.  In hindsight, this is beyond surreal — a damn text message.  “Boys, you’ve got one hour to say goodbye to her, but the doctors say it’s too stressful for her to be on the phone, so send me a text and I will read it to her.  Or call me and I will tell her your words.  Say goodbye in your heart, because you won’t get a chance to see her again.”

I spent the next 45 minutes reading everyone’s text messages to mom. Everyone’s thank you’s and good bye’s.  This completely shook me to my core. I have never sobbed like this in my life.  When I walked out of her room because the guys from the ambulance had shown up to wheel her out, I realized I had not said good bye.  There was still a little time, but I had no idea.

When she was in the ambulance, I ran up to the back of it and jumped up and down to look in the window. “I’m here with you Mom!! I will follow you!! I will not leave you! I’ll be right behind you!! I will see you in a little bit!!”  On one of my jumps up I could see that she was smiling.  At me.  For jumping up and down. Like a clown.

All the people I saw in the hospital who were looking at death’s door were not ready for it and were surprised that it came up so soon.  When my mom was in surgery or resting, I walked around and observed; spoke to some who were open to it.  You know what they wanted to talk about? When they were in love. When their children were small.  The first kiss.  The first and last dance.  You see old and sick people in hospitals but with some of them, their minds are still young and they don’t forget love and kisses and dances and children.

So on this Monday, April 1, 2013, I found myself strangely agitated and almost angry about my lot in life.  Thanks to the books I have been reading and the overall general messages I have been receiving (or misinterpreting), I was quite annoyed about what life was not giving me.  I was thinking about my own death — an unfortunate side affect of watching my mother’s death — and all the things I want to do and experience before I die.  I grew extremely agitated throughout the day because of all the things I have given up in life over the past few weeks, I was getting *nothing* in return.

I want to experience an exquisite love before I die.
I want to hunker down and do satisfying work before I die.
I want to give back to causes I believe in before I die.

But love has done me wrong, the chip on my shoulder from getting fired twice in 2012 is weighing me down and the slow climb of financial reckoning is taking its own sweet time.  I am fucking pissed off!

I went for a sunset run to blow off some steam and afterwards I set off to find something to eat and drove past the Blue Lotus Temple. I knew there was a meditation class this evening and instead of eating, I knabbed the available open parking spot in front and found a seat in the beautiful cobalt blue temple.

The subject of tonight’s class: preparing for your death.  I heard things that made me double over.  I heard nuggets of wisdom that made my heart flutter.  I had tears streaming down my face when the Head Monk asked if there were any questions.  I raised my hand.

“I have forgotten how to be mindful and I don’t remember what good deeds are; in fact I have spent my day being angry about what life has not given me yet and I don’t think is the way I am supposed to be. I don’t want to die with these thoughts in my head.  I saw my mom being angry about dying and she thought she was prepared.  Please tell me what to do, I feel like I’m failing at everything in life.”

“You are doing absolutely everything right; even the place you are at with your thoughts.  It was a powerful gift to be with your mom through her death and now that you have helped her, it is time to help yourself.  I will help to remind you what being mindful is and suggest good deeds but you will discover them on your own, just as you discovered this.  Don’t be a Buddhist; be a Buddha and you will always stay hungry.  It is not too late and I am glad you are here.”

So I spoke with the Monk after class. I felt so much better after we chatted that I wanted a Culver’s cheeseburger right then and there.  So off to Culver’s I went, where I not only enjoyed a cheeseburger, but a strawberry milkshake too, as I read up on my decision to become Meagan the Vegan. Moooooooooooooo!!

veg_burgers

 

 

http://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-Plain-English-20th-Anniversary/dp/0861719069/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364873388&sr=1-1&keywords=mindfulness+in+plain+english

mindfulness