Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sitting Meditation and facing death

A love note to my sangha - meditation group - on 12/28/12 - exactly six months after my dad was found dead:

Wanted to share the news that Partner's dad died peacefully this morning. It was a great honor to be in  the role of daughter-in-law during the last 24 hours with the family. 

One thing I learned: sitting meditation is good practice for those times when staying up overnight in a folding chair, or listening to variations of breathing until there is no more breath or stopping the second arrow. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Newtown Shootings

It is the Monday after the shootings and the talk show folks are off and running. Gun control and an increased police state are on the table. Mental health is a sticky ball that no one seems to know how to deal with.

All of this posturing. All of this flapping of gums. The children, school faculty, mother or son cannot be brought back. And they aren't the first, nor will they be the last.

I'm thinking of a Sunday School teacher/mother who told me last year that her budding teenage children were going to the gun range and taking gun lessons. These were suburban kids. What did they need to shoot?

I grew up on a farm and knew how to shoot a gun. But I do not own a gun. I know the violence guns do. Probably about 10 years ago, two cousins were hunting doves on my parent's farm. The one thought birds had been flushed and instead blasted his cousin in the chest. By the time the ambulance got to that part of the farm, the man's peppered chest stopped breathing. He was dead to the horror of the cousin whom he considered his best friend.

Down the road from our farm, I can name several more accidental deaths from guns on other farms. One was when a farmer went over a fence and accidentally set off his gun shooting himself in the face. Another was when a farm hand was hit by a high-powered gun's bullet ricochetting off the barn wall, striking him dead. My own mother narrowly missed being hit by a high-powered riffle's bullet several years ago while putting up clothes on her clothes line behind the house. It drilled into the hillside near her.

Sounds crazy to my neighbors. What? No gun? It takes law enforcement 45 minutes to get here, and even then, it has to be for something urgent. Otherwise, we have had the police call back after 3 hours to see if they were still needed.

Four years ago, our home was broken into. A laptop was taken. But it was clear to the sheriff that what the thieves were looking for were electronics, guns, prescription narcotics, and cash. Only a laptop was taken. No guns, no drugs, no cash... because we didn't have any to steal.

We were advised to get a security system. This is a very expensive proposition and with law enforcement taking forever to get here, not really worth it.

A potentially rabid cat tried to make its final resting place here. But we wound up taking it to the animal shelter, even though a neighbor/Vietnam Vet came over to kill it. He couldn't do it because he knew the cat. Later we learned that running over it is a method suggested by some state health departments. There are other options besides guns.

I'm not saying that there is no roll for guns. But there is no need for high powered, multiple shooting rounds of guns for anyone besides law enforcement. Period. We are just escalating the war on ourselves.

Let's put our faith in something besides weaponry. Let's teach kids relational skills and ways of engaging positively in our communities.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fully Alive

It's the holidays. Advent is in full swing. Mary is pregnant with Jesus.

To all my friends, thank you for the love - seen and unseen, heard and unspoken, felt but not pushed upon. It it a sweetness that is getting me through another set of bumps.

Father-in-law was moved to a hospice facility this week. A daughter had a meltdown. My aunt's brother-in-law was found dead in his chair from an apparent heart attack. Since we all live in the area, extended family is family. Another friend of the family died - went to high school with Dad, took piano lessons from Grandma, his wife went to my Quaker meeting. His funeral was moving and entertaining - Irish Catholic?

Partner and I shared tears of grief and fatigue and fear in the midst of these changes. What's next? With our work schedules (he works first shift and I work second shift), I am feeling alone again. Getting another dog isn't going to fix this. I said, we have to plan something fun. Later, he would say that it was nice to hear this, even if we don't go anywhere.

Things were settling down by the end of the week. We found a new rhythm that now includes visiting at the hospice facility in the country. A beautiful setting. Not convenient to anyone. Yet, the best option at this point. Partner gets that we need to do something besides deal with crisis. A trip would be nice. Can we handle that much down time together?

Waiting. Cutting back on anything that isn't crucial. No more harp lessons for now mostly because of time, but also financial. Writing time focuses on clinical notes, kitchen table messages to feed and let out the dog, and an occasional love note.

The main focus is on work and family  - and Wednesday morning meditation group - the glue that helps me manage work and family.

Yes to meditation. Every morning. The Advent readings are done in clumps when clients don't show up. But meditation is a daily vitamin best done first thing in the morning, like brushing your teeth.

With a dear friend on Saturday, we went holiday shopping in Shepherdstown. I am not fond of shopping - so I can't exactly say this was normalizing for me. But, we managed by eating out.

At the Chinese restaurant, I got a little fortune cookie bit that said:
Your family is very lively.

I suppose that is true. Mental illness and addiction has a lot to do with that. But I have to say, I wondered if boring might be okay, too.

What if this means Partner's dad will stay alive much longer than we anticipate? Goodness knows, my Grandmother outlived expectations by living 10 years after her stroke - requiring almost total care and in pain for much of it.

So this morning's meditation was different. I went on-line and listened to a guided meditation lying down. The instructions were designed to bring the focus of the breath up into the body from the toes to the top of the head and into the heart space. At once, softening and attending to releasing tension, and feeling the energizing sensations of breathing throughout the body, it was delightful.

With this exercise, I remembered that I tend to use meditation and Quaker worship practices to tamp down any strong feelings, experiences, or thoughts. Yet, as I both relaxed and energized my body this morning, I can see how I have been putting an awful lot of energy into the practice of staying, no matter what.

I feel like I have created a multi-year retreat based out of my home and carried into my work and community life. This kind of practice is like the modern cross between contemplative and activist living. It also comes out of the necessary limits  of not enough ... fill in the blank. Of testing myself with: what do I really need? And learning, what is already abundantly available here?

I experienced my tension and where it was held. I could see where I had created armor around parts of my self and how this impacted my relationships. What have I been doing to help others maintain their own stuff as a way to avoid my own inner pulse? With all of the suffering and death surrounding me, I want to fully live.

And in the deepest part of my heart, I came into contact with the love that I have to give, am waiting to give, and wish that I knew how better to engage with.

My mind flashes an image. The words Crazy Love. Visual image of a pretzel. Not so much crazy wisdom. I'm not looking for trouble, just a better world. Perhaps I will become the lively family member that the fortune cookie warned me about!

Won't you join me?