For sisters of all consider together.

Mediations and reflections, meanderings and meanings...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hope-walking on the Middle Path...with Deer Scat & Shadows

My mate is going to head back to Indiana to unravel a knot of worry about children, financial shenanigans and the shit literally hitting a fan of sorts in the crawlspace of the house we left behind. I mean ta tell ya.....

But what I want to tell you is about this moment when he confirmed the trip with me and I replied--with no irony intended (pre-coffee, folks, pre-coffee)--  "I'll have to be the Hope-walker, then."

Gentle (pre-coffee) amusement ensued as we considered what might be implicated in being a "Hope-walker."  The subject of this metaphysical hilarity, however, is a very physical Hope--our innocently recalcitrant, entirely devoted, and slightly difficult 2 1/2 year old lab/terrier mix.

Pema Chodron, one of my favorite Buddhist writers, says that hope is a subtle betrayal of the present.  There is a despairing little soul in me that whines "yes, okay but....really?" Because--come on--what the heck is one to do in this deadly mix of bodily challenges, psychic puzzles and maddeningly disappearing socks, spoons, and glacial ice?  No hope?  Surely not.

Hope came into our lives cupped in the hands of the across-the-street neighbor.  She had two offerings and we picked the one she'd already named Hope.  The other one seemed lethargic (oy vey--what I wouldn't give for a bit of canine lethargy now) and we knew we'd picked well when Mark came home and sighed, "I guess we have to take her; the topic of this morning's meeting was hope."  It all turned super-mystical months later when the woman casually mentioned that the other pup had been named "Whiskey."
Of course.
So now we have Hope who actually never betrays the present because she is entirely about the present...and a little bit about that squirrel out there under the pine tree.

I, on the other hand,  have a rather finely honed sense of despair. For example, something as small as a lag in response to an email can convince me I am on the brink of 1. losing a friend 2. losing my job 3. some son's loss of  job, friend, gpa or limb.  I'm also in physical pain a goodly amount of time.  It puts a pall on things.  And then, conversely, there are these hopeful emotions born of anticipation and glee--about to take off for the ocean, the prospect of bed time after a long day, the vision of my dissertation finished, the thought of an holiday, an African American Democrat about to become President, the immanent opening of a beautiful child education center.  These things seem to be sourced in hope.  What to do with that gap?  Am I betraying the present when I aim for good works for the future?  If I don't hope does that leave only despair?

It feels like it.  It does.

Little Sweets from Royal Art Lodge
I can veer so easily into a wasteland of vibrational worry--a veritable landscape of doom quaking me to a 7.0 on the richter scale of "we're all being poisoned, lied to and shoved over a cliff...oh and don't forget about global climate change." In the absence of hope I turn immediately to fear. Perhaps the hope that betrays the present is a hope that primitively clamors away from fear.
Well yeah, we're all gonna die.  Seriously, that's the truth and it is worthy of a clamor or two.  And--heavens, yes--there have been and are some grand disasters of cruelty, mayhem and apocalyptic indifference--always have been..... And yet....Here's a story that might help to soften this dichotomous thinking:

I am enjoying my new abode, these days.  My pretty things are arranged just so,   and it is easy to look at the corner in the living room and think--"that lamp I saw at Shopko sure would brighten it up." And then, puritan descendant that I am, I think of the comfortable families in so many pre-war worlds where their biggest worry one day was whether they had lost a piece of china, or had more horses than the neighboring tribe or ...well you get my drift.  Today I worry about lamplight, tomorrow I could be worrying about light in general, right?

That's a reality check on attachment and desire--which I suspect are the trickster twins whispering in hope's ear. That reality check is a helpful course correction.  But if I live there, it's fear--it pastes the past onto the future and completely forecloses the present.

When I think of the truly joy-filled moments in my life I realize that they are just that--moments.  Often, indeed usually, I could never have HOPED for such a moment because such joy, true blissful joy, is simply beyond my imagination and emerges in subtle, surprising, sneakily mundane ways.  Real joy transcends the material that might comprise it and becomes an illuminated glimpse of timelessness--sunlight, a kiss, the aha of a perfect line, velvet of a newborn's skin,... a laugh, the spin in dance, a curtain arcing gauzily in the breeze, the smell of bread....and it is none of transcends these vehicles, suffusing them and shining through, beyond.And all I have to do is notice.

In this moment, this very moment, what do I find?  More and more often...when I pause and still the fear AND the hope....I find okayness.  And in a world of lost socks, lost spoons, lost glacial ice and ever-present genocide, okayness is a kind of ecstasy.  In a body that wakes in pain, okayness is pleasure.  In a world where mayhem shifts our ground from detail to survival in overnight coups...okayness is deep luxurious union with the divine.

I am worried about my mate driving 600 miles home.  We glimpsed our mortality in a car accident en route just months ago.  I am worried about living a few days alone here--my mind can torture me without the fresh air of another mind.  But those are fears--they are the converse of hope. Hope, on the other hand, naively bounds forward, tail waggingly sure she will find the deer that left scat along the trail. If I bound with her, I might find the deer but I'm more likely to find more scat and my torn meniscus in my tired right knee. 

And yet, right now, Hope the dog is attending closely to the wind as it shifts the weather, the chimes leaving  delicious belling trails across our air.  I am, too.

I can be a Hope-walker--keeping her from bounding thoughtlessly into traffic in pursuit of the scent of something not here. I can be a Hope-walker--keeping her close to my side so she doesn't panic and snap in fear at the sight of  a looming shadow of other.   I can tread the middle path between fear and hope as a Hope-walker.  I can notice the leaves dancing, rejoice in the juiciness of squirrel play and sniff the wind just for the fun of finding wind.  And that will remind me that I am most joyous and at peace when I am an okayness-dweller. 

Let your body find a comfortable position, supported and relaxed.  Slowly settle through breathing--in and out--"breathing in I relax my body, breathing out I smile."  Take several of these nourishing breaths--in.........out.... Let the out breath wash away worry.  Let the in breath notice the new space in you. 

Notice the little vibrations of thinking backward and forward that tempt you out of this breathing moment,, notice the shadings of fear and hope. Find a fear and notice it's tether to the past, how it echoes a trauma or sorrow that has already happened, casting that shadow onto the future.  Spend a moment softening to this, having compassion for that understandable perception and--like a thread binding point to point, that gets gently unknotted-- see it sag, get loose as your attention relaxes it.  No need to push against it or unbind it, it will loosen and that is enough.

Now find a hope and notice how desire and attachment to outcomes have tightened that thread to the future, making it a stricture instead of a guide.  Hope is understandable. Let it be acceptable. Loosen your grip on it and it can fly like a prayer flag, offering a signal and a blessing.  Ahhhh.

Notice how NOW is the intersection of many threads of hope and fear and that by letting them loosen you gain space and breath--the here-ness of here, the now-ness of now.  Breathe in and notice the here and the now. Notice details like light, temperature, scents, the small sounds of life. You are in the true womb of what might yet be. Breath gives your gestation life-force.  Space gives your emergent dance new freedoms.  

Breathe... Breathe... Breathe.....What is there to celebrate here?  Now?  How delicious is this?  What delights fill in the new openness?  Unbound from past and future, yet held gently in the now, you can contemplate your beingness with new eyes, gentled muscle, a sense of ...yes....okay...yes.

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