Cobblestones….

A quiet day yesterday. One year since my wife of 28 years (partner for 30) died in Tekoa, WA at the age of 66. Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and for the last two years acute onset of end stage renal failure. She stopped dialysis and was told she would die in 4-6 days. 15 months later, she died, I think peacefully, right in front of me. Actually, that’s not totally accurate.

The day she died I had gone home from the care facility she was in for the last month of her life, for some dinner and to feed the dog and cat. On my way out the door to go back to care center, I thought, I’ll take the Big Book (AA tome), and read her something.

When I got to her room she was laying flat on her back, which was not correct, but they had just bathed her so I elevated the head of bed; I stood at the end of the bed and intoned one of the prayers from the Big Book to her. She had been quite tense and sort of grimacing from the bathing and being left flat on her back and was physically uncomfortable. Several days before she had been left her on a bed pan all night, which created a huge circular wound on her buttocks, so she was tense/apprehensive from all that activity too. She was being medicated so probably wasn’t in pain, the stress of dying after many years of enduring great pain was the issue at this point.  She hadn’t eaten in about five days and took only small amounts of water to wet her throat.

When I finished reciting the prayer to her, she relaxed visibly. She sort of settled into the mattress. It was a relief, all around.

I then set a chair next to her bed and just sat there watching her. There was a knock and and a call from the door; one of the nurses aides, a nice young guy with whom I’d only had one little conversation, came in and said he wanted to change the catheter bag. As he was doing that he started telling me a story of his experience with the death of two of his relatives. I forget the details but he was speaking form the heart as he worked, so I listened and watched him. At some point I turned to look at Linda and I realized, Oh, she’s dying, right now. and I turned to tell the young aide that we had a situation, but I saw that he was in the middle of opening his heart. I listened for about another minute and he finished his task and story and quietly left. When I turned back; Linda was dead.

I intoned some Buddhist scriptures, two Exhortations to the Mortally Ill and Dying, and the Scripture of Great Wisdom (Heart Sutra), and told the duty nurse that Linda had died and called our friend Reverend Master Zensho, a priest and monk of our Sangha/Order who lived over in Idaho. He had made all the preparation over a year before. He arrived through a snow storm about 2-3 hours later and we did the Buddhist funeral for a lay person. In that ceremony the deceased is ordained as a Buddhist monk and then prepared for the Funeral. The care center had given us permission to use incense and such and when we were done (it took about an hour and a half), we called the funeral home in town just a block from our house and the Funeral director came and we transported Linda to his place.

I want to say that the help Linda received at that care home was terrific and compassionate. A couple of mistakes were made, but those were all in the human realm. Everyone there did their absolute best. The Funeral director couldn’t have been more compassionate. He understood we were sort of “special needs” as Buddhists (they are not exactly thick upon the ground In far Eastern Washington State), and was caring, professional, attentive and flexible. We knew him and his wife because of the small town (pop. 886) in fact I can’t imagine a better place for Linda to have spent her last nine years of life.

God bless you, good folks of Tekoa!

Anyway, at some point I’ll write more about the process and funeral and cremation and ash distribution and the general aftermath of this death within the human condition. For this post, I just want to say that “they” are right. It takes about a year for things to settle down sufficiently in order to begin to grasp what the reality of the loss is.

I will say this. I went off the rails for a while and made some mistakes; but life and the help of good spiritual friends and the compassion of many good people in my life helped me to regain perspective and tread more carefully the path laid so compassionately under my feet.

Linda, I miss you.

We cobbled together a darn good 30 years. For a couple of drunks who met at an AA meeting and had nothing; we did magnificently. We both stayed sober. We helped each other to grow …

Thank you. I love you.

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Going to H E Double-Hockey-Sticks…

Way too busy the last few days. Last Wednesday while having lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant, Connie’s Cantina on Grand Ave. in Oakland, my truck window was smashed and my Buddhist robe and kesa and two computers were stolen, The computers were underneath the Robe/Kesa cloth bag they travel in, so they were a bonus to an otherwise useless item to the guys who took the cloth bag. Life in the big city. Karma.

Things are going to H-E Double-Hockey-Sticks; in a handbasket:)

After several days of  back and forth between destinations on crowded freeways; last night I managed to collapse from exhaustion, literally. At least I hope that’s all it was, besides unnerving, that is. I have to remember I’m no Spring chicken. Hell, I’m an Autumn chicken.

These are the times when when the gratitude for my life really kicks in. To have gotten to this point, and relatively sane and healthy, is pretty fortunate; considering how I squandered my earlier years in pursuit of a fast life. Turns out it wasn’t really fast, more like hectic and careening.

Today I have another opportunity to practice seeing life as it presents itself each day.

THIS is four days later. Things have settled down quite a bit. After a phone call to a physician friend I was able to get some perspective on collapsing. She is a great doctor and and good friend and a terrific diagnostician. She asked about twenty questions and they were logically sequential and in a way sort of daunting because they challenged short term memory and exposed squeamishness about personal details. After all, she is a friend not my doctor. Then again, I don’t really have a lot to hide. Then again (part 2) there are things in my past that I can’t/won’t talk about, because there is no inherent value in discussing them. I have a feeling, (it may be a mistake to keep it), that some things are meant to be processed internally, or held closely. The preceding sentence may come as a shock to those who know me personally, and who may have, on very rare occasion, harbored a thought along the lines of “Does he ever not say what’s running across that little brain?”

Anyway, I want to include this poem I found in my computer that I got from a Dharma talk given some years ago at Shasta Abbey.

Lord, Thou knowest better than I knowest myself that I am growing older and will someday be Old.
Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.
Release me from craving to straighten out everyones affairs, make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy—-
With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity to not use it all. But, thou knowest Lord that I want a few friends at the end.
Keep my mind free from creating of endless details—Give me wings that I may get to the point.
Seal my lips on my aches and pains—They are increasing and the love of rehearsing them grows sweeter as the years go by.
I dare not ask for Grace enough to enjoy the tales of others pains, but help me to endure them with patience—
I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memory of others.
Teach me the glorious lesson, that occassionaly I may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably sweet, I do not want to be a saint, some of them are so hard to live with. But, a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the Devil.
Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places and talents in unexpected people, and give me, Oh Lord, the Grace to tell them so.

 

 

(D)construction

A lot going on, as in a variety of things, forces, karma’s, opportunities, opening doors, doors closing, new doors and, some windows I hadn’t noticed before; Appearing.

It looks like it will be a busy year.

I expect to be involved in trying to set up a small retirement/affordable-housing community for serious religious (probably Buddhist but not necessarily), people who would like to live in a quiet setting in an urban environment, and are physically well enough to not require a “care” or medical living situation. So, a potential for doing good with lots of complex issues that would have to be resolved beforehand and with many unforeseen complications inherent.

I am also getting involved in trying to set a meditation group with a general orientation towards those people involved in 12-Step type of programs. This group would be under the auspices of a Buddhist group that is already organized and well attended in Napa. The view is that it may be good that the more secular or non-religious 12-Step folks can avail themselves of a meditation practice that is not presented as religious (i.e. Buddhist, or other), but has overt implications for the practice of the conscious contact with a power greater than themselves, component of the 12-Step process. So, this too has potential for good but, like all things, contains within itself the potential for the opposite, having within it room for a paralyzing array of opinion and mindsets.

Also, I am hoping to resolve the divesting of my house and property in Tekoa this year. I am (as I suspected) not really willing to be a “landlord”. I worry too much. Fortunately, the person who is renting the house wants to buy it and is a good friend who seems to feel very at home there.

I have made the decision to stay in the Bay area for at least for 2-3 years to work on the above endeavors and see what unfolds in terms of my spiritual life and training. I went to a serious Taoist practitioner of acupuncture the other day for a treatment and was a bit startled by the effects. I will go twice more to try and triangulate my experience and then decide whether to go on with this particular practitioner or explore others. This is all in conjunction of my ramping up of my Wushu Chi-gong practice. The ramping up is actually a refining, but I want to find the right person to guide me in that; Ive been at it for many years but I think I need to get a little more age appropriate.

In the meantime the feeling if gratitude continues to grow. To be alive and aware in a world that is presented to us for our own good is a miracle on the one hand, and oh so ordinary, on the other hand. The gratitude takes in and reflects both the everyday and miraculous aspects; and, here’s the beauty of it all.                                                              The common, and the miraculous, are one and the same.

                                                      The human body   is   85%

Water.  90%  is composed of

Bacteria, viruses, microphages

And little beasties that are not

Us, we, or me, or you. Without

 Them  there is no We, Me, You, I, 

Or Thou. Or It.

       Only ten percent of our body is our very own DNA.

 Within the common

 Miracle of existence  there  is  only  this

 Life.  For now.  Nothing special.  Yet,

  Something,  Is going on,  will always  go

   On,  and On;   and gravity is explained by

   What it does,   yet   no one knows  How  it, or

   Love,   for that matter,  works.

    What is the Mystery?    

  Why?   Why not?   I ask.

 

That’s enough!

This Saturday we are having a memorial service for a long time temple supporter. He was a committed Catholic and a generous and enthusiastic participant in our Sangha. He never made a big deal about having his feet planted in two religions. He saw the deeper truths and that they applied to all religions. A life well lived and based on openness and generosity. He died gracefully. May you be at peace, wherever you are Larry.

I was listening to my internal litany of complaints the other day, that endless subtext scrolling across our minds 24/7. Usually in the back ground, thankfully; nevertheless it informs our relationship to the world and our interaction with it. We can change its tone, pitch, repetition rate, insistence and can, if we work at it, help convert that litany of complaint into one of gratitude.

That’s what happened for me the other day. Once again I had gotten caught up in a mental state of complaint. I then realized that 90 percent of the human population would gladly take on my complaints in exchange for theirs.

But, there is more, as they say on the kitchen gizzmo ads on TV.

The more was that my relationship to my complaints changed instantly into one of immense gratitude. It was based on this simple idea.

Only humans have the ability to discern the world as if there were some sort of lack in their lives, i.e. reason for complaint. That means I’m merely and magnificently human.

I am aware.

I can be more aware.

There is a larger context for my awareness.

I can change.

I will change whether I want to change or not.

I can participate in my change.

I have endless opportunity. Options.

The condition I live in may be hard or impossible to change,

but the condition of my mind can always be improved.

What a gift.

Content.   Sufficient.   Adequate.

That’s me.            That’s Enough.

mixing pounds and sense…

A manager learns how to do things right.

A leader does the right thing.

In the spiritual life the above principles

don’t stand against each other.

They depend on a good teacher.

An encounter with the truth.

First we learn how to do things. Not think things.

Then, after a period of time of trying to do things right we naturally become able to Lead a good life.

Like a simple recipe.

One Pound of Butter.

One Pound of Eggs.

One Pound of Flour.

Those ingredients do

Not a cake Make.

Unless Mixed and put

In the Oven to Bake.