Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Postponed Due to Ice Formations

This weekend, I was planning to post my interview with Jess Row, a Zen practitioner who is included in this years Best American Short Stories.  Then someone in my family got sick...an illustration of the Buddha's First Noble Truth.
Enlightenment available in the gift shop?
Traditionally, Buddha is supposed to have given his first "sermon" at a place called Deer Park in what is now Varanasi, India, a several-thousand-years-old city.  He laid out the Four Noble Truths, the basic principles of Buddhism, which are deceptively simple.

The first Noble Truth is that life involves "dukka"--a Pali word that is  often translated as "suffering," but there's more to it.  It involves acceptance that impermanence (change, illness, birth) is in the nature of all things.

Recently my husband told me he was sad about something that impacts both of us in a similar way (this was before the illness hit). I'm the tough guy in the family--I told him that what makes him sad is for me a matter of thrusting my head forward, moving on, getting the job done...like a solider in combat. Sometimes I like my icy heart; it makes me feel strong.  After we had this conversation, I went upstairs and meditated for half an hour. Right nowI'm using a guided meditation download from Dharmaseed where you pay gentle attention to emotions and simultaneous feelings in the body.  As I sat, I noticed a pain in my chest.  It opened, got a little heavy, shifted a bit, but it didn't go away. When you look for an emotion in the body, it's  hard to locate. Maybe some of that freezing is actually breaking me open.

Sometimes when plants freeze, frozen sap splits the stem open. Capillary action forces more sap out, which freezes on contact with air, causing flower-like formations. If I were made completely of ice, I wouldn't be able to move.

Today, I visited the person who is sick. It's hard to see someone so weak and suffering. We have had a rocky history, although recent years have brought a peaceful, uneventful relationship with no great closeness.  Something odd happened today; as I was leaving, the sick person said she loved me, and then, thinking I didn't hear, she repeated it with great tenderness.  When I got home, my daughter asked me if she had ever said that before. I thought for a while, then I said, "Maybe not."  I cried, then my daughter cried. 

In some ways, it would be easier to write the sick person off as insensitive, uncaring.  If she's lonely, isn't it because she's chosen to isolate herself from other people?  But what affect would that attitude have--on me, on my family, on the situation my husband and I are worried about?

It's pretty obvious that life is impermanent.  A no-brainer. But what is our relationship to that truth?

2 comments:

Catherine Stine said...

Lovely post. Must have been a wonder to hear it. Love never dies.

HelenQP said...

Thank you...it's lovely to receive feedback.