Today is frigid. 7 degrees without wind chill. I turned up the heat in the room where the pipes burst about 7 years ago, and Hubby is making banana bread. Except for depositing one check, I think all of my serious work is done for the day.
Pup isn’t limping anymore. He’s bouncing off the walls wanting to do longer hikes now. When I take him out, he’s practically doing cartwheels he feels so deliciously happy not being sick. I’ll give him another couple of days recovery at least before I run him. I think the end of the world in New England will come in the form of an invasion of lethal ticks. The new tick-borne illnesses have increased in the past few years and they’re all really bad news.
I have zip loc bags placed all over the house with assortments of tick removal devices and scotch tape so we can grab the ticks off when we see them. I wrap the tick in scotch tape and throw it away. Other people throw them in fireplaces or toilets, and those methods don’t kill the ticks (well, the tape might not kill them either, it probably just tortures them until they starve to death or suffocate).
My other dog was an 85-pound lab. He would attract ticks all over his body — between his toes, in his ears, buried deep in the under down of his coat. Current Pup is a 45-pound black and brown short-haired island mutt, so it’s fairly simple to find the ticks on him. However, he was infected as a little puppy so we always knew he would be prone to a recurrence, even with Frontline applications all year around.
On a completely separate note, in my search for spirituality and myself, I think I’ve given up on the traditional Tibetan Buddhist study. I’m finding that the Zen Buddhism teachings are a lot more accessible to me than Tibetan Buddhism, which is steeped in the original traditions.
I had my Buddhas all neatly placed on a shelf, careful to put them above my head out of respect. Zen doesn’t believe you should meditate on anything but your breath and a blank wall. So I took all of my Buddhist statues and spread them around the house. I have a couple overlooking my yoga mat on the floor and a couple on my windowsill in the office. It’s much nicer to have them blessing my house than to cram them into my meditation closet, to sit there silently while I stare 4 feet in front of me on the floor without acknowledging them.
I’ve been reading about the breath so much, that I’ve taken serious thought to watching my breath. Whenever I sit, I think of my breath as the root of all of the answers, and I tell myself that no monkey thinking is as important at that moment than the breath. I listen to it to see if it whispers anything to me. I have reasoned that my imaginary friend Krishna who has been helping me in my meditations is reallly a form of me, and if he is me, then he is also my breath. Therefore, whenever I need to see him, I watch my breath.
There is something very magical about the breath, but I’m also doing something else differently. I’m doing a more formal position in my sitting meditation. Back straight, top of the head pointed up to the ceiling, breathing from the abdoment, and hands held at navel level with left middle finger over right and thumbs lightly touching. Elbows pointing out a little.
I’ve been reading about this sitting posture in several books, and I think the reason for it is twofold. First, it allows your body to sit in perfect alignment so it can sit for a longer time without fatigue, and secondly I think it opens up the nervous system to allow for the meditative signals to flow throughout the body and into the brain.
Even when I walk or jog, I keep the formal meditation posture in mind, keeping my back straight and looking down with the back of my neck elongated. The Chi Running method is very meditative in that respect. It’s all about finding the running position that is relaxed and gentle on the knees and body. When the weather gets better and I’m not trudging through icy footprints I’ll go back to Chi Running.
The one thing about Buddhism and Eckhart Tolle (Who I’m currently reading — He’s not a Buddhist, he’s just a very grounded person who is non-sectarian. His teachings are directed towards Westerners.) is that it is very hard work to do your own search to find your inner soul. Unlike Christianity, there’s no one who hands you the answers (There are so many times for this reason I’ve wanted desperately to buy into Christianity, but it’s become a burdensome religion. Huge, conflicting messages, political, violent at times. Formalized religions are due for an overhaul.). You can read books, go to sangha (group) meetings, and talk to people, but ultimately the answers lie in your own personal search. If you don’t want to wander around lost, asking questions and having people respond “You have to search within yourself for those answers”, then the teachings will always be words whose understanding will always be out of your reach, because you’ll be half-listening all the while imposing your opinions or daydreaming or whatever your monkey mind is telling you. It’s like yoga. If you practice Patricia Walden or Rodney Yee yoga, for the first 3 or 4 months you’re just listening to their cryptic instructions. Once your muscles reach a certain comprehension, instructions like “move your outer thigh back and pubic bone down” make sense and you have an “aha!” experience. Same is true for meditation. Once you have a certain degree of clarity, some of the books make sense in a deeper way.
I’m not saying I’m there, because I’m not. I find myself still wandering around lost and full of doubt about myself. Anyone who has been reading my blog knows that I’m hardly saintly. But sequestering myself has been great at giving me the silence to keep reminding myself “come back to the breath and the present moment and don’t worry about anything else.”
What do I expect to happen? Nothing, I suppose, since that’s looking into the future and not being in the present. So the trick is not to expect answers. Just sit with the breath. And sit. And sit. With faith that this is the right path for me.