I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Memorial Day 2017

Vanilla leaf in flower
It has been almost too hot for some of us fragile Pacific Northwestern types this weekend. Yesterday here in Bellingham it was above 80°F (28°C), almost twenty degrees warmer than average. We have at least a few more days like this, but hopefully yesterday was the peak of this heat wave. I know that calling this a heat wave makes some of my friends smile, because for some it is perfect, not too hot, not too cold. This is the first time in Washington state that we have had a Memorial Day weekend with weather like this, since at least 1995, twenty-two years ago.

Yesterday I joined my Saturday walking group on a trip to Lummi Island, and it was just perfect, since most of the time we were on the water with a gentle cool breeze moderating the temperature. I myself was so pleased that I am well on the way toward regaining my previous ability to walk at a brisk pace for several miles. It's true that I felt my hip for most of the time we walked, but it didn't impede me at all. One of the walkers I haven't seen for ages: Flora doesn't join us often, but she is 85 years old and I could not keep up with her at all! I could see her in front of me, and I applaud her stamina and determination. She's an inspiration.

This week I learned about the Five Remembrances and have been practicing this Buddhist meditation for several days now. There are several versions of the Five Remembrances, but the one I like the best is from Thich Naht Hanh, a ninety-year-old Buddhist monk who lives in France but has traveled extensively during his life to give talks on peace and harmony. He has written many books, some of which I read earlier in my life. I feel as though I have just rediscovered him.

Back to the Five Remembrances. What are they all about? They help us to embrace the realities of life. We all will grow old, get sick, and die. There is no escape. When we contemplate them daily, we get a perspective on life that is skillful and wholesome. Here is Thich Naht Hanh's version:
1. I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old. 
2. I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health. 
3. I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death. 
4. All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them. 
5. My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.
I found this wonderful article online, which I also want to share with you. It's from Yoga Journal, and it's an article written in 2007. I enjoyed it and have read it several times now, trying to understand the Five Remembrances better. From that article:
Once you accept the reality of impermanence, you begin to realize that grasping and clinging are suffering, as well as the causes of suffering, and with that realization you can let go and celebrate life. The problem is not that things change, but that you try to live as if they don't.
I have the most difficulty with the one that reminds me that all that is dear to me and everyone I love will be separated from me. Maybe it's because I have already dealt with that one more than most, having lost both of my children. It's normal for someone my age to have lost their parents, but having to find my way twice through the grief I experienced through loss changed me forever. Frank Boccio, who wrote that piece, gives this advice:
Another way of practicing the Five Remembrances is through something Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh calls hugging meditation. When your partner or children leave for work or school, hug each other for three full breaths, and remind yourself of the Fourth Remembrance.
I've started doing that with my husband. We discussed the practice and he agrees that it's a good idea to celebrate our connection with hugs and appreciation of one another. It's funny that in just a day or two, I've already noticed how much my feeling of gratitude for him has emerged. Gone are the little disruptions that never mattered anyhow, and in their place is a sense of peace and happiness for the moment we share. Just three breaths while hugging.

But the one that really gets me is the final one, that my only true belongings are my actions. The only thing that doesn't leave me, as it says, is that I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. Now that's a realization I didn't have before. But it's true, isn't it? As I sit here on a sunny Sunday morning writing my post, it occurs to me that maybe out there in the ether there is someone who also needs to hear this today. I know it shifted something important inside my own mental processes, realizing that whatever happens in the world today, it will be different tomorrow. It is of the nature to change.

It is also comforting to think of my actions as the ground upon which I stand. As long as I am alive, I will act, and if I can think of it in positive terms, my actions will become more and more aligned with the Universe, and my actions will come from love and charity, rather than fear and dread. It's really freeing to realize that I can direct my mind to align with the light. That will be my task until we meet again next week, to put it all into practice and see what comes of it.

I will spend tomorrow remembering. Memorial Day and the Five Remembrances are uppermost in my thoughts right now. I know that you, dear reader, will be there also, somewhere out there in the world, hopefully at least taking a look at how much we can improve our lives with a little remembrance of what a fabulous thing life is. And we all have it, right now, right this minute! Yay for us.

My dear love lies next to me, breathing softly. My tea is gone, and the day is beginning to call to me. I hope you will think about the Five Remembrances for a little while today and hopefully even read the article. Until we meet again next week, I hope you will be well and that you will hug your loved ones, or if you have no one around you, wrap your arms around yourself for those three breaths and think of me sending you my love and appreciation. Blessings to you.


Marie Smith said...

Everything changes. The hardest one for me. Watching my grand babies I'd like to keep us all at the ages we are now. Growth comes with embracing watever the age of those you love and yourself and enjoying that time. My head and heart are not together yet.

Thinking of you this Memorial Day weekend, Jan.

John's Island said...

I smiled when you mentioned, “it occurs to me that maybe out there in the ether there is someone who also needs to hear this today.” That would be me! :-) I very much enjoyed reading about the Five Remembrances. And thank you for the link to the article, Embrace Reality: Five Remembrances Meditation. You have introduced me to the Five Remembrances and I appreciate that quite a lot! Thank you DJan! Wishing you and SG a fine Memorial Day weekend.

Elephant's Child said...

This is SUCH a powerful post. Gentle wisdom. Thank you so very much.

Bonnie said...

Thank you DJan. Your Sunday posts always help me. ; ) The phrase "My actions are the ground upon which I stand." really does say a lot.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Red said...

You picked an idea that fits very well with Memorial Day. The one about your actions not leaving you is pretty deep.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Interesting thoughts on separation. For many years I have intuitively felt that there is not total separation as we are all interconnected to our cosmos and I personally feel vibes from souls who departed physically. It happens at odd times and I am able to recognize who it is. Thus I suppose I too will have a spiritual kind of pwer connecting to those I might need to. Buddy and I talk about these extra powers and like me he has had moments as have my daughters, my aunt and my paternal grandpa. My mother also believed this but never spoke of any occurences. She recently visited me (2 nights ago) and suggested her sister will be joining her soon. In fact the two were in a happy embrace at a place not familiar to me yet welcoming. We shall see how it pans out. Her sister is almost 96 and we visited her in December 2015 in Hannover.
At times when you speak to your plants have you ever felt energy back? I have had moments when a bird in a tree has had me stop and look up and listen very deeply as if we knew each other. Weird? Maybe but the energy between us suggests an interaction took place. I know of others who like me have had these kind of interactions. While mine is based only on my intuition since scientific studies in paranormal energy continue I tend to accept there is truth to my sources.

Linda Reeder said...

It's now late on Sunday evening as I read this. You have long ago gone to bed. I will soon. I have had a full day. My hotel Internet is not allowing me to post about what my sister and I shared today. That will have to wait until I get back home. Today was about remembering. Tomorrow my eyes will be filled with beauty. I will try to remember to cherish every fleeting moment and image.

The Broad said...

This post is just so wonderful. It leaves me with so much to think about, to meditate about -- I thank you so much for your generosity of spirit and soul.

Mary said...

Thanks for this post. I envy the poster above who feels so vividly the connections of the cosmos and people who are gone. I too believe in that concept, but have never been fortunate to "feel" it.

Arkansas Patti said...

I love the idea of making the hug less of a casual thing and more of a deliberate, thoughtful one. I noticed that SG went from "your partner gently snoring beside you" as normal to "My dear love lies next to me, breathing softly." It's working.

Rita said...

Thank you.
I believe in those truths.
Three breath hug. :)

Dee said...

Dear DJan, thank you for sharing the five remembrances and for your thoughts on them and also for the link. I will go there. What you wrote speaks so strongly to me right now. I needed to read your post. Thank you. Mom used to hug my brother and me before we went off to school. And she taught always to hug one another before we walked out the door into the world beyond. It was a gift she gave to us each day.

I have watched an ad recently that also spoke to me about the differences in my life now that my skin cancer (cutaneous T-cell lymphoma) has reactivated and my glaucoma leaves me unable to drive any longer. The words that end the commercial--about cancer--are the following: "The way she lives now is her new normal because a lot has changed, but a lot hasn't." That's a lesson I'm trying to learn. Now I'll go to that link. Peace.

Cynthia said...

Thank you for sharing the Five Remembrances. It's something we all know, that everything in this world is not permanent, but sometimes a little different wording changes the perspective a little bit. "I am of the nature ..." says "this is the way we are supposed to be, it's not a fault in our creation, it's not in our power to change it so don't waste time and energy wishing it were different." Thich Naht Hanh is such a wise man and a gift to the world.

C-ingspots said...

My grandma used to tell me that, "the only thing constant in life, is change". She was a wise woman. Since I was a young woman, I've tried to keep this near and dear to my heart. It helps my perspective, and I always think of my grandma.

Sally Wessely said...

Beautiful and inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

Far Side of Fifty said...

The problem is not that things change, but that you try to live as if they don't. We are learning to slow down. There is an old song "Slow down you move to fast, gotta make the morning last! " My husband is mourning the loss of his 17 year old self...makes no sense to me those teen age years sucked!
I like the idea of hugging someone for three breaths...thank you :)