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, February 6, 2011

Making progress

From Yoga Body
I found the perfect meditation bench this week. For many years when I meditated, I used a futon and zabuton as the person pictured here on the left is doing. What I discovered when I decided to take up meditation again is that my knees are very unhappy when I bend them out to the side and sit cross-legged. I don't know when it happened, but I remembered that I had once used another person's meditation bench and found it quite comfortable, as your knees fold under the bench. I called a few yoga places around town and was told of a local artist who makes these benches. Eberhard met me at a local store and let me try out several of his already made benches, and I found a lovely cherry wood bench that fits me exactly.

It's much easier for me to keep my back straight when my knees are pointed downwards and not bent out to the side. After finding an appropriate place to sit in my apartment, I gave it a try and found it very easy to begin again the practice of sitting. I figured I'd build up five minutes at a time, but the five minutes became a quarter of an hour without any effort. I'm looking forward to building this into my daily life. The technique I use is to follow my breath, bringing my wandering mind back again and again to the breath. Years ago I used a mantra, but somehow it doesn't feel right to me today; maybe I need another one. There are several places here in Bellingham where I can go to sit with others, if I feel the need, and my little bench is quite portable.

I got the blood work back and found that my thyroid is functioning within normal parameters. The TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) number is on the low end, and a bit lower than when it was measured two years ago, but the new doctor is reassuring about the lump most likely being a benign cyst. My worries about it have been greatly reduced, and now I think I can stop focusing on what is wrong in my life and start thinking about what is right and positive. Yesterday I wrote a post on my other blog about the trials my brother-in-law Pete and my sister Norma Jean are going through right now. He's been signed up for Hospice and has been given only a few days or weeks to live. However, Pete is wanting to defy the odds and hang on for as long as possible. Pulmonary emphysema is a real killer, but it doesn't follow an orderly pattern. The doctors are convinced he won't be around much longer, but the atmosphere in their home and his positive attitude amaze me. I think he's found a way to squeeze out every last drop of life, and I'm so proud of him.

I notice how quickly I formulate consistent patterns in my daily life, and it's interesting to see how these patterns (like writing this post every Sunday morning) give me a sense of security. Every week day I get up at the same time as when I was working and begin my day. The scary part of retirement for many people is not to have any reason to get up, and I found it scary, too. But it isn't in me not to have a place to go, something to do with my day, a sense of purpose. My days are full and varied, and there are activities stacked up waiting for me to find the time for them, if I want.

Some people, like my partner, need lots of unstructured time to create, whereas I am just the opposite. I wonder if it's something inherent within a person or a learned behavior. It rarely occurs to me that I don't have to get up at the time I do, that I don't have to take the bus to town to my local coffee shop and gym, it's just what I do during the week. It's been almost three years now, and it feels just right to me. Every Thursday is reserved for my Senior Trailblazer hikes, and whether it's raining or the sun is shining, I look forward to it with real pleasure. Every Saturday now I walk with the Fairhaven Walkers group and have coffee with the other walkers afterwards. Once the skydiving season begins again, I'll head down to Snohomish on Saturday or Sunday to spend time jumping out of airplanes with the dear friends I've made there.

Yes, I'm making progress in my life. There's no actual place to get to, or through, or around. The days show up predictably and comfortably, and I make my way through each one. My life partner shares these days with me, and mostly he goes his way and I go mine, but the sense that he is attuned to me, that we are attuned to each other, adds the final thread to completion. I am not alone on this journey, I have the love and support of my family and friends to buoy me up and allows me to soar. This must be what is meant by happiness.


Arkansas Patti said...

Went to visit your brother and am so impressed with how he is handling the journey we all must face.
I would only hope to have his grace.
So glad you have good numbers and that now you can feel some relief.

Linda Reeder said...

Your Sunday post always causes me to reflect. I guess I'm one of those who needs time and space to create. I am happy with having someplace to go maybe three times a week. I'm also happy to have a day free of having to go anywhere, so I can have plenty of time to do what I do.
What I like most about retirement is the lack of time constraints. And yet I'm still controlled by the clock. There are things I need to fit in each day, like exercise, reading the paper and listening to news, cooking dinner, blogging, facebook, email. I guess a have more of a weekly pattern than a daily pattern, but I prefer not to be too scheduled.
As for meditating, I don't know that it's for me. My mind likes to be active. I guess I like TV in the evenings because I can relax my mind and just be entertained.
Interesting post, as always. I'm glad you got good news on your thyroid.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible to have a biopsy of the lump on your thyroid? It it is, I would look into it, because you never know.

Unlike you, I don't have a good work ethic. I tend to be lazy and hate being hemmed in by a schedule. It gets done when it gets done. LOL.

On the other hand, it does get boring when there's nothing to do...

Linda said...

This is good news about your thyroid. So much for that excuse for your gained weight.

A very interesting post. It caused me to reflect. Left up to me, I would never leave the house.

I have daily things to do and I've settled into a routine and at last have found a state of happiness. It's a good feeling.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Wonderful news about your thyroid! And there's so much to mull over with this post. Your postings always force me to turn within. Thanks!

Donna B. said...

I too look forward to your Sunday posts...kind of like getting together and visiting. I pop over to your DJanity post to see what you are up to during the week, but the weekends are when I feel I get to know what is on your mind.

Very good news about the thyroid...and I am sure both you and your doctor will stay on top of it.

As you know, I am still searching for my niche...where I feel "happy" without guilt. My guilt from living 4 hours from my daughters and grandsons. It is NOT how I imagined my retirement years to be.

I spent longer being single than I have ever spent being married, so that fact is probably a big part of it...Odd, but that thought is a realization which just came to me...I will have to explore that thought...

I am some what like Smart Guy, in that I do need unstructured time to create, write, blog, connect... all solitary pursuits to a large degree...seeking company on "my terms".

I also like to get out in nature...all though, not in the way you do...I am not as adventurous as I once was... I love taking trips to the ocean... most likely from being a native Californian...

I love getting together with friends for a movie and lunch. Love that...or just hanging out...but since living here in NV for five years, I have grown even more independent and grown more comfortable spending time with myself.

Now that Mr. Clean is retired, we are wading our way through a different chapter in our marriage. In many ways, we tend to go our separate ways but also make time to be with one another.

He has agreed to the dancing, so now I await what he wants me to do for him...

Its all an adventure...and so interesting our journeys each take us to our destinations...'ya know?

I am headed over to visit with your BIL, Pete. Such a wonderful thing to hear how he and Norma Jean have been together for 50 years. AWESOME! That says so much about both of them.

Gigi said...

Wonderful news about your thyroid and finding your meditation bench. Your last two sentences really made me smile. Yes, that is happiness and I'm so glad that you have it.

Red said...

Really like your example of happiness. Keeping busy is one thing but you must participate in things that contribute to personal growth. Contact with people puts a real zing in life. We fear the loss of people contact when we retire. Keep moving or as one of my friends said to her husband, "I might have to dust you if you don't move."

#1Nana said...

"This must be what is meant by happiness." A great ending line for a thought provoking post.

One thing I have really enjoyed about retirement is not having to get up to an alarm. I do find, however, that I'm less productive when I don't have a plan about what I need to do...on the other hand, I'm retired, I can always do it tomorrow.

gayle said...

I just love reading your blog posts! Such an inspiration! I know when I retire I will have to have a daily plan or I would never get anything done.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Whatever works for you..and whatever makes you the happiest. If that is structure..good for you! I hate weeks where I have to be a certain place at a certain time..appointments and such..I used to live so structured with every minute of my day planned for me that I love finally being able to be me. I am more the spontaneous sort..lets go here or lets try this..but not on a schedule:)

Linda Myers said...

I like some structure in my life - I must, because my retirement calendar has some busy days with regular activities. I LOVE not having to get up to go to work. We have an exercise class at 8:30 a.m. three days a week, so I have to get up for that. The rest of the time is up to me.

I've finally established an exercise routine - every day but Sunday, something definite each day, but not knocking myself out.

Your yoga bench sounds interesting. I might be able to quiet my mind for a few minutes a day. Or maybe not!

Good news on your thyroid. I expect you and your new doc will work it out.

Whitney Lee said...

What a happy post. You have worked long and hard to reach a place of contentment. It's such an inspiration to me that now that you've found it, you're not content to just sit around but rather continue to push yourself forward. You continue to try to find new ways to enrich your body and your spirit, new ways to challenge your mind, new ways to learn what others have to teach. I so admire you and hope to be as true to myself (and as loving to myself) as you are.

I am comforted to hear about your thyroid. I'm glad to know it's likely benign. Are you going to leave it at that for now?

It's really nice that you and Smart Guy have found a way for your separate styles to coexist. I tend to need flexible structure. Most of what I do is based on the kids' schedules. They are young enough that it's constantly changing. Actually, everything I do revolves around what everyone else is doing or needing. I think if I were to try to have a set day to blog, for example, I'd end up feeling guilty because something would invariably arise. In a lot of ways I have to be incredibly flexible in my world while providing a pretty structured schedule for the kids. Don't read me wrong-I love it (even when I complain).

I enjoy that you have structure because I like knowing that I will find you here on Sundays or that I'll read about your adventures on Thursday evenings. I like that you're dependable. Don't feel pressured though; I'd like you even if you skipped a Sunday or didn't post your hike until Saturday. I promise:) I hope you have a great week.

Friko said...

Thank you for following Friko's World.

This post is very calm and life-affirming. You are a marvellous person. I went over to your other blog and read about you losing your boys, it's heartbreaking.

In spite of all the sadness in your life, your attitude remains positive, I am totally in awe of you.

Yoga and meditation must help a lot. I had to give up because of creaking knees, but using a little bench might make it possible again for me too.

I am glad I found you.

Robert the Skeptic said...

I am in that creative lull and it is making me antsy. Unstructured time is fine but if I don't have anything meaningful to till it I get stressed. The blogging and keeping up with blogs is filling my time and my brain.

I envy your ability to do Yoga. I am too impatient to sit quietly long enough to gain any advantage from it.

Davine said...

This is my first time visiting your blog and I have really enjoyed reading thru the last few posts. I must say I love the meditation stool - I think I will have to see if I can find one in Australia. My knees and back may just thank me.

CiCi said...

The meditation bench would so much more comfortable for sure. When I worked a stressful job I spent one hour every morning doing Yoga for myself. I was relaxed and limber and prepared to face the day when my hour was up. I do exercises now more like walking and some aerobics.

Nancy said...

You have a very fulfilling life, I can tell. You've created that for yourself. Good for you. Now I'm off to read your other post.