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, December 5, 2021

Winter on the way

Mushroom in the snow

We have been having more strange fall weather, with temperatures so warm it has often felt a little like late summer or early spring. But that all changed a day or so ago, when the temperatures dropped to normal, and our rain has begun to be mixed with a little snow. For the first time in ages I've seen frosty plants as I walk to the bus.

Outside right now, before dawn, it's just below freezing, and by the time I walk out the door, I expect it will be quite nice, since there is no rain falling for a change. Yesterday's Saturday walk was a wet one, but it wasn't pouring, so we felt quite ready for it. I really need to get out in order to keep my spirits up, and these days when it's dry, I feel happy to leave my rain gear behind and work up a sweat.

I've been reading an interesting book: Cave in the Snow by Vicki MacKenzie, about a woman who was born Diane Perry in England but became known as Tenzin Palmo, a Buddhist seeker who ended up living for twelve years in a Himalayan cave at 13,000 feet elevation, completely isolated from everything and everyone, and loved it. One of the things about Tenzin Palmo that interested me is that we are the same age, and she is still around. These days, though, she is running a monastery for Buddhist nuns and traveling around giving speeches about her journey.

Since I've become interested in Buddhism, I wondered if there are any females who were equivalent to the Dalai Lama. Although she isn't there yet, I suspect she will maybe find enlightenment in this life, or maybe the next. I'm still not sure whether I really believe in reincarnation, but just like any possible existence after death, there isn't any foolproof way to prove any of it. That said, apparently the Dalai Lama is the 14th reincarnation of the original guy, Gendün Drubpa. 
I started out really young, when I was four, five, six, writing poems, before I could play an instrument. I was writing about things when I was eight or 10 years old that I hadn't lived long enough to experience. That's why I also believe in reincarnation, that we were put here with ideas to pass around. —Willie Nelson

Many people believe in some sort of continuance after we die, but the Buddhist version makes more sense to me than the notion that we are resurrected in our bodies. Well, which one would I be: the infant, the young mother, the old crone, which one? Buddhists believe that our minds survive death and are reincarnated in another sentient being, and that those on a spiritual path are aided by their teachers to find the next appropriate body. Whatever. Tenzin Palmo has certainly lived a rich life so far, and if she comes anywhere nearby to speak, I'll try to find a way to attend. She has vowed that she will reach enlightenment in a female body, rather than as a male. I'm not sure she has any actual power to do that, but what do I know?

For one thing, she sure does make it sound unpleasant (to me), being alone in a cave for so long. She would meditate for three hours at a time, several times a day, and she would sleep in her meditation box sitting up! When I think of giving up that creature comfort of snuggling into my warm covers and falling into a gentle sleep, I just couldn't do it. Meditation in small doses seems to be enough for me these days. I know I am more relaxed and serene when I come out of a session, but as I get older, who knows what direction I might turn to? Probably not towards sleeping upright. Even the Dalai Lama gets horizontal, I think.

I am certainly enjoying learning about all the different ways that Buddhism is practiced throughout the world, and that there is really no right way to proceed in finding one's own spiritual path. I have learned that it is helpful to find actual teachers who can help you find the right way to practice, but I'm not there yet. For now, I'm learning through books and through studying the paths of others. And for now, it's enough. It does amaze me how much I look forward to that short amount of time I've set aside for meditating. Just learning how to watch my own breath has taught me so much. For one thing, I now understand what it means to have a "monkey mind." Sitting there, I can catch myself planning my day, or thinking of someone I haven't seen in awhile, or trying to ignore that itch on my back. I just keep bringing my mind back to the task at hand: following my breath. For a few short moments, I lose track of time, and I am always amazed at how short a time fifteen or twenty minutes can seem when I'm focused on my breath.

* * *

John and I are trying to find a new coffee shop to visit in the mornings. We are not happy at all about how crowded Avellino's can be when it's cold and rainy outside, and many people just come in to get out of the weather. They are required to mask up inside, but many people aren't really trying to stay safe, and some flaunt the rules on purpose, which makes me quite uncomfortable. We tried a new place last week, which has many good things going for it, but it's got no good parking places, meaning we have to walk a good distance to get inside. Not too bad when it's not raining. They don't allow tipping, because they say they give their employees a living wage (we asked: $21/hour) and don't take cash, only cards. I liked it better than John did, since he really doesn't like to walk if he can avoid it. We'll keep looking. But the place (the Black Fern) is open, airy, and not crowded.

I need to get out of bed soon, so I can get all my morning routine out of the way, with the twenty minutes of meditation added in. The only day that it's a problem is Sundays, when I need to write this post instead of reading my blogs and the news. That will have to wait until we are inside the coffee shop, I guess, or after I get home. It's actually supposed to be a little sunny today for a change, so maybe I can find the time for a nice walk.

My tea is gone, my dear partner still sleeps beside me as I tap the keys, and I feel the pull towards the rest of my day. I do hope you will have a wonderful week ahead, filled with robust good health and lots of smiles coming your way. That's what I wish for myself, too. You, my dear virtual family, are part of my happiness. Be well until we meet again next week.


Anvilcloud said...

IMO all religion is from past ways of trying t make sense of the world. We should know better by now. I don't mean that meditation isn't fine, but thoughts about eternal life in one form or another are nonsensical. All in my opinion, of course. But also, of course, I am right. 😎

Boud said...

I get a benefit of calm from meditating, which makes it puzzling why I postpone it. Probably monkey mind fighting back.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Hope you find a good coffee shop that you both enjoy! Snowing here and starting to blow around a bit. God was in charge of my soul before I was born and he will be back in charge when I die....Faith:)

Linda Reeder said...

Afterlife, or not, is a human puzzle without a living answer. I personally believe I will be living on in the memories of those I leave behind when my life is over.
The sun is shining through the trees, Yesterday's rain is still dripping off the eaves. I need to get going on my PT and then I have a bit more decorating to do, arranging fresh greens for the house. After that the Seahawks will keep me company as I bake the next batch of cookies, with Tom lending a hand. He is going to get more outside lights put up in the yard so we can see them from our front windows.
Holiday time is busy here.
Enjoy your sunny day!

Elephant's Child said...

I do look forward to these posts of yours.
For myself, I hope for nothing when I shrug off this body. Becoming star dust sounds good to me - but what would I know.
I loved reading about Tenzin Palmo. The life she is living is obviously right for her, and I particularly loved that she continues to teach.
Have a wonderful week dear friend.

Arkansas Patti said...

Hope you can find a coffee house to suit you both. The last one sounds pretty good.
Somehow I think I would find that book depressing. I don't like the moderate isolation we have been going through. Can't imagine complete isolation--and with no Internet yet:(
Not sure I would appreciate coming back considering what we have done to our planet. A long sleep sounds pretty good to me.

Rian said...

I'm enjoying reading about Buddhism also... seems less like a religion and more about mindfulness and living one's life in peace. You said that when you meditate, "For a few short moments, I lose track of time, and I am always amazed at how short a time fifteen or twenty minutes can seem when I'm focused on my breath." This is what it's like when I lose myself in a story I'm writing or creating something from pottery, etc. Time goes by without notice. I'm trying to teach myself to meditate, but I have to admit, I have an extremely "monkey mind" that goes off on tangents constantly. But I will keep trying.

I hope you find a coffee shop you both like. I would not go to an overcrowded one where people don't wear masks...especially with this unknown variant around. Have a good Sunday, DJan! Now back to my Christmas baking!

John's Island said...

I’m enjoying these posts where you are telling us about your experience with and study of Buddhism. As I think I’ve mentioned before, here in the comments, I have a new interest in Buddhism. One of the benefits of retirement, for me at least, is plenty of time to research topics of interest. Lately, I’ve been spending a good bit of time studying spirituality. For thousands of years humans have been trying to figure out their relationship to the evolution of the universe. Are we just accidental beings as Charles Darwin would have us believe? Or, are human beings a part of a grand plan designed by the intelligence that ignited the Big Bang? It seems each human must figure this out on her/his own. I found it interesting to read today’s comments on the post which illustrate several different approaches. I hope you will continue to let us know how you are moving forward with this element of life’s journey.

Betsy said...

It has also seemed to be a long fall here with warm temperatures but now the cold will be here for a few days. Below freezer temperatures but still no snow.
My faith is in the God of the universe and His son Jesus Christ. Without them, I would be nothing. I know that someday my soul will be in His hands and it will be safe and at rest as we can't be in this broken world.
The beauty He has provided us to enjoy while here though, is enough.

William Kendall said...

Religion is something I don't understand, and I have long since concluded that I'm not meant to.

Tabor said...

I have noticed our restaurants getting more crowded and it does make me not want to visit very often. Less eating out! I like Buddhist philosophy and really should study it more. I do not like that all the religions I know about are based in mostly male leadership.

Red said...

Thirteen years in a cave would certainly give you lots of time for meditation and contemplation. My only question would be how she was able to leave this routine.

Marie Smith said...

I so need the open air and stimulation of a walk in nature too. Getting outdoors for exercise kept me sane through the lockdowns.

There are Buddhist nuns on the island here and a monastery as well. They both do outreach to the community as well. One of the days I was waiting for eye surgery, a group of young nuns was waiting as well. Several Muslim women were there too. It was great to see these women from various spiritual traditions going about their lives on the island.

gigi-hawaii said...

That would be very difficult for me -- to live like a hermit and in such an austere environment. I would hate that type of existence. Good luck finding a better coffee shop.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, it's clear I've not followed yours--or any one else's--bog faithfully for many months. So I've missed your beginning to study Buddhism. I did that about 15 years ago and have several books, I still read periodically. The writers whose explanations spoke to me were the following: Christina Feldman (especially "The Buddhist Path to Simplicity"), Thich That Hanh (especially "no death, no fear"), and Pema Chodron (especially "The Wisdom of No Escape).

I lean toward believe in reincarnation, basically because a family member has had such a hard, friendless life that I hope he can reincarnate and know a life of friendship and love. Peace.