Awareness of mortality can bring joy, and rage about what’s going on in the world is all right. I am exploring both of those responses in the last interviews with illustrator Maurice Sendak.
One moment he’s speaking of the love he feels for the leaves outside his window, another moment excoriating the ruin Rupert Murdoch has wreaked upon the world — I agree with that!
I feel rich discovering him as if he were my new grandfather. His acceptance of aging and dying, his understanding of how suffering can be of value are all there, in his warm raspy voice. He had a 50-year relationship with a man that his parents never knew about. Most of his family were murdered in the Holocaust.
“I refuse to lie to children,” he said.
And — writing is a hopeless obsession for him as it often feels to me.
“I’m totally crazy, I know that. I don’t say that to be a smartass, but I know that that’s the very essence of what makes my work good. And I know my work is good. Not everybody likes it, that’s fine. I don’t do it for everybody. Or anybody. I do it because I can’t not do it.”
Here is the Guardian interview with him, http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/oct/02/maurice-sendak-interview
and here, supposely, a link to a short video from the New York Times, but somehow WordPress isn’t letting me upload it.
Thanks to my friend in Albuquerque, Fred Herman, whose son David brought Sendak to my attention.
In the Himalayas, the 10 days before lunar new year are a time of intensive practice, casting out old ghosts and beating the dusty carpets of the mind. So when Lodro and Susan invited me to be part of this really fun six-day online retreat (access it here — http://mindfulnewyear.wordpress.com) I thought how cool! I signed up to do the very first session on the first day. At 8 AM, hours before I normally feel presentable. My session went pretty well, I think; I felt a sense of accomplishment at doing something new, for me — talk to invisible strangers about meditation practice. Eek!
Surprisingly I jumped to to turn on the computer at 8 AM the next day. Normally I like to meditate on my own — “Meditating on the internet? Seriously?” Yes, Inner Voice, it’s been fun and supportive to join an invisible crowd of people sharing space (though never jostling for seats). I’ve been surprised by what each new teacher says. They flicker and talk, inches away from a thousand faces– beyond the edge of the screen could be their dog or their dragon.
Once, I confess, I filed a sheet of paper knowing nobody can see me. For I’m meditating in my desk, where normally I work. Yet the tone of working is changed slightly by the meditations even if they’re lightly corrupted. I’ve been Building a Mindful New Year two or three times each day.
This is a way of developing a genuinely deeper heart. This free online retreat is nearly half-over, but before it’s completely finished, I want to share it with all you folks who visit this blog from time to time. Tomorrow, Monday, I may only be able to do the AM session because I’ll be on a plane to Miami to visit my stepmom, Lynn, and then do a writing retreat. But if you come into the retreat we might be doing it together.
Happy Old Year! Happy New Year! May we all be happy and let go of whatever we don’t need. Greet 2015 with generosity, discipline, patience.
The People’s Climate March two days ago is still infusing my heart and mind with a gentle, joyous energy. The demonstration filled New York from Central Park to 42nd Street with real faces and bodies, a creative mass challenge to the flickering values that lead our attention toward consuming more and more “goods” as our main source of gratification. That’s why I have included this photo of an indigenous man gazing at my camera with reality in his eyes with a backdrop of the carbon-heavy ad behind him. It was just amazing and beautiful to be marching with so many people who were there with open hearts and presence. We all helped each other remember and hold a hopeful vision for our only home, this earth. I am more convinced today that there’s still hope than I was before I went, but only if we act now on behalf of future generations.
The other photo shows a repurposed parachute. Many groups were carrying these together, a concrete symbol of how many things can be transformed, and everyone must participate.
The next Buddha is everyone as my friend Surya says!
I was giving flying lessons to an audience that didn’t exist
This morning, just before waking up –
I understood it was a dream, yet felt skeptical
Because the physical sensations of flight were really quite convincing
Swooping around the stars
Somewhere I read that flying dreams are due to a drop in blood pressure — some illusion of the sleeping brain
But what does that mean?
My body can still recall the small adjustments to my shoulders that were so helpful in steering –
I kept demonstrating and explaining the various refinements
No one was listening but I felt I was being helpful somehow or other
How to stay elevated — etc — although there didn’t actually seem to be any ground to fall down onto
Somehow the flying was a liberation from the memory of being bound to the earth
Since childhood, my air speed has always been rather sedate –
There is barely room for excitement
Instead the exquisite joy of moving freely in space
Like swimming only without the dilemma of buoyancy vs. sinking
When I woke up I felt so happy
To have flown again
Thank you, Lama Karma Justin Wall, for this pink alpaca
I loved llamas as a kid in Peru…
Shall we call it an alpacalope?
Nightmares are not the only type of dream
I hope to see lots of fellow alpacas at the People’s Climate March this Sunday!
Thanks for reading, all who do.
Oh boy! Friday I start a retreat at Insight Meditation Society. Because we need to bring all our bedding, I’ve been rubbing the twin-sized sheets in our closets to see which are softest, and glad that my stepdaughter Chloe favors pretty, floral patterns. And worrying about my outfits (true confession — I caught myself checking how certain pants will look from behind in the lunch line). This sweet, silly human mind is hoping that I’ll be feeling happy and comfy protected while I’m there. I’m going to miss David and lots of things.
I guess I will have to rest right within whatever happens. Here’s the kind of instruction I find so very comforting. I borrowed it from Thubten Kway, a Facebook practitioner.
“Obsessive use of meditative disciplines or perennial study of scripture and philosophy will never bring forth this wonderful realization, this truth which is natural to awareness, because the mind that desperately desires to reach another realm or level of experience inadvertently ignores the basic light that constitutes all experience. ” “Let go of what has passed. Let go of what may come. Let go of what is happening now. Don’t try to figure anything out. Don’t try to make anything happen. Relax, right now, and rest.” — Tilopa
I’m sharing this link to a wonderful Spanish language video because it lit up my heart with understanding. (http://vimeo.com/64418056) I’ve been more and more depressed about global warming. This winter has been so cold and after watching video of polar bears drowning I realize the cold should be up there, not down here. In this video, Marcelo Mosenson interviews the Argentine teacher and translator Gerardo Abboud. Gerardo talks about the attitude of patience and a systematic development of equanimity, love and empathy that come up naturally, removing the toxic forces of hate and despair. Sustaining a clear heart seems to me the only way through intractable conflict and seemingly desperate situations.
My father and mother in law died this winter within weeks of each other. My husband, David, and his family and I buried Sylvia in New Jersey on Sunday. I have been imagining us as orphaned little kids holding hands by an open grave, trying to carve out a little piece of happiness for ourselves as we transit through this life.
For no apparent reason, I feel closer to everyone and I believe it’s the impact of watching these two powerful beings disappear. I feel bonded with David, and my sisters, and stepmother, and somehow closer with this moment. It feels more vivid, naturally focused and undistracted. Sometimes I look at people in the street and think — Oh my god, you are going to have to die too! It’s an image-laden thought about the physical process. What I saw looked like hard work for the ones who were dying.
I want to get up the steam to write about these events a bit more — later. But for now, I will speak from a tired, stunned, soft and somewhat foggy-feeling space. There was terrible beauty. A kind of deep celebration, holding each dying person’s life in its wholeness. The completion of their process made it impossible to continue blaming them or doubting the value of who they had been — seeing them in all their facets, with the life of joys and pains and all the events they faced. Then the the mystery of contemplating the process of death itself. Why? There is no answer, really, only that it is this way.
This season has felt transforming for me, although I can’t help wishing these people had not been constrained to die. But it is the same force as living. As Dylan Thomas said, “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower/drives my green age.” And the brown age, and the stark black and white.
My new friend Sarah S. from Jackson Hole offers this link Perpetual Ocean
to a simulated animations of the ocean currents. Scroll down to the second image and run the video–it’s short.
The curlicues are lovely.
About Sarah — she just meditated for a month at Spirit Rock in Marin, CA. When I heard that her job was ‘remote cook’ I hardly imagined she gets helicoptered in to Greenland to feed scientific expeditions.
“Through compassion the Bodhisattva shakes with sympathy for all”–from a medieval Sri Lankan text.
One of our neighbors is insisting that our other neighbor must cut down two beautiful pine trees because they drop sap on her car.
These two trees are my friends. Calming, darkly beautiful, needled and bushy. The birds all hide in them. They shield a house that is basically a simple gray box that will be ugly without them.
Why aren’t homeowners required to get a permit or pay a huge fee before they can kill a tree above a certain size?
Those white pines are surely older than any of us.
Some of the biggest trees in neighboring gardens have died of disease or old age lately and only one neighbor (Felicitas!) cared enough to replace elm with sycamore.
Our sky is bare and stretched, the un-beautiful stands revealed. Sagging tarps and chain link and asphalt.
While I’m weeping here let me also tell you how on the other tiny street that feeds into ours, really a one lane alley, 15 new condos have been approved for construction. 15!!!!
There is just not enough space for that much building. The houses are already side by side with only driveways between.
Our street is a lane and a half, and I dread 30 new cars barrelling around that corner every day.
We already have no parking places left on the street. Thank god for our own driveway, though it’s already impossible to back out of it without endangering ourselves.
The homeowners greedily build till there isn’t a blade of grass visible.
Profit, greed and escalation rule our world. I’m sad, obviously, and feeling helpless and angry.
The local officials just handed out these permits indiscriminately. At meetings with neighbors, planners said they wouldn’t consider the overall neighborhood, just each project on its own.
My friend Steve Boyd sent me a link to this animated wind map of the US.
Interactive Wind Map
Here is what the site says when you first view the map. “An invisible, ancient source of energy surrounds us—energy that powered the first explorations of the world, and that may be a key to the future. This map shows you the delicate tracery of wind flowing over the US.”
The map looks like moving hair, or grass blowing in the breeze. It made me feel more connected to the rest of the country, imagining breezes in Idaho and what look like pretty strong winds going up the center of the country. And also more sensitive to all of the different energies moving around and through me (through everybody) at all times, including the energies of my body, emotions and thoughts, which never really stop–even when I’m sleeping. These energies have nothing to do with “me”, except that I am generated by them.
It’s good to acknowledge — and thank — the energies that sustain me.