I Thought I Was Cool…

(You can actually click on this image to enlarge it)

Things fall apart

I thought I was cool about death until this just-past Sunday afternoon when it looked like I’d lost all the music stored on the computer.  Long time friend David said it looked like I’d aged five years.  Music, as it turns out, means a lot more to me than I’d previously realized, and if recorded music means this much, my mind raced…  Regardless of how it happened or–since the future is still in the future, how it turns out–the realization that the music could not be found in either My Music or Windows Media Player and that there were almost five hundred new icons on my desktop that refused to be united into one file prayerfully named “Saved” initiated a rapid fire set of emotional changes that I became conscious of only several hours later.  The initial shock of this it-seemed irreversible disaster instantly transmuted into pain, fear then sadness.  Next soul self-preservation kicked in to hide the poor-me’s under an armor of anger.  If that weren’t enough, Mr. O-So-Sensitive-And-Considerate Me then conned himself into believing he’d hid the anger behind quiet calm.  The truth was revealed when, desperately wanting no more than to hug and be hugged by my loving wife, the anger arose to shove her away.

Sunday evening I hid out, reading Martha R. Jacobs’ so far wonderful book, A Clergy Guide to End-of-Life Issues and to fill out a Living Will and a Health Care Proxy as required by my Foundations of Chaplaincy program.  (Did I mention I’m studying Foundations of Chaplaincy with the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care?)  I did these with ease. Hiding out always works for me.

Things come together

Four days earlier Harvey, my buddy-of-the-month in the Foundations program, said praying is his exercise in true humility.  Reality, for us who believe in Divinity and practice Zen, is God.  Accepting reality–and, yes, the feelings that go along with  it–then moving on is the healing and the goal.  Reading A Clergy Guide I realized this.  Don’t ask me how.  I don’t know.  I just know I did.  The tightness in my chest and the nausea flipping around in my belly, my body’s reactions to the “music crisis,” and my emotional response to it–that tightness and that nausea both vanished!  There I suddenly was, sitting on the far end of the couch feeling like I’d discovered for myself the truth of Saint Theresa’s pronouncement, “All the way to heaven is heaven.”

The connection in all this was this: reading Jacobs’ understanding of the woman who believed deeply that just touching Jesus’ garment would heal her, would make her whole.  Jacobs underlines the woman’s role: she had to ask for help.  She had to display faith for the healing to take place.  My Mom loved to say that God helps those who help themselves.  Whether I look to the Divine or to Energy or to my local clinic for help, I must first see the need for it.  Then I must be open to the healing that is offered.  I must see that gift as help whether or not it takes the form of what I’d wanted or expected.

As for me and, I suspect, all others, the help will always be there, and it will always be on me–us–to get past the shock, fear, anger and cover-up bullshit to recognize it.  Sometimes we’ll succeed.  Sometimes not.  We are, after all, only human.

This is faith.

Published in: on February 21, 2012 at 9:34 pm  Comments (6)  

The Road Traveled

Your Turn!

I always knew

I would travel this road.

Yesterday I did not know

It would be today.

The photo above shows a section of Henry Hudson Drive, called River Road by cyclists, running along the Hudson River’s New Jersey side, showing Manhattan and, yes, the World Trade Center in the distance.  The poem, Japanese from maybe the 18th century, I first saw on a placard inside a subway car.  Back then I thought it had to do with dying.  Later I thought it had to do with love.  Now I think it has to do with awareness.  Tomorrow…

At a retreat held further up the Hudson last month at the Garrison Institute, Zen Priest Robert Chodo Campbell offered a parable in which life was depicted as a rocky and hazardous road filled with a vast variety of traps and treacheries.  Meditation was depicted as a luxurious shimmering palace in which to take blissful refuge from the road.  Sitting in silent meditation after he’d finished, the realization–“realization” sounds so much more humble than  “lightning bolt of profound insight” or “earth-shattering moment of spectacular enlightenment.”  Whatever…–the realization came to me that I love The Road.

I love The Road!

The very challenges of traveling The Road are the ultimate treasures of my life.  The traffic, the potholes, the broken glass and occasional tree limbs, the pedestrians blinded by their smartphones, they are there for me.  Why I am here, why I have  made meditation and studying things spiritual  central to my living now I finally understand: simply to learn better to spot these treasures, attain them and share them.  And River Road, constantly hilly and yet the road to which I still return by bicycle although it seems to have developed some walking sections of late, is not an analogy for what I’m writing about.  It is one living manifestation of my understanding.  And there are other roads of richness: my marriage, work, friendships and, of course, my practice.

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Perhaps you have a favorite road or path, a something-or-other along which you’ve traveled or wish some day to travel.  Perhaps at some point you’ve written about your road or, maybe, feel ready to do so now.  I surely hope so.  Please hit “Comments” below and share your road with the rest of us.


Published in: on February 5, 2012 at 5:20 pm  Comments (5)