Posts Tagged ‘Impermanence’

be careful of the words

January 9th, 2012    -    67 Comments

This probably puts me in the category of a Kevin Costner sympathizer.

I’ve begun thinking in apocalyptic terms about what seems certain to be the demise of the US Postal Service. Admittedly, I’m a cultural throwback. I still think of writing as something that you do on paper, with your whole hand, in a cursive script that is elegant and intrinsic, like your DNA. I still think of community as consisting of people with bodies, using arms and legs and good manners to stand in line patiently at the post office, where we buy stamps, grouse about the three-penny price increase, see somebody we know, say a kind word, conduct our minor essential business, and go on our way, until next Monday or Thursday or tax season or the holidays.

I’ve noticed that they’ve started selling greeting cards in my little post office, which is ingenious, really, in a demoralizing way, since the only people who enter a post office these days are the sappy has-beens like me. People who saw those lame Kevin Costner movies in the 1990s predicting the disappearance of the post office, global warming, and the end of the world as we know it. And now we really do know it. read more

leave

December 2nd, 2011    -    2 Comments

Digging out from a hundred-year windstorm, neighbors without roofs and windows, trees shredded, landscapes buried, no heat, no light, no relief in sight, gives new meaning to the word, “leave.”

I’m leaving for Rohatsu retreat, sitting in silent witness to impermanence and the inconceivable power of mind.

Watch this place while I’m away for guests and gifts and remember this: When you’ve done all you can do, undo.

seeing joan

September 8th, 2011    -    7 Comments

On a weekend when we’re being called to have a reckoning with the memory of unspeakable ruin, I won’t say one word. I only offer this light to memorialize a friend who left last week. By this, may you see.

It was a shock, yes, the news. From nowhere, it was a wave, a blast, a shimmer. It was the sun, exploding.

It was Joan.

In the days that followed, that’s how I would recall her. That’s what I would say, “I never saw a shadow darken her face.” Joan was pure radiance, and I think she still is.

She made you think it was all about you: her pure delight at the sight of you. You might have thought you were special, even gifted. But any gift you had was what Joan had first given you. She gave you her presence and she gave you her joy. It wasn’t a pretense. She could not pretend. The fact is, you never once disappointed her.

Joan was full in the way the sun is always full. And I imagine she still is, her arms full of the whole of us, her heart wide open, her face beaming. There are so many who are sad in her absence and so she keeps shining, shining through the shadow that darkens us, the vacancy, the disbelief, until we look up and see the light, the light that is vast and uninterrupted.

It is Joan. I see her still.

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the longest day of my life

August 30th, 2011    -    8 Comments

It’s the day before the start of middle school. I take my daughter to the campus to pick up her sixth grade class schedule. Half hidden by their summer growth spurts are the kids we’ve always known and yet never seen before.

Georgia gambols over the dusty grounds with a pack of friends while I sit under my hat like a mom perched on the rim of a playground. All the action is inside the circle.

Everything moves in patterns and cycles repeating, repeating.

The temperature cools. The sunset shaves off two minutes of daylight. It’s Tuesday, so I wheel the trash cans to the curb. Standing there I recall another dusk when I carried the baby to the sidewalk, so weary, so done, waiting for Daddy’s car to turn into view so I could end the longest day of my life.

It wasn’t long and it wasn’t over. The morning will come and I will love – I will really love – this day forever.

A sad prayer and promise for my happy friend Joan, on what began as another day and ended as her last.

in the absence of tiger woods

August 14th, 2011    -    9 Comments

I was driving to the Zen Center Saturday morning listening to NPR and I heard an unsurprising report about the latest professional debacle for Tiger Woods — his failure to make the cut at his comeback tournament. The story has really stuck with me; this saga has stuck with me, and not because I care one bit about golf or gossip. The commentator said it in one long wail, with breathless wonder and disbelief, like an eyewitness to the Hindenburg disaster:

“What happened to Tiger Woods? What didn’t happen to Tiger Woods? This was awful. This has been a continuation of the most spectacular collapse, I think, in American sports history; to have a player be on top of the sports world, to be the most recognizable sports figure in the world to fall apart in so many different ways, at so many different levels. It’s stunning to watch simply to see what’s happened with him on the field of play. But I think it’s even more stunning when you look at him in totality. He went into this tournament feeling optimistic, feeling like he’d had a clean slate, and it was one of his worst rounds of his career. And I think on top of that, what’s even more stunning about Tiger, is while all of this collapsing for him on field — while his family life has collapsed — you also have some of his great sports friends who have also wondered exactly what’s happened to him. Charles Barkley, Roger Federer, all say that he’s no longer friends with them. And so I think it’s really interesting when you watch what’s happened with them; a perfect storm of physical injury, of personal catastrophe. And it really is one of the most unbelievable public spectacles I think I’ve seen for a professional athlete.”

I was riveted to the radio through all of this, sitting still and captive, a patient to the doctor speaking an unspeakable diagnosis. The diagnosis is mine, and yours too.

Let me be clear: I am not a victim of Tiger Woods. For all the moralistic associations and denunciations, there are not many victims of Tiger Woods. And yet, we should all feel the collateral damage. What we are witness to is a completely artificial and manmade disaster — the collapse of the superhero myth. We all buy into it, and not just the corporate branding types, we all buy into the superhero myth, because we buy into the myth for ourselves. We want to be special, only that’s not quite special enough. We want to be extraordinary! Oprah told us we could. Everyone keeps telling us we should, in helium infused hyperventilated overpunctuated pitches: be your best crazy sexy self!!!!

Tiger has fallen, yes he has fallen. But where has he fallen to? A collapse brings us to the solid ground, where all the truly unbelievable spectacles occur. We stand up, without wings, and walk the Earth in the supernatural act of being utterly ordinary. The miracle, you see, is what we already are.

“In the absence of Tiger Woods . . . “ the commentator continued, to move the story along, and I turned the radio off and stepped out of the car. That’s where the real story begins, you see, that’s where we all pick up and move on. Even Tiger will have to move on in the absence of so-called Tiger Woods. What sweet redemption! In the absence of myth, there is truth, spectacular truth from which there is no collapse.

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not sleeping, waking!!

July 13th, 2011    -    6 Comments

 

10 Most Fun Things to Do in Summer
By Georgia Miller

There are a lot, I mean A LOT of fun things to do during summer break, but I have my favorites. Here are my top 10 favorite things to do over summer:

 

1. Amusement Parks!! I just love a good trip to Disneyland.

2. Vacationing! I remember last year I took a great trip to Kauai with my family.

3. Ice Cream! You can’t really do it . . . but who cares? It’s awesome anyway.

4. Doing nothing. I usually just do nothing when I’m not flipping, singing, dancing, or acting. Wow. I never do nothing.

5. My Acting Camp. I love my acting camp. It’s soooo fun.

6. Swimming! I just love cannonballing into a pool of cold water.

7. Hanging Out With Friends. Me and my BFF Kenna always have tons of sleepovers during the summer.

8. Going to the Beach!! I love the rush of icy water on my piggies!

9. Sleeping in. I don’t usually sleep in, but when I do, I feel relaxed.

10!! Gymnastics! I only started team this year, but I loooove it!

Those are my fave things to do during summer! What are yours?

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repeat until all gone

April 26th, 2011    -    16 Comments

On Sunday evening, my daughter looked up from the sofa and told me she was going to write a blog post. Seeing it later, I wondered if she was reading my mind. She was no doubt reading her own mind, consoling that restless uncertainty that surfaces in the spring. Maybe the bunny brings us fluff to buffer the bumps ahead: the transitions, the spurts, the sudden endings and the fits. Things are changing all around and in-between us, and I can scarcely steal a kiss. I smiled when I saw how she straddles her precarious age, savoring one piece of  kiddie candy before wrapping herself in the shiny gloss she lets us see.

She makes me happy enough already, but you might need some excellent advice from a girl who knows her happy.

Recipe for Happiness
by Georgia Miller

Feeling blue? Need a boost? These easy-to-follow steps will make you feel a whole lot better.
Ingredients
10 M&Ms
1 Hershey’s Kiss
Bath Salt (Optional)
Facial Scrub

Step 1- Take your 10 M&Ms in your hand and pop one in your mouth, but don’t chew it. Suck on it until it melts in your mouth. Repeat until they are all gone.

Step 2- Either do the same with the Hershey’s Kiss or start taking minuscule bites out of the tip until you finish.

Step 3- Slip into the tub or, if you prefer the shower, “jump” in. Make sure the water is comfortably warm. If you’re in the tub, pour in 1 ½ tsp of scented bath salt. If you’re in the shower, use a loofah to rub scented soap (I like the French liquid soap from Trader Joe’s) all over your body.

Step 4- Rub facial scrub on your face and leave it on for 5-7 minutes. Rinse off with warm water and a soft washcloth.

I hope these four steps helped you feel happy and relaxed!

-Georgia : D

She’s inspired to write because she is reading Karen Benke’s Rip the Page! Adventures in Creative Writing.

Love Beyond Limits Workshop, Wash., DC, Sat., April 30
Beginner’s Mind One-Day Meditation Retreat, LA, Sun., June 12

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emerging face

April 11th, 2011    -    22 Comments

Last week I was taking notes at a meeting and I suddenly noticed my hands. However I might appear to others, my hands have always betrayed me. They are workman’s hands, big-knuckled, covered in ropey veins and papery skin. I swear they are mummified. When I looked at them this time, I saw age spots.

“I have my mother’s hands,” I later told my teacher.

Last week I read about a conference entitled The Emerging Face of Something or The Other. I’m not being specific because “emerging face” is applied to all kinds of things to make them seem new or trendy or interesting. Like that magazine article that chooses 50 of the Most Fascinating People of the Year. You don’t know 25 of them and you won’t remember the other 25 by the end of the week. We all have about three minutes when we’re just fascinated by our own emergence. Then our real face shows up, and it’s not so new after all. We stop finding ourselves remarkable, and then we can begin to do good for others.

“Do you ever hear yourself speak with her voice?” he asked me.

Wednesday will be the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death. I remembered this picture of her, taken in my backyard, holding baby Georgia. Everyone is dressed up for this, the baby in one of those darling outfits you manage to put on once before they are outgrown. Mom is wearing a wig, since she is bald after her first round of chemo. We are happy and hopeful. I can see her hands, which are my hands, and I can see her face, which is my face, and I can see everything that will emerge from this moment.

“On my best days,” I answered. “I hear my mother’s voice on my best days.”

Karen, this is your mother.

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president’s day steal

February 21st, 2011    -    5 Comments

Some truths are self-evident. Money can’t buy happiness. Appearances don’t matter. You can’t tempt me with a mindless shopping spree. So it’s easy for me to say no when my 11-year-old daughter resumes a noxious whine for skinny jeans or a bazillionth pair of dimestore earrings. I’m not the mom who shops. I’m the mom with the $12 haircut, wearing the 10-year-old sweater, in the same faded khakis you saw me wearing yesterday. I am the one with a half-empty closet, a near-empty wallet, and a brand of religious devotion that keeps them that way. I’m a Buddhist priest. I’m not the mom at the mall.

That changes one day on the way home from school. “Can we go to the mall?” my daughter asks wearily, and instead of refusing again, I turn onto a street I never take, into the asphalt sprawl. The two of us are fairly airborne as we enter the cool cavern through the automatic doors and ride the escalator past the food court. Striding beside me on the concourse, my daughter tightens the subtle distance she has begun to keep from me in public. I notice her head tops my shoulder. Her face has narrowed, and her lips have grown full. She flashes me a comrade’s secret smile and reaches for my hand. “Mom,” she says, radiating her bliss, “I don’t think Dad gets this.”  In one unexpected turn, I’ve entered the exuberance of her girlhood, a treasure too fleeting to resist.

From my essaylet on stolen happiness in the March issue of Whole Living magazine.

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plastic poinsettia

December 15th, 2010    -    14 Comments

She was a good woman, and she never failed to fill our table, even when we saw it as empty.

I must have been 11, my older sister 13, when we came to the dinner table one evening around this time of year and saw what my mother had placed in the middle. A spindly plastic replica of a single-stemmed poinsettia. It wobbled up from a gold-colored cup in a fashion that aspired to “modern” but that to our newly cynical senses screamed “cheap,” “fake” and “funny.” We gasped, even laughed. I remember because it’s hard to forget the first time you laugh outright at your mother, taking up a cruel sport that can take some time to put down. It would color much of what I perceived of her in the years that followed – until I became a mother myself, until I felt the tender wounds in my heart from the way I had once ridiculed and rebuked her.

I remember this now because it’s Christmas, and I’ve trimmed the Christmas tree. I did it by myself and I did it for myself. I did it for the mother in me. read more

what happened to my punkin

November 23rd, 2010    -    17 Comments

Reprising, reposting and reflecting on the amazing transformation of little punkins around here.

Because Mika said any self-respecting pumpkin pie starts with real pumpkin, I went to the overcrowded and overstocked supermarket two full days before the holiday in search of the small cooking pumpkins required to get my pie rolling right. That’s when I discovered that fresh pumpkin pie must be a kind of a urban myth in these parts, because after the six-month Halloween selling season, all those precious little pumpkins are all sold out or out back in the trash. So we started with this, Georgia’s mummy pumpkin, which was still sitting around looking cute and useless, and set out to give it new life as a savory, flavory dessert. read more

the particular sadness of yes

November 14th, 2010    -    10 Comments

It is time, and such a short time it is, to say yes.

Can I write the tooth fairy a note asking to keep this tooth?
Can I sleep with you?
Can I ride with you?
Can I walk with you?
Can I go with you?
Can I keep the bottle cap?
Can I save the ribbon?
Can I have the last piece of candy?
Can we go to Disneyland?
Can I get this doll?
Can you wash my jacket because at lunch I looked down and saw a bug on it.

Yes, I say, yes, yes. Because there is an end to these questions, and yes is what you say when you see them go.

Oh good, she says. Because I was afraid I was supposed to outgrow it.

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the 5th grade of impermanence

June 3rd, 2010    -    12 Comments

She’s going to be in 5th grade.

We’re sitting in the school auditorium waiting for a troupe of tweens to begin the spring dance revue. The kids shuffling onto the stage are already beyond their parents’ belief – sprouted up and out, gangly, tangly – and long since beyond their parents’ grasp. My husband whispers to no one in particular: She’s going to be in 5th grade.

These are the kinds of things he says at these occasions. I can hear the echoes: She’s going to be one, two, four, five, eight, ten! As before, I do not respond to what does not need to be said.

He’s having an enlightenment experience. Enlightenment, Dogen Zenji taught, begins with the recognition of impermanence, the moment we perceive the utter and astonishing transience of life, the moment we see through the constructed illusion that anything stays put.

Alas, all conditioned things are impermanent;
It is their nature to come into being and then cease to be.

Truth thus springs from what we see. Spiritual practice starts with a sigh. Enough sighs and you might one day get serious about it.

Do not pass over from the light to the darkness by ignoring practice and pursuing other things. Take care of this essential instrument of the Buddha Way. Your body is like a dewdrop on the morning grass, your life as brief as a flash of lightning.

It is a mistake to think we practice to change our lives, because life changes by itself. We practice to change the way we live, to face the facts of the matter. Because, have you heard? Did you notice? Do you know? Have you seen?

She’s going to be in 5th grade.

***

Offered in deep gratitude to the full house of beginners who will join me this Sunday at the Hazy Moon Zen Center for their first meditation retreat. You might want to read more about the beginning of my own practice, and the transformative power of impermanence, in this interview.

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