Posts Tagged ‘Pain’

breath is fearless

October 23rd, 2012    -    3 Comments

Just this one little thing, the breath, delivers all the wisdom in the world. Each inhalation powers your strength, endurance, and concentration; each exhalation releases your resistance and fears. Life gives continuous testament to the miracle of the breath, and yet, do we really know what the breath is?

 

When we bring our agitated minds into focus by following the movement of the breath in and out of the body, we experience the reality of the present moment, clear from confusion and anxiety. The breath is fearlessness personified. That can matter a great deal to you in times of pain and panic. How wonderful that all the sages and wise ones, the birth educators and coaches, the doulas and midwives, tell you to breathe! Focusing on the breath is the safest, surest way to overcome fear and let the immediacy of any experience move forward.

When all other schemes and devices fall away, the breath is all we have to use. It never fails us. Now is a good time to get to know your breath, through simple awareness practices such as meditation and yoga. While sitting, lying down, walking, or moving, bringing your attention to your belly and the natural movement of the breath will strengthen your connection to your own life force, the awareness that is everpresent and unafraid. The breath will not only transport you beyond fear, it will deliver you to joy. In the flow of the breath, mother and child come into being, and joy springs to life.

Excerpted from my essay, “Preparing for Childbirth,” in the book, The Mindful Way Through Pregnancy.

###

Get Maezen’s writing delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to a retreat • Friend me • Follow me.

the way to let go

September 30th, 2012    -    12 Comments

There are few names and no dates on the photos. Together, they span fifty years.  The oldest are bound in a half-torn album tied with a limp shoelace.

The pictures begin with my lithe and lovely grandmother, no more than a teenager, posed alluringly against a tree trunk in a grassless yard. In another, she has arranged herself on top of railroad tracks. Here she is, a poor girl wearing new clothes, and her hair is marcelled. There are pictures of other young women, her friends or sisters; they take turns wearing a fur-trimmed coat. This is their dress-up; these are their aspirations. They have taken pictures to show how desperately they want to get out from the pictures. Cross the tracks. Leave home.

Oh, how you know the feeling.

Many pictures have been ripped from the pages. Glued to the front, as if a new title, the first page remade when the album filled, is a photo labeled “Jim Jimmie Erma,” a family portrait. My father, little Jimmie, looks about four years old. His father holds the boy close in his thick arms, taking responsibility. My grandmother stands alongside wearing the coat and traveling hat. They are squinting into the daylight.

From this vantage point, I can see the secrets and scars in their unblemished faces. They confess to me of future crimes and punishments. Even as an innocent, my father looks exactly as I feared him, a fact that strikes me as peculiar only when I consider that my daughter will see her own hysterical mother in my cherub-cheeked baby pictures. The mother she will misjudge and misunderstand, the mother she might reject and revile, until one day she doesn’t.

But I am going to erase all that—everything I think I see—and give them a fresh start. I’m going to give them what I would if they were my own children, or if they were me. Because they are me. I’m going to give them love. read more

sitting still and being quiet

February 6th, 2012    -    No Comments

My uncle was a star among us. As a 12-year-old, he had a calling from God, or at least a push from his parents. This was the only kind of call that counted in rural Central Texas at the time. It meant he would be educated, he would preach, and he would go places.

He went overseas as a missionary. Every three years he brought his American bride and his growing family back to the States for furlough. He toured churches where he towered in the pulpit, gave stirring guest sermons, and said grace over potlucks in his honor. Everyone looked up to him.

But he was not spared the fall we all take into human torment and doubt. At midlife, he broke up his family and left his post. During his time of exile, he visited my mother’s house. Grown, I came home to visit. I sat in the room while he told my mother everything. He needed to say everything, and she was a complete listener. There was nothing but love in the room.

During a lull, he looked over to me in the corner and asked, “Karen, how did you get to be so wise?” I was surprised, because I only knew what I saw. My elegant uncle, eyes glistening, heart breaking; a light undimmed, spilling onto earth.

“By sitting still and being quiet.”

Join me when you’re ready.

Beginner’s Mind One-Day Retreat
Sunday, Feb. 26 9 am-3 pm
Hazy Moon Zen Center, Los Angeles
Register by email here.

If you’re not sure that you’re ready to begin, watch this. Watch it anyway, and you’ve begun.

Ordinary Glories from katherine gill on Vimeo.

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to a retreat • Facebook me • Follow me.

the fog of love

October 18th, 2011    -    8 Comments

Dense fog covered the foothills this morning. It rolled over the ground in such billows I thought it might be fire. But it was love.

I used to wish I had the presence of mind to mark my calendar every time my daughter caught some bug so I could track the attacks each year. I would no longer be overwhelmed by the slog of sneezes and wheezes, sinus and ear infections, if I could see the enemy coming.

These days I would mark my calendar with something else. The days one of us shatters and breaks apart, loosens a scream or a slam, and we enter the fog of anger where neither of us sees a way out. We become each other’s enemy. Perhaps they are equally predictable.

What am I thinking? That I can outrun the trouble? Outsmart the pain?

As before, I wake my daughter every morning with a kiss.

“I sure do love you.”

“I love you too.”

My wounds are just stones in my shoe. Tiny, temporary, and easy to take care of. Not like the path ahead of this family, and this family, and this one, who are teaching me so much more about love and fog and waking each morning with a kiss.

“I’m worried about my friends walking to school,” she said as we entered a thick bank. I told her not to worry.

“When you are on the ground, you can see right in front of you. Not far, but just far enough to keep going.”

I am sure of nothing but this: I sure do love you. Love is the one thing for sure.

***
I hope you can make your way to Athens, Georgia this Saturday. It might be a far and long trip for both of us, but there will be love in return.

Love Beyond Limits parenting workshop in Athens, GA, Saturday, Oct. 22

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to a retreat • Fan me • Follow me.

your proof

June 27th, 2011    -    16 Comments

Zen is to deal with this very life – here now – as one’s own.  We have to face the fact of this now, this here and this oneself.  That’s what each of us is facing. That is the path. That is the Way. – Maezumi Roshi

When people bring me their stories of pain and despair; when they are broken-hearted and lonely; when I hear their panic and fear, their sobs and gasping breath, what can I say? What can I do? There is nothing I can say; no way to fix it. When people bring me their disbelief, their last hope, their rage, I can only meet it with a nod. Yes! Yes! You are right! It is true! You are not dreaming this, you are wide awake! How I wish it weren’t so, this time. How I wish for the things we all wish for.

Like you, I wish I could go back in time and undo every disaster, every accident, every tough break and piece of bad news. I want your life to once again be just as you thought it was or as you hoped it would be. I want it desperately, but I have nothing to offer you except this.

You’ll always reach the end of how you thought your life would go. You’ll reach it many, many times. What looks like the low point is also the high point. What looks like the end is always the beginning . Finding faith may seem impossible in your darkest times, but like the earth’s eternal orbit and the sun’s ceaseless shine, impossible things happen all the time. You may be lost right now, but after days, months, even years in the wilderness, you will be found alive. Completely, joyously, miraculously alive. This right here is your proof.

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to a retreat • Fan me • Follow me.

doing good

May 22nd, 2011    -    16 Comments

I’ve pulled up one of those plastic stackable chairs alongside the humming hulk in the middle of the icy room. My daughter is lying inside the cylindrical chamber. We are both relieved that her head is peeking out at my eye level. A white fleece blanket covers her. Beneath it, she is holding a teddy bear handed to her at the last minute. She wears head phones tuned to Radio Disney. Her eyelids flutter.

From time to time the technician tells her something. I think he’s telling her what will happen next, but I can’t hear it. I only hear her answer. What she says is okay.

Neither of us is wearing metal. The clasp on my shoes, I was told, doesn’t matter.

The machine starts to make clicking sounds, then a growling heave and a sledgehammering smash. Over and over. On my lap is a New Yorker magazine opened to a story – I always read the fiction first. Three lines in and I look up at her, marooned. I watch her breathe. It’s beautiful.

She was anxious and afraid before we arrived for the MRI this morning. But this moment now is oddly comfortable and serene. I don’t mind the chill or the noise or the time. I know what to do, I know where to be, and I don’t want to be anywhere else.

I feel a kinship with every mother who has graced this station, parked in this plastic bastion of stillness, a steady eye in the tempest of uncertainty. We don’t know what will come of this – and there’s no reason for undue worry, it’s just a stubborn pain – but right now we are doing good. Right now is the only place we can ever do good, and this is as good as it can be.

Before we arrived I started to think about the difference between doing well and doing good. The “well” involves a subtle and insidious comparison of one outcome versus another, numbers and grades, finish lines, success, mediocrity, failure. Of course we all want our children to be well and to do well. We want the same for ourselves and our lives, as measured against goals and ambitions, as compared to others, always and ceaselessly compared to others. Sometimes I am far more concerned with doing well than doing good, and that’s no good.

Hours like these – so wholly purposeful and riveting – shift my sights away from my puny obsessions and toward the great immeasurable good, a single moment of undistracted presence. Over the din and out of nowhere I hear her say, like a benediction, okay.


Beginner’s Mind One-Day Meditation Retreat, LA, Sun., June 12

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to a retreat • Fan me • Follow me.

p.s. i love you

April 19th, 2011    -    21 Comments

It was the toothbrush that told me. Alone and overlooked in the emptied medicine chest, it was one of the few things my lover had left behind. When I found it, I knew with certainty what I’d been denying to myself for some time.

It was over.

In truth, our relationship had been over for longer than I’d wanted to believe, but in beginnings and endings, one party can lag the other on the uptake. If the toothbrush was my messenger, what was his? Perhaps the time I kicked his suitcase to the curb? For years after, I would forget that part in the telling of the story, since we tell stories our own way.

Whether by choice or circumstance, by the fleet seasons of romance or the final curtain of death, love ends. At least the love that is a story ends. And when that happens, what are we left with? A passage we might otherwise never dare to take. A portal through denial, disbelief and despair, through rage and madness, beyond delusive fairytales and melodrama, into a state of wakeful grace that can only be called true love.

True love is what is left behind when love leaves. It only looks like the end. Make it through one ending, and you might change your mind about all endings. That is the miracle cure, the ultimate healing, left behind on an empty shelf.

***

Someone asked me to write an article about love. Specifically, about the ending of love, because nobody needs help with the beginning of love.

So I’ve been thinking about love, and here are some of the things I’ve been thinking. Thinking about love is the opposite of love, because love is never what you think. read more

2:24 a.m.

February 9th, 2011    -    9 Comments

We never need to make our lives more difficult than they are, but of course we do. Then one day life itself rises up with an irrevocable force and we suddenly find that there is nothing we can do. Here is a message I received from Rose in Amsterdam not long ago. Since then, I’ve been visiting her blog daily, where I’m struck by her elegantly sage and poetic posts about her family. What she writes is more profound than anything I can offer, and proof that compassion and wisdom are indeed self-arising. Please visit her and leave your kindness.

This afternoon I planned to write you regarding your last email almost a year ago. I wanted to tell you how grateful I was about your words and how meaningful they still are to me.

This afternoon the phone rang and my husband told me that he was called to the ER immediately. Something appeared to be wrong with his blood, which had been drawn that morning. He’s a normal healthy person who happened to feel very tired. But which parent isn’t tired? we thought. I found a babysitter for our boys (ages 1 1/2 and 3) and rushed over there. A couple of hours later he was diagnosed with leukemia.

He asked me how to cope with his tremendous fear in facing this disease and the road ahead of him. The pain. But mainly the fear. Of course I’m literally scared to death too, but it isn’t my body that has to do the fighting.

Is there anything I could tell him? Besides the fact that I love him, truly and deeply. We both aren’t religious and always try to take life as realistically as it appears in front of us. But now we feel swept from our feet, and at this time we know we need to be grounded to make the right decisions.

I read your blog daily and read how often people email you with their problems. At 2:24 in the morning, I’m one of them. I simply wish I could have sent you the email I intended to write this afternoon, when I knew my life as it was.

Love from Amsterdam,
Rose Stamet-Geurs

Pain, pain go away

November 30th, 2009    -    10 Comments

Elissa Elliott is an (imperfect) mother, (recovered) former high school teacher, and (happy) author of Eve: A Novel of the First Woman. She blogs (almost) every day at Living the Questions, and she’s the first of my daily guest bloggers this week.

Pain is a funny thing. We’ll do anything to make it disappear. Wouldn’t our lives be exceedingly better if we didn’t ache, pine, and grieve? Wouldn’t we be happier, for crying out loud?

Yet if you’re a reader (or a writer, for that matter), you’ll know that conflict in a story is the name of the game. Without it, the story limps along, boring and aimless.

Still, if we were to make a film of our lives, we’d edit out all the bad parts, the difficult parts, so our luckless viewers can have one continuous, happy viewing.

But.

No story is good without conflict or tragedy. You need the lows to appreciate the highs. You need the winter doldrums to understand the summery successes.

Thus, today, I have a question for you and for me. Why do we wish a vital part of our life away? Why do we treat something as good or bad, simply because we can’t comprehend it . . . and don’t want to?

Here’s an idea taken from a book I’m reading called Living Zen, Loving God by Ruben L. F. Habito. Habito is a practicing Catholic and former Jesuit priest. He’s also a Zen teacher and a professor in the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. Whatever your spiritual practice, you will find that he gives thoughtful and intelligent reflections on practicing Zen—to gain a more joyful and compassionate life. For him, the practice brings him closer to God.

Habito once joined a vipassana meditation session led by a Theravadan Buddhist monk at an international religious conference. The meditation theme was generating kindness toward others. Here is the experience in Habito’s words:

Our director-monk suggested we concentrate on some pain we may have, say a pain in the leg or in the back: just to be aware of that pain, without attaching any value judgments or desires such as “I want that pain to disappear.” After a while we will be able to accept the pain as simply pain, and be able to live with it and no longer consider it suffering, he explained. In other words, if one does not associate such ideas as “pain is undesirable” or “I want relief,” judgments already based on ego attachment, with the bare and neutral fact of the pain itself, then pain ceases to be suffering, and is revealed as mere experience.

“Mere experience.” Wow. Is it possible we could value every little adventure of our lives, without labeling it good or bad?

I think so.

Today, I offer you a small gift—a poem by one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver. She illuminates this topic so much better than I in her gorgeous “Summer Morning”:

Heart,

I implore you,

it’s time to come back

from the dark,

it’s morning,

the hills are pink

and the roses

whatever they felt

in the valley of night

are opening now

their soft dresses,

their leaves

are shining.

Why are you laggard?
Sure you have seen this

a thousand times,

which isn’t half enough.

Let the world

have its way with you,

luminous as it is

with mystery

and pain—

graced as it is

with the ordinary.

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to my retreat • Fan me • Follow me.

Pages: Prev 1 2

archives by month

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.