Hugging and Arriving

My neighborhood book group met last night.  Walking home in the dark, I heard rustling in the bushes.  My flashlight revealed that a skunk was rummaging through grasses; he or she was intent.  At first, I felt a bit of trepidation, oh, great, I might get sprayed, but then, there was such serenity in the encounter, each of us with a mission and destination, one for food, and one for home.

I continued on, honoring that we each have our niche, our paths, and our meeting in the night was simply awareness, one with nuzzling, and one with steps.  

I’m with arriving.  What it is to arrive and be with ourselves all along the way?

I’m reflecting on arriving because two friends and colleagues, Pamela Blunt and Francesca Khanna, are offering a monthly workshop on Presence and Sensitivity.  One can be anywhere on the planet and call in or participate in a Zoom call.

Their invitation and introduction shares the words of Rumi from his poem “Bird Wings”.

Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced as birds’ wings.

Sinking into that invites a pause. I feel the beat of my heart, it’s transmission through arms to hands and fingers that touch this keyboard sending thoughts who knows where and who cares. Shoulder blades and neck wing, whisks stirring the lift in air. Spine responds, answers a call.

The Presence and Sensitivity invite offers the words of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, “Don’t say I depart,  I am arriving …”

A few years ago I participated in a Sensory Awareness workshop with Lee Klinger Lesser at Tassajara.  Tassajara is a sacred place of enchantment, and after I’d checked in, I was standing in front of the office smiling, feeling gentle with peace, joy, and gratitude.  Lee walked up to me smiling, and asked, “Have you arrived?”  

“Yes,” I said.  “I have arrived”, but after being there working with stones, lying on rocks in the creek, walking back and forth, aware of cleanliness being more than body and teeth, but also mind, a cleansing and flossing of mind and space and intertwining, I knew that with time and this space, I’d embodied a new understanding of arriving.

This moment, right here, enough. 

Perhaps arriving is knowing enough – fullness and emptiness and all that is between.  My head comes forward and rises, occiput soft to receive.  

And now I introduce Crissy.  The woman who hosted book group last night has a daughter with special needs.  Crissy is in her 30’s, and unabashedly creative in what she wears. Yesterday when I walked up the stairs to their home, she saw me, and gave me a great big hug.  She doesn’t know my name, but that didn’t matter. I was clearly there for a hug.

When we gathered in a circle outside, she went around and everyone received a hug, and not a touch of a hug. This was a full body hug that went on and on and on.  What a way to begin each moment, with a full body and spiritual hug. It’s not always possible perhaps, but then, intention can be set.

In 1966, Thich Nhat Hanh learned the power of hugs when a woman friend took him to the airport, and asked if it was okay to hug a monk.  He thought since he was a Zen teacher, that yes, it must be okay, but then he realized that he was stiff and uncomfortable with the hug.  In response, he created hugging meditation. He teaches:

According to the practice, you have to really hug the person you are holding. You have to make him or her very real in your arms, not just for the sake of appearances, patting him on the back to pretend you are there, but breathing consciously and hugging with all your body, spirit, and heart. Hugging meditation is a practice of mindfulness. “Breathing in, I know my dear one is in my arms, alive. Breathing out, she is so precious to me.” If you breathe deeply like that, holding the person you love, the energy of your care and appreciation will penetrate into that person and she will be nourished and bloom like a flower.

That might be enough but he continues on.

Hugging is a deep practice; you need to be totally present to do it correctly. When I drink a glass of water, I invest one hundred percent of myself in drinking it. You can train yourself to live every moment of your daily life like that.

Before hugging, stand facing each other as you follow your breathing and establish your true presence. Then open your arms and hug your loved one. During the first in-breath and out-breath, become aware that you and your beloved are both alive; with the second in-breath and out-breath, think of where you will both be three hundred years from now; and with the third in-breath and out-breath, be aware of how precious it is that you are both still alive. 

When you hug this way, the other person becomes real and alive. You don’t need to wait until one of you is ready to depart for a trip; you may hug right now and receive the warmth and stability of your friend in the present moment.

You won’t physically hug in Pam and Fran’s offering, but if you want more information, contact me, and meanwhile enjoy the continually expanding and contracting, the breathing hug of air we all share.

For Real


Honoring

Yesterday I learned of the Ok glacier in Iceland, which was declared dead in 2014 because it was no longer able to move because of its shrunken size due to climate change.

On August 18th, mourners gathered to commemorate its loss and climbing to the top of the mountain on which it once lived, placed a plaque to mark its loss. 

The words written by  Icelandic author Andri Snaer Magnason, melt the heart. May our melting hearts bring greater connection and awareness, not more loss.  

“Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as glacier. In the next 200 years all our main glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.”

Plaque honoring the Ok glacier after its death

“As Is”

Today in my Zoom call quartet, one person mentioned an anecdote from Frank Ostaseski’s wonderful book, The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us about Living Fully. He’s in  a consignment shop with his daughter when he realizes many of the items for sale wear tags “As Is”.  He thinks how great it would be if each of us wore a tag saying “As Is”, and believed it.

We decided our little group should sport t-shirts pronouncing, “As Is”.

As I peruse The Five Invitations once again, I come across two death poems from Japan where the  tradition is to write a poem on the last day of your life or soon before.

Here is the death poem of Dogen Zenji who died in 1253.

Four and fifty years

I’ve hung the sky with stars

Now I leap through – 

What shattering!

Here, with a different tone, is the death poem of Moriya Sen’an, who died in 1838. 

Bury me when I die

beneath a wine barrel

in a tavern.

With luck

the cask will leak.

And with that, I consider how we meet the moment as it comes, honoring gathering and scattering as One.

Losing a piece, this rock wears a new face, continuing a tradition “as is”

Peace

Where I live near the Golden Gate, the fog is never the same: wet, dry, thick, thin, present, not, moving, still.  

Today it is wet; the decks, plants, and soil are wet, and I’m filled with the weight and stillness of this day, a weight that knows gravity as friend.

I am peace and ease. Breath swings easily in and out. I don’t rush, simply carried to what is next to do and be on my Monday morning list.

In this place I notice my voice is slow and deep, a generous unwrapping of vibration in time and space. 

Homage to peace and potential in rocks, formed to rest for now

Light

The light continues to astonish me.  I’m waking at 4:15 to watch the moon play peek-a-boo through the fog as the fog moves in and out, thickens and thins. Then the sun tickles everything pink as it ripens the day and twinkles right through this being I perceive of as “me”.

It must be my age, my rising in years and ripening, but these days, this “me” seems to be living in geologic time. I’m thrilled that the land mass of the earth was all one and then it separated into seven continents. It feels like my moods, coming together and apart, allowing unity and expansion, and within that, intention to give space but not divide, judge, or compare.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that the first cells emerged, though it was 4 billion years. That’s a great many candles to put on a cake.

I wonder if I remember 3.9 million years ago when photosynthesis emerged. And then 2 billion years ago when multicellular organisms came together to energize on oxygen. I think of all the cakes I’d bake if I’d been there, but of course, in an evolutionary sense, I was. My components formed inside the stars. I come from expansion and contraction. It is my base.

Meanwhile, my politically positive daughter-in-law is pregnant with a little boy and we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new energy and buoyant voice on the planet.  He’ll be wearing this soon as he makes the rounds in his stroller to Get Out the Vote!!

Miracles Happen

Gratitude

It’s Saturday. I rose at 5, and looked for the moon, but she was tucked in fog.  

I sat on the couch with Tiger and Bella, a blanket over my lap, and closing my eyes felt them moist and expanding, cells like wands.

I fell asleep to wake from a vivid dream.  A window was open and that made sense since in the dream it was the room where my brother passed away.  I picked up wet sheets and pillowcases, and rocks fell out, and feeling what we leave behind, I burst into tears, and sobbed and sobbed. I thought I can’t stop no matter what, and then I woke up disoriented, wondering if the dream was telling me I haven’t cried enough tears, haven’t mourned enough.  

I sit here now, the fog quiet and still. Early this morning, wind chimes sounded like church bells. I felt how when someone I love dies, this world seems like a matte painting, as though I’m missing something, which of course I am, but somehow today, there is fluidity and fullness in the layers, waves in the embodiment I seem to think I am.

A bison who lived in the bison paddock in Golden Gate Park died yesterday.  8-year old Brunhida had kidney disease.

I am with loss and change as I sink in and out of this beautiful poem by W.S. Merwin on gratitude and honoring thanks.

Thanks BY W.S. Merwin

Listen

with the night falling we are saying thank you

we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings

we are running out of the glass rooms

with our mouths full of food to look at the sky

and say thank you

we are standing by the water thanking it

standing by the windows looking out

in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging

after funerals we are saying thank you

after the news of the dead

whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you

in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators

remembering wars and the police at the door

and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you

in the banks we are saying thank you

in the faces of the officials and the rich

and of all who will never change

we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us

taking our feelings we are saying thank you

with the forests falling faster than the minutes

of our lives we are saying thank you

with the words going out like cells of a brain

with the cities growing over us

we are saying thank you faster and faster

with nobody listening we are saying thank you

thank you we are saying and waving

dark though it is

Gratitude scents and colors the air outside The Legion of Honor

Reception

This morning I settle into the words of Marion Milner, author in 1934 of A Life of One’s Own.  She writes: 

I’m really only interested in finding more and more ways of saying what I feel about the extraordinariness of the world and of being alive in it.

I want that too and yet today there is a warmth in my heart, that fire between flame and embers that simply wants to be with light in the trees and awareness that oxygen was once poison and then two billion years ago, we creatures who need it came in to balance the overabundance of oxygen with our intake, utilization, and release of carbon dioxide.  How amazing is that! 

I’m also with George Eliot’s words from her amazing book Middlemarch

If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. 

Today, even as I cultivate all sides of silence, curving all sides into a circle, then dissolving in and out, I allow my ears to reach out into the universe with intention to receive.

I erect antennae in every cell.

Ring Mountain yesterday