Just joined a meditation/mindfulness group this week. Last night was my first visit. An hour of meditation. I think there might have been 2 minutes of all the little fragments added together where I was only “thinking” about my breath. But I guess it’s a start.

The hour also didn’t feel like seven, so that must mean something.

We were just emailed the subject of the next two weeks, with this blog post attached.

Last night’s guided meditation (after the hour of “just” meditation) was on equanimity. Recognizing that all things rise and fall, and reminding ourselves to observe those things with compassion and balance. I spoke during the discussion on the freeing revelation I had a couple of years ago that I can actually care a great deal about the happiness of the people I love; but that I am not personally responsible for it beyond my own actions.

This sentence from the lionsroar post speaks to me profoundly today as well:

“We free ourselves from what offends us not by turning away from the people with these faults, but by dropping the need to make others responsible for not being how we think they should be.”

Ah, yes.

It’s just a small coal, really

I had a student perform in a concerto competition yesterday; he took third place.

He sent me an email later in the day expressing that he was somewhat satisfied with his performance, but was having a really hard time with not having won.

Without getting into unnecessary and tangential details about preparation, and competitions; and not having sat in on every other performance, I wrote back something like this:

One should never enter a competition expecting to win. All you can do is go in and do your best, or at least whatever version of your best is available to you at that particular moment. Everything else is out of your hands, and therefore not worth thinking about. Ten people could play fabulously and the judge still has to pick one.

And I clicked send, and I went to brush my teeth and get ready for bed, and I realized

[bam, mind blown]

that this statement is actually about everything.

And I realized that I have actually always done my best, or at least whatever version of my best had been available to me at that particular moment. And sometimes it was enough, and sometimes it wasn’t, but that part of it Didn’t. Actually. Have. Anything. To. Do. With. Me.

And then I went to bed, and kept thinking that I wasn’t really sleeping, but realized in the morning that I must have been, because I dreamed that this discovery [when the world seemed to stop for a moment, like Dorianne Laux putting gas in her car in the rain] led to a transformation, and when I woke up in the morning I was actually a different person. I looked different — tall, blonde, thin (Freud would have a field day with this one) — had a different name. Same husband, same children (Freud, again), but I. Was. Different.

I woke up this morning, and am, as you probably expect, still me. Except I think I’ve finally forgiven myself for everything that wasn’t my fault.

I looked in the mirror a couple of times today. [Still] not tall, [still] not blonde, [still] not thin.

But definitely different.

*From Courage, by Ann Sexton

It is in the small things we see it.
The child’s first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien,
you drank their acid
and concealed it.

if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
cover your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing….


*This discovery may or may not have had to do with the fact that yesterday I watched To The Bone. A fabulous, beautiful, powerful movie about people struggling with anorexia. The poem above was read in the movie.

why worry?

DSC_0009I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing; even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing,
and I gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning
and sang.

~Mary Oliver

Sarah Manguso

Just finished the 2nd of two wonderful books by Ms. Manguso.

The Two Kinds of Decay, after Ongoingness

From the end (don’t worry; it’s not a spoiler kind of thing):

“…Nothing happens in a moment. Nothing happens quickly. If you think something’s happened quickly, you’re looking at only a part of it….

and then, just a little bit later:

There are two kinds of decay: mine and everyone else’s.

This is the usual sort of book about illness. Someone gets sick, someone gets well.

Those who claim to write about something larger and more significant than the self sometimes fail to comprehend the dimensions of a self.

Most people consider their own suffering a widely applicable model, and I am no exception.

This is suffering’s lesson: pay attention. The important part might come in a form you do not recognize.

You might not know to love it.

But to pay attention is to love everything.

To see the future as brightness.

Everything that happens is the last time it happens. We see things only as their own fatal brightness, and there is nothing after that brightness.

You can’t learn from remembering. You can’t learn from guessing.

You can learn only from moving forward at the rate you are moved, as brightness, into brightness.”

Let someone love you, just the way you are — as flawed as you might be, as unattractive as you sometimes feel, and as unaccomplished as you think you are. To believe that you must hide all of the parts of you that are broken out of fear that someone is incapable of loving what is less than perfect is to believe that sunlight is incapable of entering through a broken window and illuminating a dark room.

~Marc Hack

I don’t know who Marc Hack is, but this makes a heck of a lot of sense to me.

And, while you’re at it, love yourself at least a little too.


Oh, to remember

from Sarah, at Redamancy Lit.

“Pick a point, create a purpose, and move (ever slowly sometimes) towards it. Every day is the right day to reassess, make a map, rally the stakeholders to your own life, show up for someone else, and build capacity to be a better . . . human being. This is why love matters most. This is why you’re alive. This is why life is so painfully short and your sucky attitude is a waste of fine time.  Break down the barriers you’ve built between you and the love of that god, that man, that woman, that child, and that person inside yourself you bully. . .Stand tall, breathe deep, smile softly, and forgive yourself for all that shit you won’t let go. Now is the time to put it down because it’s stupid heavy and you have a light heart. . .Be magnanimous, even when they don’t deserve it. Because you don’t sometimes, either. We’re all recipients of everyday grace and fear of hell isn’t what gets you into heaven. “

She wrote it for New Years, as a resolution of sorts. I think if it’s worth resolving on January 1 of any year, it’s worth resolving every day. If only I could remember. I actually read something the other day, and of course, being me, can’t remember who wrote it, much like the above: You throw an anchor into the future you want for yourself, and then pull yourself along by the chain. It doesn’t mention anything about forgiving yourself for all the crap you’re leaving behind, but I guess that could be implied.

Guidance on self-love

My beloved child, break your heart no longer.

Each time you judge yourself, you break your own heart.

You stop feeding on the love which is the wellspring of your vitality.

The time has come, your time, to live, to celebrate, to see the goodness that you are. . .

. . .Let no one, no thing, no idea or ideal obstruct you.

If once comes, even in the name of “truth,” forgive it for its unknowing.

Do not fight the dark.

Let go, aware of the light.

And breathe into the goodness that you are.

~Bapuji Kripalu