Tag Archives: memoir

afraid to live, afraid to die

vole from William

Within the past couple of weeks, I’ve discovered that one of the major patterns I carry is being afraid both to live and to die.

This has been true my whole life, but I’ve never allowed that core fear to rise up into knowing. It is so much better to be aware of the pattern rather than keeping it shoved down inside, where it leaks out in peculiar and unhelpful ways–profound anxiety, for one. Now I see how that fear ruled many aspects of my life. Like the tiny mouse in the picture, I’ve hidden myself, metaphorically speaking, in the corner, thinking that I can’t be seen, and hence am safer.

It’s not that the fear has left, it hasn’t. Perhaps it never will; it doesn’t matter any more. Now I can befriend the fear–in this moment–welcome it in, and get to know it. There is no need to discover the story of why or when it first developed; nothing to unravel or solve.

Simply to meet it, and greet it, now.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
photo: taken by William Collinge, who, after capturing the mouse in his office, lovingly deposited the small creature outside.

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starting from scratch

original fireplace croppedI’ve never designed a fireplace environment before. The current stone surround in our new-to-us home is not pleasing to either my husband or me. It’s dirty, but cleaning won’t be enough. It’s very dimensional, rough stone, and overpowers the wall. Next week, all but the fireplace itself will be torn out. Even the brass front is going.

But what do I like? What does B appreciate? How do we blend that? The good news is that we have twenty-four solid years making home decisions together. We’ve lived in seven different houses during this time. This will be our eighth–but the first where the fireplace setting was so displeasing that we felt the need to do more than simply paint. There are so many materials available–way too many, really, so it was hard to know where to start.

We found a website with tens of thousands of home ideas: http://www.houzz.com. We paged through hundreds of photos. It was a 21st century event: we sat next to each other in our comfortable living room recliners–each perusing the same website–and passed our iPads back and forth, responding to other people’s fireplace solutions–delightful fun, with quite a bit of chuckling involved. It’s fascinating to watch the sorting process. This is a task where the mind is very helpful–minds are so good at responding to this and that–judging, rejecting, or being drawn toward. I love inviting the mind into projects where its strengths are both useful and required. Over a couple of hours, we developed a feel for what we like in common in the realm of fireplace settings.

We have a precious friend–he married us–who works with wood with an elegant Buddhist eye. We called and left a message today, because it dawned on me that he might provide amazing mantlepiece ideas. I hope we can invite him to make one.

We also successfully replaced a toilet today! The renovation process has begun, one delicious moment at a time.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
The photo is of our current, soon-to-be-removed fireplace surround.

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unspeakable vacancy

Messier 77This unspeakable vacancy that we are, that holds all of manifestation–black holes, shooting stars, exploding suns, and the occasional planet with conditions that meet life as we know it–how could that possibly be seen as dull, boring, or flat?

In the most benign moments, while I’m sitting at the keyboard watching words form on the screen, millions of occurences unfold. Blood creates new cells, other formations eat what has died and needs recycling, nerves are firing, not to mention the words pouring out on the screen. How amazing is that! Words, little discrete shapes lumped together that form temporary meaning–a stunning occurence. One vast unspeakable, connected miracle forming out of no thing.

I’ve been watching a humming bird nest blog; this is the second clutch I’ve seen hatch and develop. The babes, in the last five days, have turned into little bright, aware winged things, practicing for taking flight by hanging on to the edge of the nest with one foot and flapping like mad. One will even stand on the other for purchase. Somehow they manage not to fall out of the tiny nest, about the size of two and a half joints on a man’s finger. Astounding! The cam is now on what is called “fledge watch.” Shelly, the elder fledgling by three days, could go at any time.

Glance around! This unspeakable vacancy–surely, not dull, boring or flat…

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
photo credit: NASA archives
Phoebe’s cam

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to be a clearing

love-at-first-sight11Today I got to do what in the past I would have called “holding the energy” or “holding the space.” Now I think of it more as having the opportunity to be a clearing– open, loving, and empty.

For a few days, my son, R, has been very anxious as he awaited an experimental treatment for stroke. Somehow the every-moment-unknown seemed even more intensely unknown today–particularly after watching him sign release forms that suggest the possibility of death in sixteen different ways. His hand shook so badly as he signed, and yet he was fully ready to move forward with the treatment. There was no room for mama-anxiety this morning. I noticed some in private, of course. Mothers are deeply conditioned for concern.

The role my husband and I played once we met up with our son this morning was to be the calm, open presence for whatever might unfold. I made sure R had the opportunity to tell the doctor what his wishes were if the treatment went terribly wrong–since he had not thought of filling out advanced directives–and what he said was, “no resuscitation measures of any kind.” The doctor seemed shocked; I was not. My son has told me more than once that he doesn’t care to grow old–not with his body–that quality of life is everything. He’d rather have three fine months than fifteen miserable years.

The treatment proceeded, and then we drove the seven hours home. There may be subtle change already. During the next three months more changes may occur.

To be a clearing: to be open, transparent, lucid, and awake to/with/as whatever arises.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
photo credit (had to use this image again!)

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we do not multitask

multitasking womanHumans believe that they multitask–sometimes we take great pride in this, other times we feel depression and overwhelm, and just want to slink back to bed.

But the truth is–and there is science to back up our direct experience–we only attend to one detail at a time. We only have one thought or one feeling at a time. Life occurs one eternal moment at a time. There is no such thing as multitasking–other than the belief in it and the story we tell ourselves about it.

The past week, there hasn’t been much downtime. I’ve been with people almost every moment, and time alone has been rarely available. (Except the forty-five minutes when I write. Even my talkative son honors writing time.) One event, the following activity, the next meeting, boom-boom-boom–all lined up like the tennis balls popping endlessly out of the machine to practice forehand and backhand. Yet when I notice, there are timeless moments between events, activities, and meetings.

In fact, the timeless is everpresent to sip when we remember to do so.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
photo credit

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they die of neglect

red demon skullBedtime used to bring my wild, blood-red demons–nightmare scenarios about my son’s health–all the eventual horrible happenings that might occur.

I suspect the pattern arose so I would feel prepared for any outcome; I’ve been blindsided a few times in life. But the net effect was that rather than dying once, I, or my son, or my husband, died hundreds of times. Not a helpful outcome, either for sleep or psyche.

Come to discover, if I leave the thought train alone–if I do not suppress it, or try to quiet the mind in any way, but simply notice, and acknowledge, the train rumbles right on by, off into its own dark and unpleasant future.

I remain right here, face against the soft pillowcase my sister made me, under the warmth of our downy, with my husband breathing evenly, quietly, beside me.

When thoughts are neither followed nor denied, they die of neglect.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
with thanks to Rupert Spira for the prompt, “they die of neglect.”
photo credit

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ripening

ripeningThe ripening that brings one to the non-dual view is not under personal control. People are drawn to the teaching or not. They may be uninterested, but then a few years later, can’t understand what took them so long. This was true of me.

Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now sat on my bookshelf for ten years before I read it. I was drawn to make the purchase–but then, there it sat, unopened.

One day in 2007, I saw the title gleaming on my shelf and pulled the book out out, turning it over in my hand with wonder. I knew that it had been waiting there for a very long time. From the moment I cracked it open on that day, I was drawn into the truth I found there. I instinctively knew that it was true–true for this body-mind, in any case. I read for hours.

The the pull that began that day was unstoppable. It lead to the Open Path training with Elias Amidon; the writings of Jean Klein, the Dzogchen teachings, and Nirmala; sitting with Tom Kurzka, David Waldman, and finally, Rupert Spira. The search ended there in the clarity of the teachings Rupert provides. The unlearning and dissolving of old patterns continues–that is apparently a limitless undoing.

Always a beginner. Eternally grateful.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
photo credit

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I have a plan

planHow many times have we said, “I have a plan” over our lifetime?

When we approach life with a plan, there is always some part of us to improve, to correct, to change.

I remember that I always had an idea of what events, relationships, or even my hair styles would look like, but they never turned out the way the mind envisioned. I had self-improvement schemes, too. For example, if I were kind enough, other people would be kind in return. Not necessarily so…

I no longer live with a plan. However it is, is how it is. This makes this wild experience we call life much simpler and easier. Much less stress, resistance, and drama.

Not having a plan makes life interesting right now, because I’m taking a year-long real estate course where I’m required to make a business plan. Which, of course, I will–because I’ve committed to completing this course. I will put close attention to what they ask of us, and attend to the details. But do I “believe” in it? Do I really believe I have individual control over my life? No longer–because this is so obviously not “my” life. I’ve spent hundreds of hours noticing, and I cannot find a “doer.” And yet doing happens, and life continues to unfold. Occasionally events even turn out in a pleasing way. Just as often, they do not.

I soaked in the hot tub tonight. Abruptly, the body-mind stood, and stepping out of the tub, wrapped up in a towel. There was no plan–or even the premonition of a thought–of leaving the warmth of the tub at that moment. And yet it occurred. I slipped into bed, looking forward to deep rest before an apparently very busy day tomorrow. Forty-five minutes later, I found myself sliding my feet into slippers, wrapping up in a hoodie, and returning to the computer.

Do I have any sense of when writing will stop, and I’ll return to bed? No idea at all. Perhaps writing will go on all night. Perhaps, a couple of minutes from now, the body will put itself back in bed. Whichever occurs, or something else completely unforeseen–I’m sure to be surprised by whatever shows up. That’s part of the delight of living now–it’s all so surprising.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
image credit

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desire

rocks like a waterfall smallerYesterday’s post didn’t satisfy me. I rewrote it, and it’s still kind of… unrewarding. Onward–now is now!

Desire is a harsh taskmistress– we both want and don’t want the object of our desire. For example, Breyer’s mint chocolate chip ice-cream tugs at me in the evening, but I don’t want to put on extra weight. I yearn to find a home in a community close by and move, but sigh deeply, pondering all of the heavy lifting involved. Easily, tens of additional examples are available.

That’s the mind’s game: desiring. Another name for it is seeking–seeking other than what is here, right now: warm cup of coffee, Phoebe-the-hummingbird sitting on her fresh clutch of eggs on the monitor to my right, the small, burbling fountain in the background. All perfect, when the mind rests in the present. If I rest here and notice the stream of desires that arise, I can also take note of what is aware of the desires.

That-which-is-aware has no preferences. Desires can roll on by like waves on the beach; they simply show up and fade away–if we don’t grab on to them. It has become rather playful to watch them come and go.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
photo credit: I took this photo in December, 2000, on the Oregon coast

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is it a barren nothing?

black eye galaxyIs it a barren nothing? So fun when deconstruction has to begin with the first five words: “It” is not an it, but we call it that in order to use words at all. Otherwise, it would be necessary to remain silent.

Both my husband and I went through a period we now call “the bardos.” In 2008, meaning in our lives fell away, and life felt very flat. Barren. Even unappealing. I no longer understood how to live, and was afraid that life would be boring, or uninteresting.

Ha! Not the case, and the bardos turned out to be a phase that lasted a couple of months. Life’s vitality returned–on its own terms! Now life lives–and it’s engaging, challenging–all that it was before, except it has no meaning, and I’m absolutely clear that I have no control at all. It’s all one big life unfolding–beautifully, horribly, confusingly, touchingly.

© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
photo credit: NASA’s incredible archives

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