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WHAT IS IT THAT YOU WANT

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What is it that you want to do with the one  wild  precious thing called your life? ~ Mary Oliver

The year is ending and this quote from Mary Oliver nudged me to visit this place.

What did I do with this one wild precious thing called my life this year?

I failed to write as promised. This thought stood out as I revisited my so-called blog. My Penzu account (a highly recommendable on-line journal) was active but I did not take time to post. Something in me tells me that there’s nothing worthwhile to post. Then I read that The Martian movie was based on a self-published novel by a new writer. I told myself maybe I can write again and post whatever I want to. No one needs to approve of what I am saying and how I say it anyway.

When asked what it is that I want to do with my one, wild, precious thing called your life, my one and only answer is to write. Yet what is it in writing that gives me this profound enthusiasm and at the same time fear?

LIVING IN TWO DIFFERENT PLACES

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I wrote this is January 23, 2011.  I still have PMDD but I am learning to catch it early. I feel I want to hug the person that is me that wrote this four years ago. Posting this is my way of hugging me. 

I live in two different places each month.

At first I thought it was just all in the mind. I thought the pharmaceutical industries were simply trying to  sensationalized a new medical diagnosis to sell yet another drug.

In my twenties I could already sense something was wrong with me. Years later my  Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) was confirmed.  Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)  was not yet known then.

I was never clinically or officiallly diagnosed though. But based on my patterns this past years  I know I have PMDD.

And it scares me….

This land of PMDD creates havoc in a magnitude that scares me more and more.

Most of the time I am already  flat on my face   before I can really accept that I am not myself anymore. Recently I again had a major conflict with my best friend.

A day before I “changed” everything feels normal. We were talking then all of a sudden I seemed to have instantaneously transformed. He said something that shattered my peace and immediately my moods went below zero.

It led to an ugly exchange of words. A fight.

None of us won.

It is DAY 22

I still feel “unsettled.”  I still feel  drained about that fight.  It is day 22. When the bleeding comes magic seems to happen. I go back to my previous home. Each month I live in two different places.

Self-diagnosing myself as a woman with PMDD does not excuse me from the toxic climate I am creating.  I am at all times responsible for the person I am becoming.

For now I just want to write and help myself  manage the symptoms and hopefully write less and less about it.

I don’t just want to write about PMDD. I want to write about LIFE.

There is more to life about this emotional roller-coaster.

I still believe in myself.   I just had a short conversation with my best friend a while back. I could sense  that my craziness is seen not as  all of me. I am still loved.

BLOGGING

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I visited Buddhist oriented blogs. They are plenty. Countless actually. It’s a beautiful world out there. But honestly  I get overwhelmed as I read through all the sharings of the bloggers.

One lifetime is not enough to read everything we are interested in. There are so many wisdom-filled bloggers. And I get the feeling that to be fully engrossed with each one will rob me of how it is live in the real world. So I just choose one or two bloggers and refrain from spending an entire morning reading here and there. There is huge difference between living the real life and reading a blog.

Not everyone is inclined to write or read blogs but there are people like us who has found a sense of meaning in articulating and sharing our inner life and path with others.

Everyone can write now. We don’t need permission from anyone to write whatever we want to write. Choosing to be incognito is a personal choice. Maybe one day I can go public. But it doesn’t matter. In this space my real name and context is irrelevant. One can choose to be whoever s/he wants. I write not for an audience but for the simple joy of writing. I am grateful that I’ve been attempting to write for the past two years.  I resonate and am inspired by all those bloggers who persevered to share their journey generously.  At my end I feel I am still groping on where my writing will lead me. I just post randomly. I want to write about serene living as a way to help myself be focused and be “there” – serene – but more than that I feel that I am doing this as a response and a commitment to what I have always wanted to be: a writer.

GROUNDLESSNESS

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Pema Chodron’s “groundlessness” is St. John of the Cross’ “dark night.”

When we experience groundlessness or dark night we are given the gift to awaken to the truth of life’s essential realities. What once gives us a sense of safety or peace is shattered, lost or acutely seen in its truth. Impermanent. Fleeting. Superficial. Unreliable. Undependable.   Groundlessness/dark night sets in.  This is universally labeled as SUFFERING.

No one will ever be exempted.

In our younger years or before we got interested to read spirituality books or have our “awakenings” – we go through life believing that all pain, difficulties, restlessness, uneasiness, conflicts – all that makes one ill at ease – has to be solved, fixed, do away with, before we can finally begin to arrive “there.” To that serene, peaceful life.

In my readings of Pema, which I find strong resonance with St.  John of the Cross, I am seeing more clearly that suffering cannot be completely removed from our everyday life (though there are  unnecessary, man-made petty sufferings which can be avoided.)

Pema’s words – befriending our personal demons –  speaks to me of facing our fears and understanding where they are coming from and learning skills to healthily manage them, instead of assuming that our fears are to be seen as enemies and “bad” parts of our personality.

I have met and sat with my personal demon countless times.  Psychology labels them as “weaknessness” or “learned/acquired dysfunctional reactions to life’s miseries.”  These are my autopilot response   when I feel groundless.  It is my common “escape route,” my complusive reactions to find safety, my habitual way of relating with insecurities.

Befriending our personal demons is the initial step in loosening its grip on us.

Pema’s echo of the ancient teaching of unconditional friendliness towards oneself is similar to Jesus’ “To love others as we love ourselves.”  Love of self is “maîtri – unconditional friendliness towards one’s self.”

The journey truly begins with one’s inner life and not on what is outside.

FEAR is always inside us. It is this fear, this sense of groundlessness, which makes us relate to life on a perpetual ill at ease-vigilant-alarmed mode. Fear blocks our path to “friendliness” towards our own self.

I will continue reading Pema, with focused this time. I want what she has understood and lived and is teaching as a Buddhist nun. I also want to continue seeing the pattern of similarities of my Catholic faith and the Buddhist lessons on putting order into disordered lives.

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL

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Serenity begins with the choice to be mindful. This is about paying attention to where my awareness is lodged at this present moment. Being aware of where my thoughts and emotions go, in touch with my never ending stream of inner dialogue, able to observe and recognize what I am thinking about.

I’m done with the first half of my lifetime. I am in my late 40’s. I am now living the remaining half of my journey. It is bound to end. There is a finish line, an expiry date, that one big RED LIGHT called death. While I still have today – existing, aware, connected – I want to live the best life that I can have. Meaningful, serene, happy – in all its reality.

I cannot waste my time. I should not. It is extremely precious. This is God’s gift – this being here. PRESENT to what is.

Waiting for the result of my medical tests reminded me of this one great truth:   Life is beautiful no matter what we have and rather not have right now.

The idea of my possibly having a terminal illness, after recently seeing someone who died of CA barely recognizable in her coffin, shuts down everything for me. All I could think of is the beauty of being ALIVE every single day.

In the face of an imminent death an automatic shift inside us happens. We label a lot of things around us as petty.  Immediately I told myself that I should have written a book, say whatever I want to say. It will be my one and only chance. I’ll die anyway.

Everything pales with the thought that I might have cancer. There is great fear but I was also enveloped with immense appreciation of being alive. It was an experience of connectedness with the truth that I am gifted with life.

It was a concrete appreciation of who I am and all that I call my own life. I had all kinds of scenario about leaving my family, my good friend.    I saw that I have a good life.   It amazed me that more than regrets I have a deep realization of being blessed, of this good life that I have. I am not saying I am now ready to die. It’s more about I have grown in seeing life’s beauty and countless gifts. The very fact that I am here, alive – is an immense source of contentment and joy for me. There is nothing to resolve, nothing to fix, nothing to strive for, to grasp, to gain, to go to – I am just here. Alive. Breathing. Writing my thoughts. I am happy.

I am still basking in gratitude upon receiving a “no need for a biopsy”  result.    I hope I will not forget the lessons learned these past days, the beauty of   this PRECIOUS MOMENT, present to WHAT IS. I was scared as I was waiting for the result of my tests but I was also learning much. It was a taste of mindfulness in the midst of whatever it is that I might face ahead. I am grateful I will still be around.

NO GUARANTEE

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It took me years to have clarity on this.

It’s true. Wherever we assume we are in our practice of meditation or in the spiritual/emotional growth we claim to have “achieved,” none of these will actually spare us from all that can hurt us in this life.

There is no guarantee; there is no assurance that when we dive deep into teachings of being “awakened” life henceforth will be pain-free.

Maybe we started to enter into this new realm of “paying attention,” coming from a desire to set things right in our chaotic lives. Somehow we knew we got there.   And then life has its way of making us  realize that  whatever path we have chosen none of that will  shield us from all that we were hoping we will stop having.

When we were younger and is new in the path, it is excusable to assume that once we have read all the mindfulness books and is extra-faithful and generous in our “practice,” we’re in for a steady and a peaceful journey.

But later in life we cannot insist on this anymore.

Life has its own way of surprising us and letting us know that there is nothing to hold on to. Not even our   utmost faithfulness in whatever life of prayer we have committed to.

Issues get recycled or we may encounter new ones that we never thought we’ll ever have or experience. Themes vary but there is a common touch of suffering: of having no one or nothing to hold on to. It could be terminal illness, separation, conflicts with others, financial problem, senseless war and killings, an addicted son, mental illness or even the death of a beloved cat or dog.

It’s a movement which we see in our lives in its varied stages. So we continue on. We begin to gradually see that none of whatever “practice” we commit ourselves to, will make us invincible. Lights and shadows continue to dance around us and we still stumble and get trapped.   The darkness prevails, light sets in, transition come, peacetime. And then another cycle.

And slowly we see that all along it’s not about making our lives without an issue, problem, conflict, darkness. Because no matter what we do life is both light and shadow, war and peace, life and death, death and resurrection. It’s always a mixture of everything that makes us human and divine.

Our prayer practice is meant to make us pay attention but not to escape. We are guided to step back from needless, avoidable stupid choices as much as we can but ultimately we can never be fully shielded. Our prayer practice is never meant to shield us from ourselves and our neighbor’s vulnerable humanity but it can draw us to hope and trust, beyond words and concepts,   to keep believing that within us is our only peace and security.

WORDLESS PRAYER

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The Maharishi  introduced me to Meditation in my early twenties. Through the years I learned about silent prayer in its different names and slightly different forms.  It is called in varied names – Contemplative Prayer, Lectio Divina, Centering Prayer, Jesus Prayer, Silent Prayer,  Mental Prayer, Focusing, Breathe Prayer and many other prayer terms I may not be familiar yet.

My exposure with Buddhist writers affirms my attraction to prayer as a practice, as a way of life. I love the silent space of stillness in prayer  although it is inner mental chaos and not silence that I often meet. I saw also how prayer can be valiantly experience as another “goal” to achieve instead of preparing myself to be with Another.

I am grateful to realize that prayer is not another life’s “project.”

Prayer is a gift, a response to being here in this side of life. No one will give us a certificate, a grade, a trophy nor a medal on the quality and form of prayer  we have chosen and strive to practice. How prayer impacts our life is seen in no another place but in our everyday inner and outer  life.

In Eastern form of silent prayer the aim is to be fully in the present moment as we allow the breath to anchor that stillness. In Catholic tradition, silence in prayer is being with a Presence. There is a faith-filled certainty and assurance, although there is no word, there is no conversation, that we are present with God.

It is “relational.” Not empty as in nothing or as in no-presence. In my faith tradition to pray is to be with. One of our great prayer teacher, St Teresa of Avila, wrote this about prayer: “Prayer is a frequent intimate sharing with Someone whom we know loves us.”

This is not an easy path but it is not complicated too. Like all  forms of silent prayer in all prayer traditions it is and can be full of “distractions” but we know that we can always choose to drop that story line, that drama, and pay attention to what brings us to here and now — to the Presence of God.

Labels can be  dissolved. I don’t really tell myself whether I am praying as a Buddhist or as a Catholic. I simply stay. God has no religion anyway. He is neither a Catholic nor a Buddhist.