Posts Tagged ‘Buddhism

04
Jan
14

It’s just that …

It’s just that …

Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. Domestic Operations Branch. Bureau of Special Services. (03/09/1943 - 09/15/1945). This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the ARC Identifier (National Archives Identifier) 513877.

The little things have a way of disrupting the big things even in the best of moments.

Take internet connectivity for one.

This has been my latest cause of uncontrollable, snarling, derangement. It is truly an “are you kidding me,” kind of thing, ridiculous and laughable all at the same time—and that’s me I’m talking about.

In the I-want-it and I-want-it-now category of things, having ON DEMAND superfast, Internet is the world I like to live in. (And no, I don’t step out of my rage to reflect on the days when 56KB modem connectivity was fast—I live in a megabyte and preferably gigabyte world!)

So, when over the past couple of weeks our Time Warner Cable connectivity s-l-o-w-e-d to a crawl, (as now—and yes I’m naming names), capriciously it seems and for no discernible reason that I can glean (and in spite of the full connectivity fan mocking me from its perch at the top of my computer screen), I am ready to scream.

“Why?” I lament.

“I need it NOW!” I rant.

And in my full hysterical, the world-is-out-to-get-me paranoia-infused sputtering, foaming-at-the-mouth “best,” I give an award-winning homage to everyone’s favorite Captain, James Tiberius Kirk, by yelling out “Khan…… Khan…… Khan….”

This because, I cannot see the weather, Google a Star Trek factoid, send a tweet, add a blog post, or watch this or that episode of Eureka on Netflix—my latest series addiction.

Okay—so OBVIOUSLY it’s time to hit the pause button here.

I mean I should know better.

Wat Suan MokkhHey, I even went to Buddhist “school”—ten days in silent meditation at Wat Suan Mokkh in Chaiya, Thailand.

Where is all of my “it’s just that” training?

Where is non-self?

Why am I so attached to the mosquito-bite moments in life?

As in the ring when my trainer Lennox Blackmoore’s fist connects yet again, (lightly thrown, though I should give him the right to slam me after the third time in a row when I still haven’t slipped), I cannot attach to the fact of getting hit because it only exacerbates the lack of fluidity and sight I have of what is in front of me.

I guess what I’m saying is its the essence of living in the moment.

A fist on its way to one’s left temple is about as in the moment as it gets and there are two stratagems: get hit or get out of the way. All else has no meaning.

And so it is with everything else.

It truly is “just that” and each time I get caught up in the spiral of no internet connectivity or any of the hundreds, heck, thousands of little things that can be annoying to the point of snarling, it really is getting to the silly stage.

So, is there no Internet this morning? Nope, but it’s okay. I live in Brooklyn, there’s always Starbucks.

04
Dec
12

Eating like a “boid” …

Eating like a “boid” …

Stuffed Cabbage, Credit: Big Oven.com

Many women I know (and a few men-truth be told) are perpetually on a diet. Sometimes its even to the point where their diets are on a diet and the kind of thing where one can discern the caloric and fat content of a Starbucks Morning Bun at fifty paces.

Way back in the day — say when I was fourteen and in my grandmother’s kitchen in Far Rockaway — She’d put a plate of food in front of me that could feed half of Queens and then, sitting next to me, patting my hand would say, “Eat, darling, eat.  You eat like a boid. Eat, darling eat.”

Now mind you I LOVED her stuffed cabbage, but, we are talking one at a time, not three, not to mention, the candied yams (at any time of year), stuffed derma (never one of my favorites) and a large breast of paprika chicken.

Matzah Ball Soup, Credit: Saveur.comThat was just lunch — not a holiday meal where a plate like that was the appetizer to be followed by Matzah Ball Soup (hmmm), gefilte fish (’cause there had to be a fish appetizer course), Turkey (if it was Thanksgiving), what my grandmother called “meat” which was pot roast, carrots and potatoes baked with tomatoes to the point where the meat was in strings, the aforementioned paprika chicken, and assorted vegetables such as beets, potatoes and peas and carrots.  And we can’t forget dessert, which was usually cake (macaroons on Passover) and pieces of candy or fruit from the endless supply of bowls filled with the stuff, plus coffee (instant), tea (Lipton), fights over sneaking real milk (not kosher) versus the dried milk substitute, oh and when my Uncle Bunny was over, shots of Slivowitz for the adults at the table.

The period from Thanksgiving through the New Year brings to mind my Grandmother’s bounteous table–or as I like to call it a heart-attack-on-a-plate. And even with her many admonitions about my avian-like behavior, which frankly I never really understood, because I always felt like I ate enough for a week!

Later in my twenties, I made the schlep to Far Rockaway to an older, svelter Grandma who in fighting off her high “sugar” count (aka Type II Diabetes) had dropped from a size 18 to an 8. Still, she’d put a humongous plate of food in front of me, as if I’d been out on the velt chasing lions or something before hopping the A train and with nary a thought to what it might do to my health.

More to the point, her sense of proportion reflected a feast-or-famine mentality honed I suppose from her experiences raising a family during the Depression and her own childhood in places like the Lower East Side and East Harlem where money was always tight.

A lot of years later, however, a portion of that size is an automatic five-pound weight gain (even thinking about it gives me at least a pound or two), not to mention a GERD attack (indigestion plus a throat on fire) and an instant case of narcolepsy.

While counting calories feels incredibly luxurious in a world where many people would still look on one of Grandma’s plates of food as something miraculous, Western types with jingle in their jeans and a ready source of fabulous foods face different challenges. And if you’re a woman of a certain age like me, “water weight” no longer cuts it as an excuse.

What is required is a mindfulness about food that takes into account the body’s carbohydrate, protein, fat and caloric needs, the state of one’s health, and a moment of reflection from time-to-time on where food comes from and how it gets to one’s table. After all, most of us do not go to the back forty to pick our own tomatoes, green beans and sweet peas (except maybe in summer at our country places), nor do we pluck our freshly killed chickens, milk cows or gather our eggs at 5:00 in the morning. What we do is wander through the aisles of a supermarket or Whole Foods or the local deli or maybe even make it to a Farmer’s Market to pick up fresh foods or more than likely prepared meals (frozen, boxed or fresh) or skip it all and eat out or better yet, order in Thai.

What we don’t necessarily do is take the time to reflect on what we are eating and how it got there or how its many nutrients pass through the miracle of the body to be stripped down into constituent parts to fuel our many activities.

Chocolate, Credit: Kitchen TalkWhether its eating too little or eating too much, what we owe ourselves is eating “right” especially as we enter that period where food abounds and whether through many temptations (hmmm, yes, chocolate), lots of holiday gatherings or just plain anxiety, how we eat seems to get laden down with a lot of extra baggage, plus a notch or too on our belts.

Whatever your persuasion during the next several weeks, be aware that issues around eating will definitely be on the table … so think twice and if you do have that yummy extra helping of freshly made potato latkes, what the heck, enjoy, after all, it is only once a year!

11
Jun
12

counting down ….

Counting down …

We all have things we count down for.

Sometimes it is something grand like a fight and sometimes just the tick-tock of the clock till the end of the work day.

When I get anxious, I like to think of things in three-minute intervals, plus the sixty-second rest.

It’s a way of organizing my thoughts which otherwise race around in what my old Dharma teacher used to call a monkey mind.

If I set the clock, I can think of things in finite terms. I can count out each second, or count out other things such as the number of sit-ups I can do in three minutes or the number of words I can write, or the amazing amount of tasks that can be completed in between the buzzers.

Imagine, one can actually pretty much empty a sink full of dishes, or run down four flights of stairs, grab the mail from the mailbox and come back upstairs and find that the clock hasn’t even hit yellow yet.

At other times the clock provides order out of chaos.  It quells the what-do-I-do-now panic of momentary indecision, or worse, the I-can’t-get-started rut can be kicked into gear to a set menu of things to achieve–even if that just means taking an interval or two to calm down.

I bring this up as person facing deadlines and the stress that accompanies that. Thinking of the clock and the ding of the round though is helping to soothe me. In breaking things down into the tiny snippets of time I am reminding myself that no matter how daunting something may seem, it is only ever made up of moments; moments that follow one upon another each carrying its own weight and import.

Much as when I train, I can set aside so many rounds for one thing followed by a set number of rounds for another.

In their totality the time winds up to be the same as what had been originally allotted, but somehow in breaking it down into smaller bits, one can see and touch the progress as so many things that have already been accomplished.

 

 

17
Feb
11

I didn’t see it coming…

I didn’t see it coming…

Sometimes one can say “I didn’t see it coming” and eat canvas literally or figuratively.  Whether it’s a quick right to the temple or bad news in an email the effect is pretty much the same — shock, awe and a stunned sensation before jumping up for the mandatory eight-count in the hopes of mitigating any further problems.

The thing is somewhere between the canvas and the wait that seems forever before you resume your fight, the mind is racing all over the place with the calculus of just how you got to canvas in the first place.  As if reliving all the moves in a chess game and all the possible outcomes if only move b replaced move a, the momentary, “I got caught” feeling takes one down a path of roads not taken.  That space also brings the sickening shoulda’, coulda’, woulda’ sensations of lost opportunities as one licks back the blood, shakes it all off and readies for what happens next.

When it’s a life moment:  a sick parent or sibling or spouse, the death of someone close, those sensations are not very different.  We reel with stars and that winced brain feeling, choke back the giant ow, and somewhere in the midst of getting back to ourselves walk down the how-come-I-didn’t-see-this-coming path.  And it’s the I-should-have-known feeling that really lays us out because the longer we hold onto those feelings, the longer it takes to get back to our best game.  Those are the moments when we take to our beds and hiding in a tight ball under the covers absorb the waves of emotions that inevitably come with difficult news — or news we just don’t want to absorb.  At some point, however, the covers have to come off ’cause as nice and warm and cozy as the bed might seem, it’s not the messiness of a well-lived life.    Sometimes all it takes is a good night’s sleep before perspective kicks in and one finds in the promise of a new day, opportunities to move on with a feeling of joy for all the things you can see.  Let’s face it, no matter how hard we try, some things just get away from us and while we can dwell in the unfairness of our inability to “see” — as my Theravada Buddhist Dharma teacher used to say, “it’s just that.”

21
Oct
10

It just is

It just is

My “dharma” teacher, a revered Theraveda Buddhist Nun back at Wat Suann Mokkh in Thailand was always fond of saying “it just is.”   The wisdom of most boxing trainers revolves around a similar refrain.  My current trainer, Lennox Blackmore is a master of such statements.     He has two flavors:  “it is what it is” and “wake-up.”

Thus, if one is training in a crowed ring – it is what it is.  Deal with it.  Get clocked sparring?  It is what it is, move on.  Get clocked again?  Wake-up!

As wisdom for the ages and frankly, as I “age,” I’m actually beginning to see where this all makes sense.  Is my kid, husband, family, cat driving me crazy?  Am I too hot, too cold, tired, hungry, over-worked, under-worked, grumpy, manic, obsessive, distracted, happy, sad, and on and on?  It just is.  Did I trip, forget where my glasses, keys, wallet, iphone are?  Wake-up.

It gets to be a world-wind after a while of “it is what it is” and “wake-up,” but somewhere in the midst of it I am beginning to actually hear the “be-here-now” at the center of the “it just is” and “wake-up” poles of being.

If I am here now, I will likely avoid the punch, or hit the speed-bag with perfect precision or never engage in the fight with my husband or daughter and actually remember where my glasses are.  I won’t be overly anything, but I will not trip on the sidewalk, get hit by a car crossing the street against the light or importantly, miss out on all of the tender moments with my family.   Somehow it’s hard to believe that I can personally go through life without the drama of  engaging riotously and waking-up, but having been “clocked” enough times by life’s travails, I’m beginning to see the wisdom of staying awake as a moment-to-moment way to be.

20
Oct
10

Up and at ’em

Up and at ‘em


The sunrise in Brooklyn is at 7:12 AM this morning.  We’ll push the clocks back in a couple of weeks, but those of us with busy morning routines will still be waking up in the dark.  From my own experience it is really hard to get up and out of a warm bed when the only light is the pink glow from the streetlights outside and even the cat is rousing slowly.

Harder still if one is hauling out of bed to hit the pavement on the way to the gym.  On those kinds of mornings, motivation can be low and one’s spirits even lower, especially if it’s cold or rainy or if the time has slipped a bit.  In my case, the morning gym has fallen by the wayside in favor of late afternoons (when I get there) – but I find that a few sun salutations help get the day started without wrecking havoc with my schedule.

My first encounter with Yoga was during a ten-day Buddhism retreat in Thailand of all places at a venerable old Temple called Wat Suan Mokkh.  Mornings there began at 4:00 A.M. with all of us beginning our first morning meditation thirty minutes later.  By 6:00 we were old hands at wrestling with our monkey minds and for those who wanted to, the option to tackle our stiff morning bodies.

Our instructor, a fellow meditation student had found a lovely spot on a slight rise and arrayed out across the grass, we put down towels and began our morning sun salutation routine as the faint ribbon of light began to peak up on the horizon.

By the time we’d finished an hour later, our sleepy bodies were quite refreshed and rejuvenated, ready for our next hour of meditation before making our way to a Spartan breakfast and the meditation schedule that picked up again later in the morning.

City dwellers do not necessarily have such an ideal environment to greet the morning with.  Usually it’s a gym, the living room or at best a park, but it doesn’t mean it’s not possible to take a few moments to give the day it’s due before bounding up and out the door to the myriad of activities that are crammed into a busy day.  Even two “rounds” of sun salutations can help clear the body and the mind and make the morning routine that much easier to cope with.  Lately my daughter and I have attempted to unfurl our bodies with at least one.  It hasn’t guaranteed us more pep in the morning, but does seem to pave the way.

17
Oct
10

Why I love the jab

Why I love the jab

I love the jab.

If I throw the punch enough times I can actually find the sweet-spot.  Not unlike a perfectly hit baseball, the sweet-spot of a punch has similar a meaning: the place where the fist perfectly percusses with the object.  Some days it takes three rounds of shadow boxing, four rounds of work with my trainer and I don’t know how many on the double-ended bag before  I find it.  And other days, well, you get the idea.

When I think about the jab, I’m reminded that all things come down to the fundamentals.  For the jab that means stance, arm position, and the actual mechanics of how the jab is thrown.  The jab is also foundational to the sweet science itself.  Try to box without one and you’re really not boxing anymore.  Every trainer also has a story or two about a boxer who “fought twelve rounds with nothing but the jab and won.”    And it is a pretty cool punch to throw.  It establishes your pace, helps you find your range, and keeps your opponent at bay while you ready yourself to let loose with your hammer hand.

The jab also teaches an economy of movement.  A boxer’s body has to be aligned so that when the punch is thrown it’s not just the fist, but the momentum of the entire body that connects. The “boom” is the fist finding its target, but its fueled by the feet, legs, hips, chest and shoulder in one brilliant moment.  If you throw it and the body is misaligned, the punch doesn’t pack any power.  Sure it might look good, but it’s a waste of energy, or as Johnny used to say, “nothing but pitty-pat.”

And I guess that’s what I find I love most about the jab.  The possibility of its allowing me to find a moment when all things align.  My body for sure, but also my mind because in that moment, I’m not there, I’m in the punch; somewhere close to what the Buddhist’s call not-self.  Not to say that boxing is an aspect of Nirvana, but losing oneself in an instant of physical perfection is a nice way of tasting enlightenment.

 

You might also like:   No pitty-pat or Learning to box




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