Notes on a Buddhist path

Love the one you’re with

February 13, 2012 By | 9 Comments

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. ~ Thomas Alva Edison

I sank into the massage table, every cell of me ready to be pummeled and coaxed into relaxation. Since this was my first visit to Russell I made sure to tell him I like a very deep massage. Placing his hands on my back, he said he knew why I liked it rough: my body felt like petrified wood.

Oh, that can’t be good.

“You’re the type of person”, Russell said as he slid his knife-like fingers into my shoulder blades, “who gets this hard and brittle in their body because they give so much of their life blood to everything and everyone else that there’s nothing left for them. They go out to save the world, but they need to start by saving themselves.”

“Tell me what an average day looks like for you”, he asked. “From the time you get up to when you go to bed.”

As Russell continued his work on my snarled body I laid out the marathon of my typical weekday, from getting up at 5 a.m. to collapsing from exhaustion between 9 and 10 p.m., often finding sleep eluding me even then. Meditation had been weaned back more and more until all I gave it was about 15 minutes of daylight. It turns out that those 15 minutes were the only form of rest I allowed myself during my waking hours.

Truth be told, I was feeling impoverished inside. In the Buddhist practice of metta meditation we are instructed to start by offering ourselves loving kindness before extending it to anyone else. The reason is the same: if we don’t feel and express friendly care to ourselves how can we possibly extend that gift to anyone else. As the old song reminds us, love the one you’re with.

In the past month I made the difficult decision to give up my hospice volunteer work, not because the doing of it was too much, but because the time devoted to the work left me in a deficit of self care. The time I gave to the dying I’ve now re-gifted back to myself as precious, rewarding hours for writing.

When I met with Ajahn Sona, the abbot from Birken Forest Monastery, this past summer, I asked him if writing my blog was just another ego flexing exercise to polish an eternally tarnished illusion of self importance.

“Sharing the dhamma”, he said, “is a form of dana, of generosity. It’s a good thing. It will gain you merit”, he replied.

I don’t know about merit, but I know for me writing takes on the feel of a lover, of divine communion with the grand Beloved. It feeds a part of me that hungers for renewal and that Federico Garcia Lorca calls “duende”.

“The duende….is a power and not a behavior, it is a struggle and not a concept….The duende is not in the throat; the duende surges up, inside, from the soles of the feet….it is not a matter of ability, but of real live form; of blood; of ancient culture; of creative action….[it] is in fact the spirit of the earth.”

Over the course of the next hour Russell poked and prodded my body into a gentle unraveling. He told me the fact it did uncurl spoke to the work I’d been doing on myself the last five years. Massage, acupuncture, proper diet, all of them combined only amount to about 10% of the healing that can take place in our bodies. The rest, Russell shared with me, comes from us and what we’re willing to do in the dance of healing.

My assignment: to find more rest in my day and set down the ways that don’t work. To move from my mind and awaken to my body; to trust its rhythms, its whispers, its honest caress of my soul. Rest for me is watching my breath in quiet meditation. It’s feeling the soles of my feet kissing the ground as I walk the labyrinth at a church near me. It’s sitting on a bench along the ocean and being with all my senses. It’s dissolving into a hot bath and feeling my muscles drinking in the wet nourishment of time without purpose. It’s the time after writing when duende lies beside me, both of us spent from rapture, and we watch the moon, round and open, unfurl in the night sky.

May I be well and happy. May I be peaceful and at ease.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.

Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill

where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.

Don’t go back to sleep.

From “Essential Rumi” by Coleman Barks.

Garcia Lorca: Theory and Play of the Duende, translated by A.S. Kline, copyright 2007.

Love the One You’re With,” music and lyrics by Stephen Stills, copyright 1970

Image credit: A New Path by jurvetson

Comments

  1. Bless you my dear and bless Russell. May hands heal and hearts feel, There is so much to life, and staying connected in the moment is paramount. Thanks so much for sharing, about your passion for care of others and yourself, and about the power of touch, as a road home. Thank you for the context of Duende. Yes, I too, love to lay with her. Cheers Tess. May Love and light continue to run through your pen. Kelly

  2. Self care is a lesson that keeps us forever the humble student.

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