The latest Tricycle has an article called “The Karma of Now” by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. It is good as an antidote to the New-Age-y weirdness I am around so much. I like New Agers, in general, much more than the conservative Christians who think they know how everyone else should live while not living that way themselves. The one thing I liked about conservative Christians was their reality-based concept of linear time. They actually understood that actions have consequences and sex creates babies! My brothers seemed to have missed that memo.
Some quotes from the article:
“The present moment is never simply to be accepted as it is.”
“[W]hen stepping into the present moment, you don’t really step out of time.”
“[T[he present moment doesn’t arrive ready-built. We’re constantly constructing it as it’s happening, with greater or less skill, out of the raw materials provided by past karma.”
The present moment comes from a combination of past actions and present actions. The future comes from present actions and future actions.
Part of the foundation of Buddhism is impermanence. I can relate to that. Nothing good or bad lasts forever.
I like Buddhism because it is so reality-based. It is all about alleviating suffering, our own and that of others. That includes social action to undo damage created by others and learning how not to create chaos for ourselves and everyone else. Karma is all about actions and consequences. Now is not all there is. We are all the creators and heirs of karma. With great power comes great responsibility. Wield it wisely.
I have always had a problem with the whole “there is only now” concept. It sounds spiritual, but it always seemed, to put it as kindly as I can, just plain stupid. The now of today includes consequences from the past. Treating each situation as a brand-new one, never before experienced, seems like a good definition of mental retardation. No learning. No growth. Re-inventing the wheel on a daily basis. Exhausting.
Quoting Epstein’s masterpiece The Trauma of Everyday Life, pages 148-149:
“Trauma takes us out of time. There is no past or future when one is overtaken by it. It is as if it were happening now [emphasis in Epstein]. ‘Experiences of trauma become freeze-framed into an eternal present in which one remains forever trapped, or to which one is condemned to be perpetually returned through the portkeys supplied by life’s slings and arrows,’ [Stolorow] says….The traumatized individual lives outside time, in his or her own separate reality, unable to relate to the consensual reality of others. The remembering quality of mindfulness counters this tendency. It allows the experiences of trauma to come out of the their frozen states and back into the warmth of time.”
That sense of being frozen is the horror with which I have lived my whole life. Shame hits and I am frozen in some pre-verbal trauma where I am paralyzed by some run-of-the-mill rejection like it is the end of my world.
This is why I rebel against the “eternal now” concept. If you are happy, you want the moment to last forever. If you are frozen in shame and self-hatred, nothing could be more horrifying. The only reassurance I have ever had in life is that, no matter how bad things are, they are temporary.
My other problem with the “eternal now” is how there is no learning. Ever. If every situation is new, then you will not recognize that this is the 523rd time you have been down this exact same road. My favorite preacher when I was a Christian was always Joyce Meyer. Her message is always full of common sense. Just how many times you are going to go around the same mountain depends on how long it takes you to learn the lesson. Life is patient. If you don’t learn your lesson this time, you can just take another trip around the exact same mountain. Wisdom is not making the same mistakes over and over. Wisdom takes time. Wisdom requires that we recognize the umpteenth time we are in the exact same situation all over again and to repent or fix our behavior or whatever.
I look around and see people panicking and rejoicing at the political shenanigans occurring all around us. But here’s a news flash: Things will change. I guarantee it. If you are holding on to the way things are now, you are officially screwed. He who marries the spirit of an age is soon a widower. But if you can imagine a better future, you just might be able to create one for yourself while others are panicking that the sky is falling.
Creating a better future requires that you not be thumb-tacked to the eternal now. You need a linear concept of time. The choices we make now have consequences for our future nows. Actions have consequences, but seldom right away. To be unable to see beyond this moment is a good definition of brain damage in my mind. In my life, I have seen people defend their “right to party” and end up with cirrhosis. I just look them in the eye and say, “Good luck with that.” I desperately try not to keep making the same mistakes and that means not justifying my bad choices. I screw up and, if I am not overcome by bullshit shameful feelings, try a different potential solution. But pretending that a situation is brand new is a guarantee of never learning anything.
“With broken selves in a world on fire, trauma is everywhere.” Page 47 of The Trauma of Everyday Life by Mark Epstein, MD.
That about sums it up.
As I’ve been reading lately, I have come to the conclusion that something happened to break the infant/mother bond when I was a baby. Problem: I seriously doubt that Ma would have any recollection of her going on vacation or to the hospital for a few days or anything like that when I was a baby. Her memory is highly selective and she isn’t great at connecting the dots of cause-and-effect. My parents are not bad people. Ma, in particular, means well. She would never do anything intentionally to hurt anyone, especially me. But the reality remains: If I saw my childhood behavior in a kid today, I would instantly wonder, “Wow. What the hell is wrong with this kid? Some basic need must not have gotten met.” In compensation for my lack of emotional connection, I learned to rely on my brain. I have lived most of my life in my head–minus a will to live. Intellect is no substitute for emotional stability.
It is only now, with Barry gone and me now having the time to focus on myself, that I can accumulate and connect my own dots. Many women never get this opportunity. Our lives are never about us.
Look at the political situation now. It is bizarre. People are defending the indefensible and then they are going to be shocked when they discover their credibility is gone forever. Imagine what the world will be like in ten years and you will understand where I am coming from. I am looking beyond the current situation and trying to figure out what can possibly come next. I cannot guarantee much, but I can guarantee that no one lives forever and that future generations will freely judge our behavior.
I went to the mall today. I watched everyone and saw only one “normal” person doing what he normally does, a regular. Everyone else seemed a little dazed and disoriented. My parents are fabulous compared to those of one of my friends, whose mother actually tried to kill her at least twice. Is everyone messed up? That seems to be the case. There is simply no solution.Epstein says that, “The effort required to ward off the possibility of trauma–the rush to normal that the absolutisms of daily life encourages–is itself traumatic.” (page 56) There is no escape. Period.
The book comes from a Buddhist perspective and goes into the Buddha’s childhood. It is very interesting.
I want to be a constructive influence and help prevent trauma. But I feel like I am playing with a deck of 35 cards socially, instead of the normal 52. I cannot help others when I am such a basket case. I’m working on it.
I feel like things have sped up lately.
Of course, holidays make everything a little crazy without any other additional input.
But then this year started and I felt like the world was spinning out of control to some degree. Trump gets us into war with Iran. WTF? I am not a Trump fan, but the one thing I liked about him was his pledge to get us out of these endless middle-eastern conflicts. I am old enough to remember my parents thinking that Carter was simply incompetent foreign-affairs-wise because of the whole hostage crisis. This is the best guarantee I can think of that Trump will be a one-term President. Once we get into a conflict somewhere, we never leave. Seriously. We are still in Germany, to this day. No kidding.
And I am feeling some urgency to get out of Michigan again. Why? I don’t know. I have a lease that does not expire until November and a job I am greatly appreciated at.
I have always been interested in intuition, the paranormal, and other subjects that I have not always seen as related. But now I know they are. I am currently reading Jean Shinoda Bolen’s The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self. After her book, The Ring of Power, which I found profoundly illuminating in reference to my narcissistic father and my relationship to him, I wanted to get more of her insights. She is Jungian. I realized that my relationship was truly archetypal, with him being Wotan and me being Brunnhilde. Every recurring situation in life is archetypal. Our responses can be conscious or sub-conscious. I am unwilling to just bumble my way through life anymore. Here is a quote from page 18: “Jung maintained that the collective unconscious or the archetypal layer of the unconscious (two terms for the same phenomenon) was involved in synchronistic events….’There are as many archetypes as there are typical situations in life. Endless repetition has engraved these experiences into our psychic constitution.'” Bolen is quoting Jung, of course. Page 23: “Tao and Self can be considered one and the same, both giving meaning and both beyond definition.” Tao is about our holistic right-brained perspective, as distinct from our dissecting left-brain.
A few days ago, my dad called. I had not spoken to him since probably July for more than a few seconds at a time. He called for more than an hour. OMG. What was happening? My brother Bob is looking for property in Florida and now he has blood cancer from the weird JAK 2 mutation. In addition to COPD, heart disease, and cirrhosis. My friend on the east coast said she thinks he was looking for some reassurance from me. I am so not the person he should be seeking that from. He calls me “my favorite daughter” which I am not completely comfortable with. He has no other children. It just gives me the creeps, for whatever reason. It feels like I am playing a game that I tired of a long time ago. My brother Mike passed away this past summer. My dad raised my brothers from my mom’s first marriage and myself. Now it probably feels like he has lost one kid and another one is on his way out. When I told my friend I might tell Dad not to call me that anymore, she implored me not to, saying it would devastate him. I feel for him, and yet, I am tired of other people’s feelings mattering while mine…not so much. It just gets very old.
(And the weather sucks, of course. This is Michigan. We got a ton of rain yesterday and then we got a good inch of sleet. It could have been worse: freezing rain. In some ways, we got “lucky.” It was nasty. The roads are still not great.)
So now I feel like I am getting closer to being the last sibling standing. Things seem to be speeding up. And I have my ear to the ground for odd coincidences.
I find myself more determined than ever to meditate. Slowing down. Listening to myself, the cosmos, changing my brainwaves. I feel like everything I want and need is within, if I can find it. What do I want? How do I want to do it? I believe it must all come from within.
Everything external keeps changing. One of my favorite bosses just quit. It breaks my heart. She was my champion. I feel like everything is is slippery. Try to hold on to it and it squeezes out of your hand. I can see why people try to hold on to things (hoarders) but the effort is futile.
I saw a cat Christmas day, Shyla. I pet her and gave her treats. I am trying to be a blessing to her owner, my friend Lynn. Live feline dufuses are all good.
I am coming up on two years without Barry. OMG. I still miss him so much it makes me ache. The love is for the man who m I spent so many good years with, not the one who passed away in my living room. It was a horrible way to go. The cold is a trigger because it was all of five degrees the day he died. My recommendation is that people who know they have the Huntington gene not reproduce and take that chance. The word “suffering” is insufficient.
And here I am trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. I can think more clearly now because, when he first died, I spent a long time just numb. Now I am not numb, but dealing honestly with my issues.
No matter what is happening, wonderful or awful, it is temporary. Just remember that.
I have been thinking “it’s just a matter of time” lately about pretty much everything.
A few weeks ago, I went to my brother’s house. He sat in his chair with a grandson. It was so beautiful. They were so happy together. But Dave’s already had one heart attack and refuses to change his diet at all. My heart breaks for Dave’s son, who is about twenty, and the grandkids. I cannot imagine losing my dad before I turned thirty, which I think is a very likely scenario. My parents are still alive and in Florida at this moment. (Which is good because it didn’t hit twenty degrees today here.) I seriously doubt Dave’s wife is going to put on these giganto affairs once he is gone. Each minute is poignant.
Today I made peanut butter balls with my former Protestant minister’s wife. I think she might be coming down with Alzheimer’s. Her mind seems to be going very quickly. I can hardly believe in the change in just the past year.
Then there’s politics. I don’t what will happen, but I do have one guarantee: Trump will not be in office forever. Absolutely everything Trump gets away with now, the next Democratic president will get away with, and more.
No one seems to get the idea that actions have consequences. Eventually “later” becomes “now.” Then we have to live with the fallout of what we have done. And the fallout of what everyone else has done.
Worrying about the future doesn’t help. Trying to do the right thing now is the only real ethical option. It is an imperfect system on a good day.
Everything really is just a matter of time. Enjoy what you have. Be grateful for the good stuff. Try to do no harm.
I have been trying to be kinder to myself lately. Now that Barry is gone, I can actually focus on myself. This is partly at the urging of my psychoanalyst.
So I am trying to be true to myself, without really knowing what that means.
But, at the same time, I feel a need to somehow integrate ethics into my life. What are ethics? They come from a sense of right and wrong, not exactly popular concepts these days. They are a means of trying to help all people be and feel respected. The rules apply to everyone equally.
Buddhist ethics seem to be all about not harming. I like the idea. I don’t think I could be vegetarian, but celibacy would be doable.
But what I am thinking of is more along the lines of accountability. When someone’s behavior is wildly out of line, what recourse is there? I encounter people who think that they can do whatever they want and nobody has the right to respond in any way, shape, or form. I find the expectation delusional at best. We all have the right to hold each other accountable. To think otherwise is Trump-ian and narcissistic to the max.
Everything seems to come down to power and control. But demographics have changed. The days of old white guys deciding what is real for the rest of us are long gone. Until our society settles on a commonly-held set of standards for behavior that works for a whole lot more people, everyone, everywhere will have to define their terms carefully and try very hard to be nice to others, unless and until they do something blatantly disrespectful.
Is there a better way of doing things?