Bliss is over-rated

September 18th, 2014

450_messy1_0805162When I don’t know where to start or what to do, I know exactly where to start and what I need to do.

I set my timer, sit my ass down, and go. Or really, I don’t go – I stop. What I am actually doing when i sit my ass down, is much less important than what I am not doing—which would otherwise be, letting my thoughts and emotions chase each other around my brain like a room full of enraged cats. Which would otherwise be: making a superhuman effort to ignore the pains in my body, the twist in my belly, the heaviness in my heart. Which would otherwise be: frantically trying to solve problems. Which would otherwise be: distracting myself with work and entertainment. Which would otherwise be: trying to sort out a closet full of densely packed junk, without taking any of the junk out of the closet.

What I do, when I meditate, is I try to wedge open the closet door and make just a tiny bit of space in my madly cluttered mind. Hoping to find even one millimetre, one moment, of wiggle-room. When that moment comes, at the far end of a tortuous stream of memory or fantasy or analysis, it arrives as a tiny flash of light. Not a firework; barely a matchstick. Just a wee puff of fresh air, loosening the solid mass of my busy mind. And then, when the match strikes, I go back to my breath and start again—sometimes even with a little smile, that I imagine to be buddha-like. But I’ll tell you this: it is a smile of pure relief, like the contented smile of a baby passing gas. Bliss, it ain’t.

Personally I think bliss is way over-rated. Bliss can be got from an orgasm, or a chocolate bar, or some good party drugs. Bliss is fun, it carries me away. But meditation brings me home.

I can’t say as I’ve ever felt blissful during meditation. At best I’d say it sometimes feels good, but even that is rare. Shining a light into my messy closet can be purely horrific. Noticing the pain in my belly doesn’t feel good at all—in fact, it makes me feel nauseous. Noticing how constricted my breathing is can be suffocationg. Staying with those feelings is scary, and it takes a sheer effort of will. It has been a while since I last failed utterly, and jumped off the cushion, but it happens. But I know that if I stick with it, the pain will abate. My breath will deepen. My body will relax. And the knot in my body/mind will loosen up.

I try not to count on it, but sometimes, when the timer rings to release me from meditation hell, a creative idea or solution will spontaneously arise. Sometimes the spark will arise while I am still sitting, and like a good meditator, I do my best to put it aside (but secretly shelve it for future reference). In any case I know that whatever it is I am doing in this ridiculous activity, is as good as any other way I could be wasting my precious time. And when that bell finally rings, and I think oh thank god! and slide off the cushion, I am more capable of facing my day with courage, or of slipping into my dreams without fear.

Chicklit my ass: an apology to Elizabeth Gilbert

September 5th, 2014

liz_03I just finished reading The Signature of All Things, the new novel by Elizabeth Gilbert. I polished off that huge whomping five-pound hardcover late last night. I had to, because it was due back to the library today. You know, there is a hold queue on that puppy six months long, and it can’t be renewed. So I just had to knuckle down to the deadline. I was even prepared to pay the 30-cent-a-day overdue fine if i had to, but nevermind. I made it, under the wire.

But before I go on about The Signature of All Things, I need to come clean about something.

In case you are truly clued out, Elizabeth Gilbert is a Very Famous Writer—listed, in fact (and according to her bio on the inside flap of the book) as one of the New York Times’ 100 Most Influential People in the World. Yes indeedy. She has written several[ novels and non-fiction books, but what hoisted her onto the Most Influential list was her 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. Read the rest of this entry »

Freedom and security

August 23rd, 2014

birds3Freedom and security are flip sides of the same coin. Both complete illusions. Both entirely within our grasp.

I struggle constantly with the idea of freedom. People see my wandering ways and they tell me they envy my freedom, but i wonder, would they trade what they think of as my ‘freedom’ for what they think of as their ‘security’? Would I trade mine for theirs?

My personal favourite flavour of dukkha is the usual first-world problem: too many choices. Its not that I fear that any of the myriad possibilities in my life will turn out regrettable or hellish – but which one to pick, which way to turn, that is my suffering. Storm-tossed i wish for some rock to cling to. Sometimes i feel completely exhausted by the options in this unfettered world and i swear i would trade my free-floating life in about half a moment for one big old anchor. For the feeling of purpose and place. For warmth in the night. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s my potty

August 3rd, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Where’s your bathroom?,” asks a visitor to my little green schoolbus-home in the forest.

Ummmm….well, that depends what you have in mind. If you want to take a bath i’m afraid you are SOL, but there is a lovely ocean right at the bottom of the bluff—warmish, by Canadian (not Carribean) standards. A shower? The garden hose coiled onto a hook in the fir tree delivers clean water, gravity-fed from the reservoir at the top of the hill — and because of the black pvc water line, on a sunny afternoon the shower can actually be hot! Read the rest of this entry »

Gears are for lazy people

July 17th, 2014

Shifting-GearsI got an Orions 10-speed for my 15th birthday—my first real grown-up bike. It was serpent-green and had curly drop bars. It looked way cool, but I was confused and intimidated by the dual shifters. I fumbled around and eventually chose one speed at random, deciding that one would do just fine. I rode that bike for close to a decade, and here is my true confession: I never learned how to use the gears. It wasn’t until I got my orange rocket with its sexy old-school Campagnolo downtube shifters that I finally learned how powerful a bicycle could be. Read the rest of this entry »

Its not me. Its the bike.

July 11th, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next person who leans out a car window and gushes at me, ‘oh i really admire you it’s so amazing that you ride your bike all over the island‘ is gonna get popped in the head. Listen: Its not me. Its the bike.

I am a five-foot-nuthin 51-yr-old woman. I’m no athlete, and I’m also no masochist. I’m a lazyass. I ride my bike because its fun and because it is easier than walking. Easier?! Yes. Riding a bike is actually supposed to be easy. And here’s another shocker: it’s not supposed to hurt. Read the rest of this entry »

My heart is with the starfish

June 29th, 2014

galiano-island-purple-starfishThis is a hard post to write. The starfish are dying. Don’t panic: it is true.

The starfish are dying, right here on pristine Cortes Island. They shrivel and wither, their arms fall off, and then they are dead. They do not leave behind pretty exoskeletons to pick up on the beach and take home as vacation souvenirs. They collapse into bleached and rotting blobs, and then the surf comes and washes them away. There is no dignity in their death. Read the rest of this entry »

Beating Resistance

June 25th, 2014

wallI am locked in a fight with Resistance. She’s been kicking my ass for a while. Resistance lobs grenades at me, mortar shells, spit balls, and mean names. She shows up at my door every evening with a bottle of cheap wine and a stink bomb, hidden in bunch of fake roses. Every day she says: not here. Not now. Not you.

Resistance tells me to relax. Watch a movie. Smoke some weed. Take a day off, take a load off, take a vacation. Take a life off. Resistance whispers in my ear that I am not quite ready to do my life’s Work. Who are you, she says sarcastically, to do this? When I get riled she says hey, hey, don’t take it so personal. You can start your life’s work…tomorrow. Or the next day—I hear the weather’s supposed to be good on Thursday. Or maybe, the day after that. Read the rest of this entry »


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