Thursday, May 22, 2008

traveling and sitting still

home again, home again, boy that feels good! my own soft bed and snuggly dog, quiet mornings and little green car. yet going away was wonderful too. six days of talking and laughing with my big, loving family and a few precious friends. what a tonic! my love cup is full to overflowing and i finally got the daily recommended number of hugs.

there is something really powerful about a good long hug from people that have known and loved you since forever. i'm smiling just thinking of it.

it was important, this trip.

two dear people, my friends for ten years, got married and i was witness to that magical day. the bride worn jewelry i made just for her wedding day. when the groom got teary-eyed at the beginning of the ceremony, i started crying too. after so many months of thinking about me and crying about my troubles, it was so good to cry happy tears.

for my family it was important to see me, to touch me and verify in person that after all this cancer crap, the surgeries and radiation treatment - i was ok. i was in one piece and ok.

my young nieces and nephews are such gems. eleven kids, from ages three to thirteen, all busy with their ideas and questions, with their art and sports and music. i loved reading books with the smallest ones curled in my arms. i loved teasing my nephew who is starting high school next fall.

i had a few hours on the plane there and back to write in my journal and think. it's a different kind of processing than i tend to do when on land. being on an airplane is a strange act of faith. you're flying, captured in a bubble for four hours without escape. it's a good time to meditate, a good time to let things just float for a while. after all, nothing on the ground can really be done, or solved while in the air.

i bought the book, a new earth, by eckhart tolle in the airport on my way to chicago. it made for good reading in small doses, bits just big enough to soak in. already, i feel some healing happening in my spirit.

i was writing today over on my other blog, found object, on how some big ideas grew out of the time i had my first round of breast cancer, the turnip from 2001. as i wrote, a truth was revealed to me with stunning clarity. it's as if i had the answer, written in my own hand, stuck on my back and i couldn't see it. i couldn't reach around and pluck that note off my back and read it until today.

today, i remembered what i did to heal my spirit after the first cancer. when i told you the story here before, i left out an important chapter. now that it's become clear again, i can't believe i forgot it.

the summer following my first turnip, i learned to meditate.

first, i went on a mostly silent retreat to gambo abby in nova scotia. it's high on a lonely cliff, overlooking a ocean wild with wind. ravens caw and prayer flags flap. it's of place of raw beauty, where i finally found compassion for myself for the first time in my life. the place of real stillness opened up inside me and i was able to rest for periods of time, free from the chatter in my brain. that was two extraordinary weeks, living with the monks and nuns.

then i went on for another three weeks to the mountain shambhala center in colorado, almost on the continental divide. i worked on the crew that was finishing an incredible sacred structure, the great stupa of dharmakaya. it wasn't a silent experience, but it was equally intense as my time at the abby.

those weeks were healing in a way that no therapy had ever been. it was hard emotional work. only through a mediation practice have i been able to learn compassion, in particular compassion for myself. therapy is a valuable tool, but it's part of the busy mind. as evidenced by my writing here, my busy mind is eager to run away with thoughts and spin them over and over again.

we all do that with our stories. we all get stuck in our minds.

i didn't make it to the zen center yet, but i will soon. another couple of days and i will be caught up on the work that piled up while i was gone. a couple more good nights of sleep and i'll be rested after the jam packed week of traveling.


Catherine Chandler said...

I'm so happy you got to see your family! I wish my family was all or mostly in one place, but they're all scattered about. I'd have to travel around the whole country to get hugs from them all!

I'm so happy for you and proud...I hope you find a great place to meditate!

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

So glad to have you back. You were missed. I am so in need of meditation and regrouping right now. Sigh.

salmonpoetry said...

glad you are back, and wonderful thoughts you share here- on the value of family, longtime friends, hugs, the return to a cozy home. and the power of meditation. i built a little covered bench out in my garden where i try to meditate every day, rain or shine.
it is true about the kind of thinking that happens up high in a plane- i've done far more than my share of it in recent years and though trying to cut down will be back up there again next week, hoping for some inspiration.
welcome back tay!

Danny and Shauna said...

Oh my, there's another reason I feel connected to you in your writings (and when we met). I've always wanted to go to Gampo Abbey. I studied with Shambhala centers for years. That's how I found my center. Now that I'm pregnant, my meditation practice feels even more vital. I know yours will help you through this.

HistPresD said...

Have you gone yet? I hope so.

I remember when you came back with a firm sense of centeredness.