Category Archives: Zen

No Expectations, Just Experience

Maybe I always believed in “bursting the boundaries.” After 40 years of chronic illness, it seems so. This kind of “resistance” to medical expectations takes a certain amount of naïveté, and I don’t mind admitting that.

It also means staying in the moment, regardless of the experience it offers–no expectations, just experience. And sometimes, I burst a boundary, like today.

I have been released from the care of my orthopedic surgeon who could not be more pleased with my progress. The fracture of my right femur is healing “beautifully” and growing new bone. The hip-joint replacement was pronounced “perfect.”

Medical expectations had been low.

I knew today’s x-ray results would be fine because of how my right hip and femur feel. And the x-rays supported my body’s signals. X-ray is such a wonderful way to look within the body to its structure.

I was reminded of the fusion of bone that is taking place in my neck, even more bone growth. That was not the expectation, either.

As someone with chronic autoimmune disease, I’m not the best candidate for healing, especially with medications like prednisone and methotrexate. Medical skepticism is not unwarranted.

I don’t ignore expectation but it does not occupy my time.

My focus is on what I eat and how I live, in particular my daily practice of meditation and yoga. I stay open to my body’s signals; they are my purpose. Healing will or will not occur.

It is a matter of feeding my body nutrient dense food no matter how I am feeling. In fact, the worse I feel, the more critical nutrition is. A single moment might be one of physical pain, frustration, hopelessness, fear, and fatigue—and it might last days—eating is fuel, food is energy.

Hope drifts in and out of moments. I let it go. I remain present for my pain, intertwining medication with yoga, working with the meditative state in my day-to-day. I meet my energy and even out its fluctuations.

What is the point in yearning for what my body cannot offer? Why not work with what it can? After all, “life always bursts the boundaries of formulas” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry).

So it seems, so it seems.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

When the Journey Seems a Jungle

On so many days, the journey daunts. It’s the obstacle. It’s the path. It’s both. You choose the order, if that’s a must for you. Some days I stagger but I also admit to a bit of swagger. Those days cost me more, ultimately.

This day, the journey is loud with “voices I leave behind.” I have miles to go, new voices to know but not all do I let go. A constant companion is Mary Oliver who always seems to know.

The Journey

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice–

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do–

determined to save

the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

Yours For the Taking

This morning, I walked away from my walker without realizing it. I did not return to it immediately. It was a bit of freedom. Why not take it?

Mine is a two-room apartment so this was not a walk for distance or duration but it was a walk with an actual gait. I focused on each step, sensing a rhythm.

Is that what a blur on an x-ray might bring? Rhythm? Is that what “teeny” fusing of donor bone with my vertebrae feels like? I’ve been here before, too aware that such a blur may be in the eye of the beholder.

A year and a half ago it seemed my neck was healing after C2-C4 fusion surgery, only to be later told later no healing was taking place. The neck is the “piece of real estate” that controls my limbs; daily, basic yoga helps me work with the signals they send me.

In all ways, this feels a matter of nerve. Do I have what it takes to believe again? Is that what hope is?  I don’t think any one thing–like an x-ray–can give me hope any more than one person can take it from me.

It is mine to give or not to take. Hope is always available. In every moment, I’m given yet another perspective on the obstacle that is my path. In this moment, it is a blur on an x-ray.

It is not a matter of “getting my life back” for this is my life, this moment right here. I don’t want to miss a moment of it. So, in the early light of this morning, I walked.

As Emily Dickinson wrote, “if your nerve deny you— go above your nerve.” It is yours for the taking.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

#LongerView: Exploring the Richness of Self

Today’s #LongerView looks into the caverns of the heart in “No Ground Beneath My Feet.” Mostly, it considers letting go from the perspective that the action has already occurred. It is in the acceptance that we struggle but need we? I’m just not so sure about that anymore.

I read your thoughtful comments carefully. If there is some aspect of AFE that you would like to see more of,  please let me know in the comments or contact me at evennessofmind@gmail.com.

I’m so grateful you are here. As always, I provide the bench. 

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

In Relationship with Solitude

I was once told that no one valued solitude as much as I. Nothing in my response was helpful for in Zen one does not explain, one experiences.

That said, whenever I am questioned about my love of solitude, it is May Sarton’s words that return to me: “Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self.”

Yes, that is the experience, letting go of ego. Chögyam Trungpa says it’s a matter of “admitting the helplessness of ego to control its world and secure itself.”

In an ever-changing world, trusting the self is to become comfortable with “groundlessness” as Pema Chödrön calls it. Certainly, it’s a lifetime practice and one not without its challenges.

After all, we are always in relationship, even with the insect in the room. On so many days, it is in relationship that I begin.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

Taking My Daily Dose as Delivered

My annual appointment with my neurosurgeon was scheduled for last Friday. My autoimmune disease was in high gear, skeletal issues less so but pain high and energy low.

In retrospect, I should have listened to my body rather than heeding someone else’s schedule. I arrived to a locked office door. Truthfully, I was rather relieved as I really was not feeling well.

As turned to make my way to my vehicle, I saw the receptionist and office manager returning from what appeared to be a morning stroll. They did not seem surprised to see me.

I stepped back from the office door as the receptionist opened it; the manager quickly disappeared into the dark office. The receptionist asked my name, as she invited me inside.

She told me she had rescheduled my appointment for next week at “around the same time.” I wondered what time that would be as I had not mentioned when my appointment was. Sighing, she said the neurosurgeon was “on a marathon.”

I felt my emotions start to spike. The wasted trip was a huge drain on my energy but if I got upset, I would only further drain my resources. I stayed silent. 

The receptionist put a wall between us and opened its sliding glass window revealing an area rife with paper, including a frayed and worn appointment book.

She asked me if I like Fridays. I said I liked them fine. Pressing the question, she asked me if I prefer Fridays. I told her I do not have a weekday preference. And I don’t.

“So, did you call me about the appointment being rescheduled?”

“I did make some calls,” she admits. “If I did call you, it was late at night.”

I recognize this is supposed to be meaningful to me but it is not. I feel my anger, again. “There was no call.”

As my response is no surprise to her, she asks, “Next Friday, around the same time?”

I have no intention of agreeing to the first date offered. “No,” I say. “Any day after May 4th.” Of course, we settle on a Friday and I am given a card.

I don’t know that there is a Zen moment in this experience but if there is, I discovered it in today’s #DailyDose. It has been another rough day in terms of pain and energy but I recognized early they were today’s dose. And it made all the difference.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

Trying to Be a Woman with No Future

Yesterday, I saw a Byron Katie meme that said, “I am a woman with no future.” There was a time I knew myself as such but of late, I am caught up in the way of the world rather than the way I work.

I know they are not mutually exclusive but I have lost sight of myself, looking only to the future. My body is taut, my perspective narrow. Two writing submission deadlines loom, and neither essay is coming together.

I am focused on the deadline rather than the content, looking to the end stage rather than the words it takes to get there. I need to be a woman unaware of her future.

It means bringing the meditative state into my day. For me, writing does that but the world does not stop because I write. Even without deadlines, writing occupies most of my day. Words are always forming phrases.

I pass over one thought for another and then maybe go back to the original. Regardless, I find out what I’m thinking. I have great respect for mind and all that it produces, which is a lot.

I’m not sure that I ever allow my body enough respect, especially when I am writing. It, too, requires movement but unlike moving words around on stationary screens, the body in motion takes me away from screens. Words float, sometimes out of mind.

If I sit just a little longer I tell myself. I’ll set a timer but I sit too long or maybe, not long enough. Without an evenness of mind and body, my entire being stiffens.

Mind often dominates but at its own expense for if the body is ignored in terms of exercise and nutrition, the mind muddles. In frustration, its only focus is deadlines.

It is time for a cup of tea, and a bit of a stretch. I will find more words. There are so many–more than enough–but I have only this one moment.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.