The First Dharma Seal: Impermanence (1 of 2)

In this post, anything in quotation marks will be from The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh, as I’ll be referencing it throughout this post and its sequel in part 2.

“The Three Dharma Seals are impermanence, nonself, and nirvana. Any teaching that does not bear these Three Seals cannot be said to be a teaching of the Buddha.”

Yesterday morning, during my Mindful Morning practice that I do each weekend on either Saturday or Sunday, my Dharma reading included passages from Interbeing and The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings. After reading parts from the chapter entitled The Three Dharma Seals in the latter book, I began writing and reflecting about my own understanding of the first two seals: impermanence and nonself, and ways in which I practice to embody these elements in my daily life, moving them from a place of intellectual understanding to direct experience.

“Impermanence is more than an idea. It is a practice to help us touch reality.”

My own definition of impermanence: All things are in an ongoing & steady state of flux.

It’s one thing to intellectually understand that everything changes. It’s a whole other thing to actually practice with what it means, how it shows up in our daily life, and to cultivate the wisdom enfolded into its teachings.

“When we study impermanence, we have to ask, “Is there anything in this teaching that has to do with my daily life, my daily difficulties, my suffering?” If we see impermanence as merely a philosophy, it is not the Buddha’s teaching.”

Spurred by my morning reading, I asked myself: how do I practice impermanence? Meaning: how do I move impermanence from a brain-based relationship to a heartfelt experience?

Here’s what I came up with.

Ways I practice impermanence:

  1. Volunteering with hospice.
  2. Actively reflecting on the inevitability of death as it pertains to my closest loved ones (not easy!).
  3. Turning towards – not away from – the nature of reality of my stepson growing up and practicing the art of letting go.
  4. Investing intentional time and energy into comfort zone expansion work.
  5. Occasionally giving away a cherished belonging.
  6. Having a collectively generated fridge collage of drawings and then burning them when the fridge is full, in order to start over with a new creation.
  7. Engaging with the ever-fluctuating mountain weather as a valuable teacher providing me with daily opportunities to practice going with (instead of against) the flow of what presents itself outside of my preferences and/or sway.

My practice verse in relation to impermanence:

Life is precious and time is short.

 

 

 

 

 

Big Limbs A’Gonna Fall

Some time on Wednesday during the day or early evening – or perhaps it was around 10pm and it was the sound I heard that prodded me to get up from my almost sleep to investigate – a widow-maker fell from one of our two slowly dying elm trees in the backyard.

As massive tangle-wall of green bramble, spindly branches, and 100-year-old heavy trunk has taken up residency in the middle of the yard, where I mow and sometimes, when the spirit calls for it, frolic.

In some respect, we saw it coming. It was only a matter of time – just like everything else. Nothing ever happens without circumstance. Nothing has ever happened for “no reason” or “out of nowhere.” Had we been wildly surprised and/or shaken up at the sight of it, it would’ve said much more about our own sad state of affairs than it would’ve the tree’s.

Still, when suddenly confronted face-to-face with such a large object that once forever held steady up above, it can make a person ponder such things as constancy, and how very many ways there are to die.

One month from turning 40

In one month from today,
I’ll turn forty.
Does that mean something?
I think it might.

I think it might mean
bidding a fond farewell to a decade of time
book-ended by zeros
and ushering in a new one,
as though it were a crisp,
unwrinkled, never worn gown
to slip into and dance on
endlessly into the night.

Everything that meant anything important
I’ve learned so far,
I’ve learned from unlearning something else.

Like how love means letting go
not holding on,
and a life filled with meaning
has little to do with money.
Or how kindness is a superpower
not a weakness,
and angling towards joy
doesn’t mean to ignore the darkness,
it means to not ignore the light.

I have inherited a body of knowledge
not my own –
a body of paper skin and earthen bones, too.
Flawed, perfect,
scarred, broken, perfect.
Did I mention perfect?

There is nothing on this splendid,
spinning, blue-green marble planet,
strung like a pearl on its cosmic necklace,
that wasn’t supposed to happen,
simply for the fact that it did.

If my years so far could be distilled
into one sentiment worth mentioning,
it would be this:
To live a well-contented life,
it’s crucial to stop fighting.

To stop fighting:
Sickness
Aging
Death.

To stop fighting with the truth of how every single thing –
and every single one of us, our self included –
is of the nature to change.

One Day Soon

Pic taken of Mike and I the day before he left for Deer Park Monastery for a 3-month retreat stay

 

One day soon, the other side of the bed will be occupied by him once again, and I will no longer have to utilize the services of my heating blanket to keep warm at night.

At certain times over the past 3-months, I’ve used this solo time to imagine what a life led in his permanent absence would be like; as though he were gone for good and not only for a short stint. I’ve pondered how I would manage and carry on without him. I’ve gotten a tiny glimpse as to why a widow might keep herself in mourning for a lifetime.

When you’ve married your heart to another full throttle – after weaving your lives together for a spell – there is no such thing as time spent without their energetic impression accompanying you.

Mind you, I can hold my own. I’m steady on my own two aching feet and can joy it up with the best of em, all on my own accord. But I want to keep doing all of that with him close at hand.

One day soon, I’ll shift positions in the middle of the night and in place of the open sea, he’ll be there to catch me – and it will be the utmost of grand occasions.

First Fire of the Year

It feels worth mentioning that last night, I had my first backyard fire of the year. And it also seems worth haikuing about:

Flames licking wood

Chilled air breathing fire

A smile is lit

Last weekend, I was off on a solo saunter up north – and I enjoyed every bit of my travels.

This weekend, I set myself up so that I had zero cause to leave the house if I didn’t want to – and I’ve been enjoying every bit of it.

Chronicles of a Sick Person

Facebook Posts:

3/8:
With a 100.5 degree fever and feeling as though I’ve been run over by a truck, I’m athinking my planned solo saunter to JJ Hot Springs to celebrate Mike and I’s anniversary tomorrow is out. What can I say? Sickness happens. It’s part of life.

And now, please excuse me while I return to bed to languish. Alas, I fear that death is near. Go on without me!

3/9:
Okay. Well. It would’ve been a lovely day to go to the hot springs today as I’d planned, to celebrate Mike & I’s anniversary – the sun is shining and the sky is blue here in Missoula. But I am still super sick – though my fever has come down a bit, which is nice. While I’m bummed my plans were thwarted, let’s be real, is it ever a “good” time to get sick?

3/9:
Sick person cave checklist:

– Multiple blankets and pillows for managing my hot & cold flashes and shifting comfort levels associated with everything hurting: check!
– Heating pad and heating blanket: check!
– Can of ginger ale within arm’s reach: check!
– Thermometer: check!
– Handkerchief: check!
– Laptop with Netflix: check!
– Bottles of water (even though thus far they’ve gone untouched, because for some reason water sounds horrible to drink right now): check!
– Curtains drawn to keep out the light (because I have pronounced light sensitivity): check!
– Bag of Halls: check!
– A still pretty good attitude: check!
– A cat that is part super great (see pic below) and part super not, depending on the moment at hand: check!

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Ode To My Husband

Mike giving love to the cat before taking off for the airport

Written at 5:37am, Friday January 25th, 2019:

Given the expedient fashion with which we managed to both get to and through the airport – checking bags and all – I’m already back at home.

We even lingered in the airport gift shop for a spell, wrinkling our noses at the horrid smell of perfumed, decorative soaps and delighting in the array of stuffed animals, in order to further delay parting ways at the security line.

It was me who made the call. “Okay,” I said, “it’s probably time.”

After a proper embrace, we headed in opposite directions. As I headed out, I glanced back 2-3 times and met his gaze doing the same each time.

And that was that.

I was outside, surrounded by the dark chill of early morning in Missoula – and he was inside, surrounded by bright artificial lighting, soon to take off sky high and land in short order in southern California, where I hope he will be cradled well for the next 3-months.

_______

Over the past week, multiple times a day, I took inventory of the things I would miss about him while he was gone and also the things I would look forward to having a break from. But in the last day or two, the line between these categories grew increasingly blurry and I came to see that I would miss all of it. Even the stuff I really don’t like, such as cleaning up wads of chewing tobacco on the windowsill that serves as his nightstand.

I take solace in the truth of our situation, of the little thing that has happened in our being together for almost 20-years: because we resound in the graces of our interbeing nature, we are strong and strengthened both when we’re together and when we’re apart.

_______

I reckon from here on out, until he returns in 3-months, the ol homestead will be in the same state of affairs when I come home each day as to when I left.

It was only 8-months ago I was preparing dinner each night for 3-4 people. In June, our household reduced to a steady 3. In November, we were whittled down to 2. And now, starting today, I am paired down to 1.

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