Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking back, Walking Forward

I have a little New Year's Eve ritual. I like to spend some time looking back on the old year, taking a broad sweeping look, like I'm flying overhead looking down at the landscape. And some years there are more clouds than others obscuring the view. I see quite a few stars this evening.

A lot happened in 2009. As the result of a "health opportunity" that generally goes by the name of cancer in late 2007, I realized in 2008 that, "news flash: I was mortal". It was time to wake up and do what I really wanted to do, instead of thinking about it, writing about it, imagining it, or being afraid of it. The penny finally dropped that I should get on with life, in a get out there and do things sort of way. Some of that self absorbed, self consciousness and fear dissolved with the surgeon's stitches. So 2009 was the year when I decided to get up everyday (well not everyday, but you know what I mean) and create some art. I needed to show and display my art and meet other artists. I needed to take risks and get uncomfortable. 2009 was the year I looked in the mirror and said who cares if I look stupid. Vanity and vulnerability travel in the same make-up bag.

It was also a year I did a lot of deep spiritual housekeeping. I worked earnestly and made peace and forged a heart connection with my 94 year old mother. I gave up blaming her and grumbling about her and said the hard things to her that needed to be said to move forward. To her credit she was open and ready for the healing to take place and our last months together were warmed by feelings of deep connection. I think the wanting and needing something from each other somehow dissolved. We had deep conversations about her impending death and it was the most peaceful experience I have ever had, to sit with her as she died on August 29th.

We finally decided to sell our house and move from the city to a smaller island than we live on now. We worked hard to get the house ready and put it up for sale. It was a spiritual experience to travel the road of big monetary transaction with integrity. But we negotiated it in a way that felt good and on Dec 16th we signed the final inky flourishes to the sale documents. House sold, time to move on. I have to say Mara made a big visit the night after we signed those papers. Every fear I've had about my health came to visit. Doubt and terror are not at all fun to share the pillow with. It felt pretty clear that the only way out was through the little burning, toxic pit. I found the where-with-all to sit with it and consider my options. Fear was feasting on speculation. Instead of pulling the covers over my head I worked to get a felt sense of what it would be like to throw the deal, stay put and be safe. Mara left empty handed.

I gained more confidence in my art this year by devoting more time and attention to it. "What we feed, grows stronger." I learned a little bit about hitting my stride. I learned not to throw myself into fits of despair when things didn't go my way ( a long standing habitual tendency of mine).

And so 2009 has been a time of great learning and looking forward. Things didn't always go my way but I learned to work with that. I worked to resist collapsing into a little heap of "I can'tness" at the first sign of trouble. Oh maybe a few times but who's counting? I worked with my tendency to obsess over things when they didn't go my way. This is such a strong, alluring tendency for me, one of those things I know in my head to be unwholesome but man, it can grab hold of me and take me on a big old chase.

And the Dharma has remained central and strong in my life. I didn't find a Sangha to sit with in 2009 but maintained my own practice and am connected to a number of "Buddhist" friends and my monk friend.

As I look forward to the new year I have new plans to address some health and stamina issues so that I might do more out in the world. We will move to Salt Spring Island in March after living in our wonderful urban home for the last 13 years. And of course based on impermanence and the fact that we are not in control of the big picture I can look forward to the adventures of another year. As my Zen teacher always says "we do our part and the eternal (or whatever you like to call it) looks after the rest."

May you experience happiness and health and the fruits of your good training in 2010. May we be good company to each other as we walk this path together. Bows to you.


  1. Indeed!

    Thank you so much ZDS for your wonderful writing and great wisdom. And thank you too for all the lovely support you've offered me recently on my blog. Much appreciated.

    Wishing you a healthy and very happy New Year,


  2. And bows to you:) Thank you for your wonderful posts.

    As the new year blossoms, may the journey of your life be fragrant with new opportunities, your days be bright with new hopes and your heart be happy with love! Happy New Year!


  3. May your New Year be blessed, ZDS. I loved your testimony to the year past and how you are relaxing into the future. May this openness of spirt continue to infuse your life and art. (I do love your work...)

  4. Thanks to you all for you kind comments. May we all remember to "look up" as my Zen teacher calls it and embrace the adventures that come to our path in 2010!

  5. I am a new reader to your blog and wanted to share with you that I felt a deep sense of peace and gratitude reading this post.

    Bows to you,

  6. Have an excellent 2010!


  7. Kudos to you for finding within yourself the strength to make amends with your mom, and for standing up to challenges, fear, and tiresome personal habits of old. God knows we all have them, the mothers, the grudges, and the annoying habits that seems impossible to shake. Happy New Day,