Bits of zen flotsam & jetsam from the daily practice of a zen fool with shards of modern Buddhist art from my studio. Sometimes cranky, sometimes inspiring, mostly entertaining.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Objects In The Rearview Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear
There has definitely been a samsaric quality to the last several weeks. And that's okay, as long as samsara proves to be an educational experience (ah, I have spent many years in Samsara Elementary). What's important is that the suffering you encounter is the suffering that leads to the end of suffering as opposed to the suffering that just leads to more suffering. There has been a quality to some of the days like the dark, foggy fumblings of a bad dream. As in a nightmare, unpleasant things happen and I wander aimlessly in search of solutions. Only on this occasion I am awake, well, sort of.
In this little personal nightmare I am suffering from the effects of stress and environmental toxins brought on by house renovations. There have been the usual host of surprise findings and expenses. We were warned, but like so many things you don't really pay attention until the tarantula lands in your lap. For some reason even though I chose no VOC paint, cork underlay for the wood floors I completely overlooked the issue of off gassing from new cabinetry. And while I chose lovely cement coloured porcelain tile I neglected to consider the chemicals in the grouts and glues used in plumbing sealants. And so what I left unconsidered came to haunt. Isn't that a good Dharma lesson? Doesn't that hold in so many of the arenas of our life? In this case chemical sensitivities stirred with a vengeance. My body offered yet another lesson.
So while my home normally feels like a place refuge, a place to recharge and regroup, I got to experience life with nowhere to take refuge. In a strange way I was homeless, ungrounded, as home became a place that made me feel ill. I had nowhere to hide. The inclination to spin stories of how this would end were enormous. The call of the sirens of depression were alluring. What now? Do I need to rip my kitchen out? Do I need to move? Thrown into all this were some social obligations that left me feeling like a wandering ghost, moving from place to place, going through the motions, feeling unwell, feeling sad that I was unwell, imagining all others as well. Samsara on the personal big screen.
I tried to muster the stations of faith, reminding myself to look up, rather than despair. One moment I could remember, the next I was lost in confusion. I imagined the worst. My physical symptoms seemed stuck. No matter how much wheatgrass juice I drank, how many salads I ate, how much oil of oregano I sucked back, my symptoms were stuck. I followed the little trail of breadcrumbs toward a solution. I even had a nightmare about being trapped in a cul de sac in a hillside neighbourhood! I inched along like a sad little, blind worm. I called a naturopath I have seen. I researched ways of dealing with off gassing. I wandered, disheartened in samsara, looking for an escape hatch. I asked for help. Sometimes I wallowed, sometimes I groped my way forward.
And while I am a rather staunch believer in the worst outcome, this time I was proven wrong. I followed a thread to a biological dentist (my cold symptoms had morphed into dental pain). Surprisingly this grey haired, Harry Potter glassed, wizard helped dislodge my stuck physical symptoms with his bag of holistic tricks. Another day as I sorted lethargically amongst some papers I found a pamphlet for a product from AFM that when painted on cabinetry, minimizes offgassing. Slowly I was making headway and revisiting the land of the living as I wobbled back and forth between hope and despair. Slowly I was cultivating a landscape of possibility.
I learned that the stories I had conjured were habitual delusions and that yes, Virginia sometimes there is a Santa Claus (no dental work required!). I learned how hard it is to rest in the unknown, how it is so uncomfortable that I often prefer a bad bedtime story to no story at all. I learned that some deeply entrenched fears habitually send me heading straight for the panic button. This time around I noticed there is another button on the dashboard. Faintly I read it's tiny letters, "equanimity".
It has been a long, tiring couple of weeks. And there it is, samsara receding in the rearview mirror. But I am reminded that vigilance is an important quality in this life of the Dharma. Sometimes you find your reminders in the strangest places: printed on the bottom of that rearview mirror I find the words: "Objects in the rearview mirror are closer than they appear."
Buddhism & Art...if I had to pick two words that give an overview of what I get up to in this world those would be my choices. Buddhism is the ground upon which I rest all else. I like to think it brings me some sanity. It helps me think in some logical way about what I am doing and look at it as deeply as possible. What did I just do? Why ? What's that all about? ...To try and look at my life without sliding over things or fooling myself...To be present for life, not rejecting or preferring one experience over another. Buddhist practice makes my life full and rich, sometimes filled with joy and sometimes with a deep experience of the suffering present in this world.
After all those words does it seem odd to say that it is the simplicity of Zen that appeals to me? This inclination to simplicity pulls me to try and integrate my practice and work, to paint Buddhas, to observe my process as I work.
I am drawn to mixed media, integrating script and words with images and colour.