Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Morning thoughts

Before 8 am, it is pleasant to be outside. I water everything I can to try to keep it going. We planted new trees in the back to shade the house -- we should have done this 5 years ago, hubby says (or better yet, 15). But then the sun starts to hunt me down, and I come in.

On the way inside, I pick one of the little persimmons growing on the spindly tree. This tree requires three T posts and an old pair of my pantyhose to anchor it upright, but still, birds try to nest in its branches, and it has 2 fruits growing. Life is persistent. I'm not sure what one does with a persimmon tree, but Andrew fell in love with it at Arbolito's nursery and insisted we buy it. The last time I remember actually eating a persimmon was around 1991, on a bank audit trip to Japan.

Here is Andrew with his tree.

I have been trying to stop my mind wandering, playing at "meditation" because it seems so important to those Buddhist people, and to many Christians too. But my mind is a free-range roamer, and it cannot be contained. There is such a thing as walking meditation, where you focus on the lovely steps you are taking on this earth, and of course your breathing (always that). Your mind does not wander to past and future. Better luck with that than I have had! I always thought a good walk was for thinking things through.

I suspect meditation is like praying. You can do many things while in this state of mind. Maybe it's not ideal, but it helps a lot for people like me who have a pathological aversion to being still too long. Maybe stillness is too much like death; I don't know why I have such a problem with it.

This pic is not of our yard, by the way -- pineapples growing in Hawaii. I recently re-discovered pics of us in Hawaii & fell in love with that place again.

Today, as I was watering the garden and looking for the big snake Austin saw yesterday (just to enjoy the sight of it! oh, and to avoid being startled out of my wits by it), the topic of judgment came to mind. Speaking of snakes in gardens ... amazing how the mind makes connections that only become clear later.

Judgment is another human tendency, like anger and rudeness, that is so natural and hard to control. The things that people find to judge each other about can be quite odd. Here's an example. Yesterday, a lady from a local dog rescue organization (Las Lomas) came to pick up the wet food that Sandy used to eat, plus her collar and leash, and a bag of dry food that I had bought for them. She was describing how they assign dogs to "foster" homes -- she currently has 17 -- and as we talked, she asked if I didn't want to save the leash and collar, for us to get another dog. I told her I thought that was unlikely. At this moment, I imagined how easy it would be for her to judge me -- as someone who did not love dogs enough to care for more than one. However, I think she was a very loving person, and with an abundance of love, baser thoughts get crowded out.

But here was a rather quirky way that a dog lover might judge other people: do they own enough dogs, or not enough? And it goes from there. Do their dogs enjoy all the proper perks, eat only the best food (which many dog lovers say excludes all bones), get plenty of attention and exercise (that's difficult for people who work full-time), etc. etc.? I would add, are those dogs neutered??

We all have our "pet" issues! I typed this without even seeing the obvious pun, at first! Believe me, I've got plenty. I despise littering. I can't believe people are so lazy that they don't care about taking better care of the Earth ... that people are spending lots of time, money, and energy arguing about what exactly is causing Earth's temperature to go to Hell, literally, and not caring a whit about decreasing their energy consumption and switching to green energy. As if that were too hard! Whine, whine. That's certainly what the oil and gas lobby wants everyone to believe, and all those wealthy sheiks in the Middle East, and Hugo Chavez ... "Drill here, drill now!!!!!!!!" Yes, drilling for more fossil fuels will surely save us all. Sorry, here I go rushing off on this train of thought. That's how easy it is.

And more: I detest willful ignorance. I cannot stand the thought of people dumping their pets. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. (Do we have any more of those, by the way?)

But then I stop and think about areas where I am vulnerable to being judged. Ouch. Lots of those, potentially. How about my prowess at parenting? How good is my marriage? Do I have a good social support system? Am I doing enough to help address poverty, disease, war, genocide? Never. Or it could be how good I am at my job (some people do care a lot about that); whether I can write worth a fig; whether my walk matches my talk about stewardship of the earth. I did plenty of driving around San Antonio yesterday. Am I really taking proper care of my body with good nutrition and daily exercise? And, do I have enough dogs? (cats, birds, hamsters ...)

So, I think a good repartee to falling into judgment is to stop, pull back, and imagine your weakest point, where you are vulnerable to being judged. Is your body in tip-top shape? Are you satisfied with your work to improve the world? Your marriage, parenting, friendships, career? It doesn't take long to be tripped up.

An enlightened person wants to replace judgment with love, unconditional positive regard for others. The Buddhist practice that I've been listening to describes it as wishing for someone else to be happy. When I heard this, I thought it was so Polly-Annish. Happy, schmappy -- who cares? Happiness is, first, unimportant and, second, a byproduct of a productive life! But I realized that it's an attempt to describe a huge concept in human language. Translating the divine into human terms will always fall far short. I wish for you, happiness. It's noble in its simplicity. Better than saying I wish for you, love -- that hints of judgment. You're obviously not loving enough, so I wish you were more loving. I wish for you, happiness.

I did not see the snake today, by the way. It was swimming in the pond last I saw it. (Or maybe that was a different snake.) Better luck next time.

Footnote: Andrew and I had quite a lot of fun today imagining the reactions we would get if we told everyone, "I wish for you, happiness." How many black eyes, bloody noses, or blank looks could we have received for our troubles?

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