Polishing the Mirror

It was crowded. Two trains went by, out of service. Everyone looked straight ahead while a man further down facing perpendicular to the bulk of the crowd was yelling something political.

I decided to walk towards him. I’d been thinking about how scared people are now. Nobody is talking but there are ‘crazy people’ yelling all over the place. I didn’t know if he was one of them but I walked towards him passed all people with earbuds in, attached to iPods and smartphones listening to what they chose instead of this man yelling.

The train came before I got too far along the platform and I joined the throng getting on the train. I don’t know if he got onto another car. I put my earbuds in and selected the e-book I had downloaded from the library. It is called “Being Mortal”.

I wrote the above a long time ago. I was afraid. I don’t know what would have happened if I had gone up to him. Do people who yell in public places want to be heard? Do they even believe that they CAN be heard? But I was frightened and even a bit angry that he was subjecting us all to his ranting.

I am still learning how this machine that puts itself together as ME works and one of the cogs is anger, another is fear.

I have written many angry entries in journals and diaries and then made a ritual of blacking them out or deleting them. But I have missed the point of my own life in doing so because I was afraid my anger would turn me into a weapon, some sort of terrible uncontrollable force.

But I am not a weapon. A weapon is something you pick up to do harm to others. A human being is a Buddha whether or that human being is suffering due to contracted emotions, habitual behaviours or galling misunderstandings, regardless of whether or not they have realized it.

I like to think that I have always run from confrontation, but I have at times in my life become so angry that I have put myself in the path of confrontation even knowing I would probably suffer harm. But I was never a weapon and neither was the person who harmed me. It is a delusion to think that we can become weapons or targets or hammers or nails, but it is true we can suffer and cause suffering and in that state of congealed anger, pick up a weapon.

Anger comes as energy that can turn into action but if I try to delete it or deny it, the whole machinery of my being becomes stuck in all sorts of physical problems or worse, it gives rise to dangerous exchanges that benefit no one.

The purpose of Zen practice is to realize awake awareness as oneself and this includes being aware of anger and fear.

If we are aware we can make choices.

Being a student of Soto Zen Buddhism I can choose to direct that energy into compassionate action. If i recognize that I am afraid I can also recognize others who are fearful and in loosening its hold on myself open the possibility of the same for others. If I am angry, I can learn to see it arising and to appreciate its energy and learn how to direct it towards polishing the mirror, exerting myself to examine delusions and to realize compassion, to lean into actions that build instead of actions that destroy.

But to ignore or suppress fear and anger rather than taking each moment of recognition as an opportunity is an impediment and can only lead to more suffering. (This can be applied to all emotions that cause us to hide or become deluded as in  “Love Hurts”, love that is misdirected or misunderstood.)

So I will endeavour to be aware of what I would rather not realize within myself and not let anything fester or congeal into a sense of problem that gains momentum.

And even in realizing all of the above, I must sit zazen, every day and not fall into thinking that dust will no longer accumulate on the mirror.

And even after all that:

https://youtu.be/8T-Z1WoFXkk

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I Said it Out Loud: I am hanging up my red rubber nose.

wilftiger

ROAR!

I was out in a social environment, drinking a beer, chatting. In reference to something, someone said, “Oh yes, you are a clown aren’t you?”

Having said out loud that I was retired made it true. But it has been a long time coming. First off the fact that parents started telling me that clowns were “scary” and they would prefer that I not dress up. (I think I am way more scary without my clown makeup but hey, if they don’t want clown face I don’t do clown face.)

But I also started to notice how physically demanding it was. I love talking to the kids about what they imagine they are becoming as I paint their faces, or just seeing their level of commitment as they patiently wait as I apply the paint but there are many younger people who have steadier hands and stronger backs.

And I have grandchildren now. I am so lucky to get to see them as they grow into this world. I think now I need to spend my time doing what I can to see they continue to have one.

Clownlaughing

It’s been fun.

Random Acts of Apples!

I was riding my bike to Value Village (okay how GREEN is that?) and I saw a man picking apples from a tree with one of those long pole apple picker things and he gave me a bag! Not Far From the Tree doesn’t pick fruit in Scarborough, one of the many ways Scarborough is shunned by the Smoke, (note to self: get over it), but this guy told me he drove to their office and donated a bunch of apples anyway! I am making a savoury pie of ground turkey and green apples this morning before it gets too hot!

freeapples

little green apples make great apple sauce and are tart enough to compliment a savoury pie.

There are a lot of things to feel sad about. — Seriously Clowning Around

 

Originally posted 2010

A few years ago I had just gotten out of the hospital when I learned of the tsunami that hit South East Asia. I remember thinking, wow, the earth is way more upset than I am. I had started crying for no reason and could not stop so I checked in to the hospital after not […]

I am very sorry for those affected by the shootings on the Danforth in Toronto. I was heading away from the Danforth to my home in Scarborough a short time before this and went to bed without ever a thought that this could happen, especially in such a friendly neighbourhood…

via There are a lot of things to feel sad about. — Seriously Clowning Around

Being Past Middle-Age (Old)

lastpeonies

 

I don’t think I agree with Mr. Sedaris when he says:

Though there’s an industry built on telling you otherwise, there are few real joys to middle age. The only perk I can see is that, with luck, you’ll acquire a guest room.

and as per usual I read the line incorrectly at first as “There ARE A FEW real joys”. Ooops. There are many draw-backs to aging but I have found there are a few, very real joys. Acquiring a guest room speaks of many things, financial things, years of acquiring security, home and also friends. These things are indeed things to be pleased about. But the greatest joys I am finding, and I am past middle-age, are in being less observed and more observing, needing less and appreciating more, and feeling less expectation (and maybe more love).

These days I am having very wonderful conversations sometimes on public transit with people who I would probably never have had an opportunity to talk to previously in my life. I am not sure why this is happening more often but it might be that I am not always looking at the floor and listening to a podcast or reading a book or sleeping or avoiding eye contact, but I also think it is because I am over sixty, completely non-threatening and usually, if I am going somewhere, pretty happy.

I am at a point in my life where I can contribute a bit to those in my life but no one is entirely dependent on me. While I am hardly noticed unless it looks like I might need to sit down, I can notice all sorts of things.

A week ago I ended up talking with a woman at length, a bus and two subways worth, after an unleased dog ran at the fence to the school yard his owner had let him run in, barking rather ferociously at her. (I tend to be really scared of running dogs since having been bitten). I wanted to calm her (and myself) so I said something like, “Scary huh?” She said she had a lot of experience with dogs growing up in Jamaica and she had a heavy purse. 😉

We talked about dogs, she likes them, I don’t much, and cats, she doesn’t like them, I do, and children and being grandmothers and what each of us thinks is the most important thing to learn (my favourite question). Along the way I mentioned that I had an auntie who had always made me feel special. We were discussing the importance for children to have a safe person who will always accept them and give them space to just be children, “like grandparents do” we said in unison.

I got to my stop on the subway after a long and wonderful conversation, learning her age and history and family and her beliefs while sharing mine. We were holding hands by this time. She said, “What is your name?” I told her and asked her for her name. “Opal” she said.

That was the name of my favourite auntie!

I find a lot of joy at my age.

The Riverdale Art Walk

artwalk (8)

I saw some of my favourites and some new work too!

I was not good at taking photos this year but I caught Lori Mirabelli off guard and she said “yes”. She then said, “ummm, did I agree to that?” but you can see she is very amiable, also my very, very favourite artist this year. I want to live in one of her paintings and I want to paint everything she paints.

The quality of art is really quite astounding, but this is something that the Artist’s Network has worked to maintain and build on. While I won’t list every artist, even though I almost want to, I will say these are the ones that caught my fancy this year:

Stavros, a digital artist

Anna Whitmore, beautiful pen and ink works

Pam Mayview, abstracts

Matt Durant, contemporary art