It’s been a week of large defeats and small victories.
Let me tell you about some of the small victories first before I tell you about the large defeat – or in other words, I will tell you the good news before the bad.
On Easter Sunday, a memory-thought flashed into my head: I remembered how I had always longed to study English Literature at University. The idea of studying the great works of literature was and still is, very exciting to me; but I put it aside as a young person because I couldn’t figure out the practical benefits of doing such a thing. For me, everything, including education has to have a practical outcome – and education is not free in this country.
I know something now that I didn’t know then though – our small minds are not always capable of grasping the potential benefits or otherwise of a particular action – and really, the only thing we have to guide us is a feeling of joy (or its opposite). If we move towards what brings us joy (and her friends happiness and excitement), we can’t go too far wrong. So, I found this great free online University called Saylor Academy that runs degrees for free. You can read all about their charter and how and why they do it – but the result is that I am now studying an English Major, just for me. Cool huh?
Is there anything in your life that you have put aside as being impractical or impossible that you could revisit?
My other small personal victory is that I am on day 12 of my 40 day meditation challenge, a discipline which has been of great benefit considering the other events of this week. Unlike the first time I did this challenge, I have not been slapped around the face with my own glaring imperfections, and I am not disappointed because of my lack of enlightenment :). I am smiling as I write this, because it seems a bit silly, but I really thought that a daily meditation practice was actually going to make me into a nicer person :). Now that I don’t have those expectations, I can just enjoy the meditation practice for what it is:
“In mindfulness one is not only restful and happy, but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality.”
– Thích Nhất Hạnh
What has your experience of a daily meditation practice been? Have you found it difficult?
Now for the bad news.
My second Dad* fell off the roof of his house while cleaning the gutters on Monday. He was rushed to hospital where he was examined and treated for a few broken ribs, a sizeable cut on his hand and impact injuries. It was generally thought that he had been lucky to avoid a head injury and a broken back – and there didn’t seem to be any internal injuries. Two days later though, he suddenly took a turn for the worse – he couldn’t breathe, and worse, when they out him on oxygen, none was getting through to his blood. They put him on full life support, narrowly avoiding a cardiac arrest.
My poor mother. I live the closest, so she had called me when he fell off the roof; to which I responded by packing up the kids and heading straight over to her house for the night. She also called me first when he was put onto life support, so I raced straight up to meet her at the hospital. It was completely surreal to see my second Dad, a big, strong bear of a man, in an induced coma, being breathed by a machine. He looked peaceful, like he might have been sleeping as he lay there on the bed.
They had discovered that he had many more broken ribs than 5 – more like 20 – and on the point of impact, the ribs had caved in, damaging his lung. There had also been damage to some of his vertebrae, although not his spinal cord, and one of his lumbar discs. They were treating him for a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot that was blocking the main artery leading into his lungs – they didn’t know for sure, because to move him – even down to the next floor to do the tests, would kill him. The treatment of administering blood thinners is dangerous when when a person is so injured, but to leave it untreated would definitely kill him.
Overnight, he rallied – they needed to give him less and less oxygen, his lungs needed less help to breathe and he was using the machine rather than it using him. His condition is critical but stable. He was well enough to get a CAT scan later in the day, which confirmed the lung embolism, but he didn’t enjoy that process at all and became unstable, needing more support from the machine. And so we wait.
Some small blessings:
- A trauma mobilises people like nothing else: my brother arrived that night, my second Dad’s sister arrived not long after. For a long time there has been a rift between him and his children, my step-brother and sister – that was put aside, and they arrived as well.
- My mother’s family and friends have also rallied and their support has been wonderful. My second Dad is much loved and valued in our community and his work with the environment and later with Aboriginal communities has had far reaching impacts.
So. That’s my week in a nutshell, in all its varied and bloody glory. I hope your week has been a little less tumultuous!
*Second Dad – my mother has been married to my second Dad for 30 years, ever since I was 8. He raised my brother and I like we were his own children, and for that reason I have elevated him above the level of step-father.
Best Short Read
4 Questions to Change Your Life: An Interview with Byron Katie, Creator of ‘The Work’ by the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies.
I am sorry to say that I have not yet read Byron Katie’s Loving What Is – Four Questions That Can Change Your Life – although it is on my to read list. I have however read and watched her talk about her ideas and I think her work is very powerful. Katie summarises her work thus:
Katie: The Work is a simple, very powerful process. It’s a way to identify and question the thoughts that are the cause of all the suffering in the world.
First, you write down the judgments you are thinking about other people, and then you put these judgments, one by one, up against the four questions of The Work.
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?
Omega: You stress the importance of writing down the inquiry into each thought. Why is it important to put it on paper?
Katie: If you try to do The Work in your head, without putting your thoughts on paper using something like the Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet, the mind will outsmart you. Before you’re even aware of it, it will be off and running into another story to prove that it’s right.
But though the mind can justify itself faster than the speed of light, it can be stopped through the act of writing. Once the mind is stopped on paper, thoughts remain stable, and inquiry can easily be applied.
To read the rest of this article click here.
Have you had any experience with Byron Katie’s The Work?
I felt, as I was sitting in the hospital room, as if I was in the centre of the cyclone, with trees and the odd bit of roof flying all around me in a mad medley – but I was just still. I don’t have a ‘what if’ mind – it naturally wants to just deal with what’s in front of it, and that is what I advise others to do in these overwhelming situations. Just do the next thing and then when you’ve done that, the next thing will arise. Do that as well. Meanwhile, avoid deciding if the moment that you are in is good or bad. Just let the moment be whatever it is, and in that way, you can harvest the gold from even the most harrowing of situations.
“Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate, or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for the person who has the vision to recognize it.”
– Henry Miller
As I was saying in last week’s post, I traditionally struggle with Easter. I have a mind that needs to understand, and a pagan Spring festival co-opted by Christians, held in Autumn boggles my mind – and not in a good way, my friends :). Anyway, after I suffered on Good Friday, struggled for understanding on Easter Saturday, then finally emerged from the darkness of the rebirth canal on Sunday…I thought for the first time that I might, just might be getting a handle on this Easter thing.
I was introduced to the Mahamrityunjaya mantra in a meditation class last year. It seems impossible to learn, but after practice it became easy, and is a very powerful mantra to listen to and sing – and heart lifting as well.
Om tryambakam yajamahe
I found the phonetic pronunciation useful when I was learning it:
The Mahamrityunjaya mantra is a potent combination of sounds that, if repeated with faith, dedication and perseverance over a period of time, leads, not only to victory over the fear of death, but eventually to victory over death itself or moksha (liberation). It is therefore known as a ‘moksha mantra’. It is stimulating and heating (unlike the Gayatri mantra, which is soothing and cooling). It bestows longevity, and is designed to cure illness. It wards off evil or negative forces by creating a protective psychic shield around the practitioner. It is said to destroy sorrow and poverty, and to fulfil all of one’s desires. Anyone who wishes to remove obstacles in life and overcome difficult situations or illness should repeat this mantra regularly. If chanted a minimum of eleven times, last thing at night, it will ensure a better sleep and more positive dreams. – Yoga Magazine
Best Ginger Beer Failure
So, my nearly 11 year old son was watching a show where they were making ginger beer in the bottle, and asked me if he could have a go as well, insisting that he knew what and how much of everything to use. The Bear gave him a couple of long neck brown beer bottles that he uses for brewing beer, showed him how to clean them – and he was off. Some hours later, we heard a disturbing sound, much like a .22 gun being let off in the kitchen. We arrive to see the contents of the bottle sprayed all over the kitchen and a rather shocked looking boy gripping on to the bottle which had just blown its top 🙂
The other bottle was in the Bear’s shed, so he carried it, arms outstretched, to the outside table. At 10 pm that night a deeper sound was heard, described by the Bear who uses such terminology, like a .303 gun shot. This is all that was left of that bottle.
We are thinking that perhaps we need to refine the process somewhat 🙂
My dears, that’s it for today. Sending you all joy for this week, no matter what your situation or predicament.