Thursday, August 18, 2011

Letting go

The DOW – my retirement funds – dropped 470 points amid economic gloom.  My son might become active status Marines and deploy to Afghanistan, just when we thought he was safe.
Hundreds of thousands of African children are dying of starvation.  And last, and least, I realize that I am aging, because my skin is breaking and bruising easily!

So we are anxious.  We have some kind of magical thinking that we can control these things.  “If I scoff at right wing nut cases like Rick Perry or Sarah Palin, they will go away.  If I just wait long enough, stocks will go up again.  If I hope hard enough, my son won’t deploy. If I stay out of the sun, my skin won’t age.”

I want to let go!  This is driving me crazy! 

The Serenity Prayer has a long history of being inspirational:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

But I wonder about the part, “courage to change the things I can.”  Can we actually change anything?   We see the ever-changing mountain stream, and we intuitively know that our lives are like this.  In this immense net of the world, where things are changing moment to moment, where everything is impermanent, how could we actually change any one thing? 

On the other hand, if we and nature are intimately interconnected, maybe our right action, our right words, and our compassion could change everything – all the time, even if it is on a microscopic, imperceptible basis. 

So that gets me to the “wisdom to know the difference.”  What is the difference between that which we can change and that which we cannot?  That might be what the Buddhists call Wisdom Beyond Wisdom, Mahaprajnaparamita – the wisdom that we are not separate.  That there is no one thing.

There is a prayer from the elders of the Hopi nation, which in a deep heart way, answers me:

                                               The elders say that we must let go of the shore.  
Push off into the middle of the river,
And keep our heads above water.
and I say see who is there with you
And celebrate.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Worry Gene

I recently read news about an “optimist” gene.  I clearly don’t have that gene.  In fact, I am certain that there is a “worry” gene, and I inherited it from both parents! 

Now that I am retired, it would seem that I have about the most perfect life possible.  It is like standing on a mountain peak and looking off into space: all that free time!  And yet I am anxious about finances and the stock market falling and the debt ceiling – most of which I have no control over whatsoever.

My husband is younger than me and is the wage earner now.  I call him my “retirement plan.”  My last two weeks at work he sent me the sound file of Bob Marley’s song, “Don’t worry ‘bout a thing.  Every little thing is gonna be all right.”   

Every spiritual tradition says we should not worry about our material existence.  We should place our trust in Buddha or God.  Or both!  The early Buddhists walked with a begging bowl, not knowing when their next meal would be. 

So I sit every morning in the Montara Mountain zendo.  I focus on trying to let go.  Let go of financial worry, concerns about my son.  Let go of unwanted attachments. Is it even possible to “try” to do this?

I think that when we really meditate on impermanence, it might indeed be possible.   What is there to hold on to anyway?  What is under our control, when everything is changing so fast, moment to moment?

I think that in our heart of hearts, we do believe that “Every little thing is gonna be all right.”  Maybe it is the practice of gratitude and appreciation for what there already is, and renunciation of all that which hasn’t even happened yet.