My Name Means ‘Water’.
I learned this during our annual grade school unit about Native Americans. It remains mysterious how water has become such a part of my identity. Those who know me know how important water is to me. “So what’s the water situation?” I always ask before going someplace new. I need to know to be prepared. Have water will travel.
It doesn’t stop there. I dreamt I was under water looking up and knowing I was dying. It was peaceful. I’ve since learned, to my delight, that one of my totems is a playful water animal. Apropos because I, also, like to play in the water and I never take it for granted.
Now we’re in a drought. A bona fide, regional, drought and it feels like a desert to me.
Yes. It’s been a dry year weather-wise and spiritually as well.
The thing about droughts and deserts is that by the time you’re in their midst there’s little you can do except adapt and go on. But d**n! it’s hot, dry, and hard going especially for one whose name means ‘water’.
The Metaphorical Desert – A Time of Testing and Endurance
It was not a big surprise when I realized I had nothing else to say. Perhaps I’ve used up my lifetime’s allotment of words. I tried thinking and communicating in ‘Tweets’ but quickly learned it was not my milieu. No problem-o. I’ll just go on going on.
Around the same time, I decided that practicing my “One Year To Live” Experiment for 3 years was enough so I nixed it from the agenda. Day after day, going on about the activities of living beginning to resemble “The Truman Show” or “Groundhog Day”. The thought again arises – ‘is this all there is?’
Not really. There are surprises all the time. Cars breaks down, bosses holler, kids cry, promises unkept, relationships strained, demands for attention abound, I feel powerless, running on dry but don’t know it.
“It’s not fair” and “No one appreciates me” feed the simmering frustration until it morphs into anger. It’s been awhile since anger has invaded my space. My bad for feeding it. I was almost getting comfortably justified about entertaining anger when I glimpsed the abyss of hatred heating up. Whoa.
This is the last warning sign at the edge of the black hole of hatred wafting vapors of temptation where I realized that what hatred had to offer was not a satisfying quench of justice rather it was the dryness of sawdust on toast in the desert I was already in; a rude reminder that I didn’t want to die with hatred in my heart. Neither did I want to live with it.
It’s Time To Calmly Abide
The Big Lebowski abides, so can I. Abide, an uncommonly used word in our day to day discourse. Maybe it’s because it means ‘enduring’ as well as ‘following the rules’. Borrring.
What other choice did I have? “Up on a tightrope, one side hate, the other hope.” (Leon Russell)
In that space it became possible to ask ‘what damage will acting out of anger do?’ ‘who will be hurt?’ ‘will it get me what I want?’ ‘what do I want?’ and eventually… ‘what is my intention?’ From a now safer distance I watched the hatred starve, the anger drift away, then went about my going on with intention.
It was at this moment I glimpsed the shadow of gratefulness. Thank goodness it was just the shadow because I was in no mood for anything more and it was just the hint I needed to be grateful for my mindfulness practice.
There’s a big chunk of my younger years where anger and hate were perpetual guests in my Family of Origin. It was an awakening when, although unacquainted with the word at the time, I realized I had been abiding, but it surely wasn’t calm. It took a lot of experiences to learn how to keep calm. But the experiences are the practice; the practice one needs to become skillful.
And Then There’s Effort
Effort takes Energy = Experience. Effort, sounds funny saying it five times fast. Effort sounds Olympian. Who wants to put a lot of effort into anything? Give me a zero gravity chair under the shade of the Old Oak tree, a choice beverage, a simple book to prop on my chest and I’m just fine. Which makes it that much more surprising that my practice has been as persistent as it is. I can only conclude that it must feel better than not practicing otherwise I wouldn’t do it. Nothing burdensome, nothing harsh.
There’s also the teaching from The Essence of the Ten Transformational Practices:
Effort means courage in joyous perseverance
I can hear my Father during a discussion of the Doctrine of the Virgin Birth: “Can you believe that?” I know, someone must be kidding but, what if? And hey, joyous vs miserable? What kind of choice is that?
Death And Taxes: The Two That Rule
and we’re not so sure about the first, so the joke goes.
The Fifteenth Century St. Theresa of Avila writes about her 12 years in a spiritual desert.
Throughout the experience she remained faithful to her practice, receiving no consolation, aka positive feedback, yet going on. When asked what she learned during those 12 years, St. Theresa responded “that I was foolish to expect anything else, but I never gave up hope.”
In the spirit of abiding I must also “follow the rules”. The main Rule is that I’m going to die. I don’t know when, where, how, or what path I will be on when the adventure announces itself. The desert remains a bit un-settling for this water-girl but it is an experience, another practice session.
So I guess I’ll just go on practicing living as though this was the last year of my life. And today may be my last.
“Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you, and do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you’re used to is better than the one to come? ” ~ Rumi