Becoming Buddhist

Attempting to Live a More Mindful Life


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Post from Paradise

ForogBuddha I’m in Hawaii.

I came here with my cousin, who has meetings on Oahu this week. Over Christmas, she called and suggested we splurge: meet a few days early for some R and R before she had to enter the world of business. And after some deliberation (money, childcare, logistics), I said yes.

We spent three days at a place called the Zen Treehouse, on the windward side of Oahu in a town called Waimanalo. Our Zen Treehouse was quiet and calm and spacious, with sliding doors to little lanais (decks), a sitting area, a giant bathroom with a rain shower. We were steps from the beach. I got up every morning to do yoga and meditate on the back lanai. One day we drove up to the North Shore to see surfers, stopped for plate lunch and shave ice, then came back and grilled some fish for dinner. Other days we poked around “our beach,” and explored several others, too. The sand was like cornmeal, unmarred by even many shells, so different from the East and West coast beaches I’m used to. We went on two great hikes, and on both, saw humpback whales far off in the distance. On the North Shore, the whales were slapping their flukes against the water and breaching. I have always wanted to see whales!

I also snorkeled a bit, finished a page-turner novel, thought a lot, watched a movie, drank too much rum punch one night, slept badly, slept well, missed L and M, etcetera.

Yesterday we left the Zen Treehouse and headed for one of the massive corporate resorts that dot the Hawaii landscape. We’re in a huge room six floors up, overlooking a pool and a human-made lagoon where, yesterday, we paddleboarded and swam. My cousin’s meetings started this morning; this afternoon, we’re being taken out on a boat to snorkel with dolphins (or something). Later, there will be cocktails, dinner, and schmoozing by the pool. It all feels a little unreal, to have gone from the Zen Treehouse and plate lunch to this fancy sixth-floor room with Top-40 hits blasting from poolside.

IMG_0895When I go on vacation, my prevailing difficulty is the realization that it’s hard for me to relax. I wish it weren’t so. We’re contemplating doing an IVF cycle next month, and I thought how great it would be for me to take this trip before we walked down that road, so I could come back rested and calm. There have been many calming moments, to be sure–those whales inspired something in me, and my daily yoga and meditation has been a luxury I don’t always afford at home. It’s good to have a break from L. But on the other hand, I’ve felt a bit untethered without my boys to anchor me, without M’s steadiness and consistency.

I’m writing and working this morning; since Lou is in meetings, I figured I should use the time too. Later we’ll be wined and dined, and tomorrow, I’ll leave. I expect to feel that mix of feelings when you come home from vacation: sad the adventure is over, but happy to be home, too.

Many alohas, friends!

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Keep Walking Forward, or: The Year of the Horse

I have been feeling totally pregnant with this blog post and felt almost irrationally worried that, with a to-do list a mile long, I wouldn’t get to it today. But a quick time-check has revealed that I can blog this morning. Yes!

My mother in law sent me a note about Chinese New Year that really resonated with me. Among the bits of (somewhat scary) wisdom:

“Decisions you make in any new cycle are important, for they can have a profound impact on the rest of the cycle. The decisions or choices you make now, as the Horse Year begins and unfolds, can be even more significant than those you made in 2013 – impacting you in big ways throughout 2014 and beyond.”

and

“To make the best choice, you must be clear about what you want. That takes mastery. You are learning to differentiate between what your conditioned ego-self wants and what is in your highest good to want. You must be grounded and in your heart to make the optimal choices. It’s not enough to mentally say that you are in your heart – you must truly reside there and operate from there. That sounds easy, as though intent were enough. In fact, it involves great skill and lots of practice.”

and, most significant:

“Compared with previous years, the energies of 2014 will involve more movement. That means more ups and downs, more twists and turns, and more peaks and valleys. The energy of the Horse Year is all about movement, journeys into new territory, and an intense desire to be free of past limitations.”

(I don’t know exactly where to find the note, though this web address was at the end of her email. Thank you, Intuitive Healing Worldwide!)

Now, I feel about horoscopes like many people do: I always manage to find something true in them, some perfect tidbit that relates totally to my life. (Aside: my husband, like many other people, thinks they’re a bunch of hooey. This is probably why we get along.) And so I was delighted to read these words just three weeks into the new year, when life has been feeling like it’s been throwing me a lot of fast pitches. And these words about choices, intent, mindful decision-making, and movement really got me thinking.

The Path.

The Path.

So much of my adult life has been spent agonizing over the right path to take. M. is a Gemini, and I’m a Libra, and I joke sometimes that we spend all our time weighing both sides of the issue and/or feeling “of two minds.” We’re the type of couple who discusses buying a new car or taking a vacation and then spends so long thinking about it that we’re still driving the same 1998 Honda Accord three years later (and no plane tickets have been purchased). It was dawning on me at the start of the new year that we—well, I, anyway—had become paralyzed with indecision around my infertility and what to do next. I felt like adoption was too risky; IVF too unlikely. I spent day after day trying to convince myself that I didn’t really want a new baby anyway—and gearing up to convince M.—but my heart felt heavy and sad. So I just trundled on, getting older and less fertile by the minute. I’m not sure when things shifted, but all of a sudden one day M. said to me, “let’s stop agonizing and just DO it,” and I was actually able to hear that message loud and clear. Later that week, I pulled some of my friend Other Steph’s “Goddess cards” and the message was the same: stop weighing everything judiciously, drop down into your body, and take a big, risky leap.

The next day, I called a new fertility clinic, and made an appointment.

At the same time—fast pitch—we learned that an old fixer-upper house in our neighborhood was for sale. It’s across the street from Other Steph, and next door to my friend C., in the best location possible in my view, and we decided to check it out, even though we have just started on the road to house-buying (and found ourselves thoroughly depressed about the Bay Area housing market, where 1,000 square feet typically sells for $650,000+). I just called the guy, and asked whether we could come by and look at it. And he said yes.

Now here’s where the revelation comes in.

In the past, I would have waited a week before making the appointment at the fertility clinic, worrying over it all the time. In terms of the house, I would have immediately decided it was too much effort to pursue (it’s a real dump; it may in fact be too much effort to pursue). But with a kind of lightning-rod clarity, I realized how easy it would to simply

Take.

A.

Step.

Forward.

Instead.

So I had that appointment, and then I had another one. And then I just scheduled the third and the fourth. I trust myself that if at any point there’s a red flag, or a clear reason to stop, I can stop. And with the house: we went to look at it. Then we arranged a time to bring by an architect friend and a realtor friend. We called for the inspection reports. We may decide it is absolutely not worth pursuing. But without moving forward, we’ll never know.

I feel like my meditation practice and my general efforts at mindfulness are almost entirely to credit for this shift in my behavior. I’ve been doing this guided meditation through my fave app Insight Timer, and the—what do you call the person leading the meditation? Anyway—voice says, “Breathe in unlimited possibility. Breathe out what no longer serves you.” It came to me immediately that what no longer serves me is fear.

And so, last week, when I….

  • Taught my first class of the semester…
  • Had an appointment at the IVF clinic…
  • Recorded another song with my friend Dave, one I’d co-written (!)…
  • Pursued the fixer-upper…

I kept breathing in possibility and breathing out fear. I just kept moving forward.

Moving forward is scary. It’s so much easier to stay where you are, weighing things. I couldn’t sleep last night for dreaming of the possibilities of the house (and then another voice reminding me how much those possibilities would cost). As M. said, “When you move forward, things move awfully fast.” He’s right. It might be too fast. But I just want to keep walking.