The gift of presence

As a hospice volunteer, it is common to hear from others, “what difficult work, how do you manage?” Or “how sad it must be”. Patient’s families, say “thank you, it takes a special person to do this kind of work”. What’s amazing is that it’s really not so extraordinary and, rather than saddening, there’s something uplifting about it. There’s beauty in sharing gratitude, generosity, love and compassion with others at any stage of life. Really, it just takes being present for another person, being present for sadness, for whatever is being experienced.


Chop, carry

Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. – Zen saying

Several days ago, a tornado stormed through my little town and in about 10 minutes or so dumped torrential rains and brought down countless trees. Among them was a yellowwood which was unwisely planted just below our telephone and electric line 10 years ago. A few weeks ago we had woken up to a large branch from said tree leaning against the house, so it wasn’t surprising that the rest of it had had it when the storm came.


Nomad by nature, perhaps

I wonder if the right partner, or the right community, or the right something came into my life would that make me want to stay put or am I just by my very nature meant to roam. The longest I have stayed anywhere since leaving my parent’s home in 1990 (boarding school!) was the four years I spent in university. It actually astounds me that I was so totally content at Carleton. But in some ways it’s reassuring, that perhaps I’m not just always looking for something outside myself to provide happiness. Since those Northfield, MN days, I’ve maxed out at about two and a half years in New Haven, CT; the first location post-college.

The past few weeks were spent packing up what I decided it was worth storing for an indefinite period, selling and giving away the things that weren’t, and arranging things such as providing my parents easy access to my assets in the event of an emergency. I still have quite a few things to get in order but things are pretty well organized for this totally life-changing move.


So what is happiness?

lightI just finished reading a book called The Light Inside the Dark: Zen, soul, and the spiritual life. It’s a bit of a departure since its author, John Tarrant, draws heavily from western traditions and incorporates their symbolism and psychology with Eastern traditions of self inquiry. I have always kept the West a bit at bay, but given the fact that the unconscious is deeply ingrained by these belief systems, mores, and mythologies, it is silly for me to discard all together.


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