Sunday, October 28, 2012

The notion of non-attachment

Awhile back, my dear friend Chris posted a quote on facebook about attachment being the root cause of all suffering in this world. An interesting discussion ensued. Chris has an interesting group of friends, including many spiritual seekers and many passionate people, and many who are both! I myself commented on it. I can't remember exactly what I said, but I was basically defending my attachments. I think my message was something to the effect that the deep passions of our attachments are what make life so rich and worth living. Sometimes those deep passions include deep grief, it's true, but the texture of grief adds greatly to the richness of our lives. I'm still working on a precise explanation for that, but it's true. This is why we listen to music which moves us to tears. There is something deep in us which is touched by sorrow.

In fact, I believe this lies at the core of our other great passion ... love. Love always ends in loss, one way or the other, through eventual separation, or through death if it lasts a lifetime. When we fall deeply in love, that is one of the dimensions we touch, the knowledge that love and suffering are intimately related. And isn't that just what this quote was saying?

But would I give up that deep love in order to avoid that suffering?

No. Never. And I have met that suffering face to face.

Eastern philosophy and religion have always intrigued me. At the first anniversary of Michaela's kidnapping, a reporter from a local newspaper interviewed me and as a result of the conversation we had, the newspaper ended up running a photo of me with a caption saying I'd converted to Hinduism, so obviously there is something to my intuitive grasp on life that is found in Hinduism. Buddhism also I have peeked at. But there is always a point at which I find myself unable to embrace these religions, because there seems to be at the end a goal of annihilation of the self, a belief that you come back to this world and experience may lifetimes until you learn to let go of the ego and become one with, ummm, the universe? And I just can't seem to embrace that goal. I want to be the highest and best me that I can be. But I can't let go of the wanting to be me.

There is a lot lacking in my basic education here. That's because I always start out enthusiastically reading a book or listening to a teaching, and then that non-attachment stuff comes up and I say, nope, can't do that, and I stop. If this is the mark of a spiritually evolved soul, then I am not spiritually evolved.

I did, however, get a momentary sparkle of understanding of this non-attachment one day not too long after this facebook conversation. Honestly, it has kind of become a part of my life without me even realizing it. The experience of unimaginable loss and deep, deep, deep grief has driven this into my soul whether I like it or not. Whatever I may say or think, love is fearful. So even while diving in and swimming around in its depths, I am holding it at arms length. Always, at some point, I have to stop and remind myself that my life has a purpose beyond what I love. Always, I say that if I were to lose what I love, I would go on, that this would simply mean that my life was supposed to wander down a different path. I have taught this also to my children, or at least I have told them about it. They understand it or don't, grasp it in greater or lesser degrees. All of them have suffered grief and broken hearts at this point, and all of them have the experience to know that they survive this and that life does go on. The thing I'm not positive they fully grasp, but which I consider to be the most essential point of it all, is that this grief is part of our life lesson, and if we suffer loss it is because we need to let go of that thing in order to move forward on the path we have been given.

Sometimes when I think about this, what it feels like is the experience holding love loosely in my hand. And one day I realized this, and wondered if that is what is meant by non-attachment.

But then I don't, really, succeed at this non-attachment. Because however loosely I may hold love in my hand, it is deeply anchored in my heart, and that is where I feel it. I can let the object of love go if I am called on to do that. But I cannot let go of the love. All the love I have ever experienced, along with the loss, the grief, it remains. And I know that I am not non-attached.

There is still a great deal I have to figure out here, so if anybody has any light to shed on this, let me know. It is a work in progress, and an important one I think.

Thanks.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Observing Spikey....

Spikey is my little Miniature Pinscher. He just turned nine years old this month and we have had him since he was 12 weeks, but just this past month I have observed some interesting facts about him.

First, he has never done well with toys. You give him a toy or a bone that will take awhile to devour, and instead of playing with it, he would guard it. It never seemed like he was enjoying himself. In fact, it seemed more stressful than anything else, for him to sit there, watching it, guarding it, giving anybody who came near the evil eye and a little growl. So I didn't give him a lot of toys, and when I did I usually took them away after awhile so he could just relax. But recently I gave him a little squeaky toy and just let him keep it. Occasionally I'd get hold of it when he wasn't looking, and I'd squeak it for him, and toss it to him. Funny enough, after awhile he actually relaxed and began to enjoy the toy. Once he figured out we weren't going to take it away from him, he stopped guarding it and growling at people who came near it.

He is also a yappy little dog. He had a hard time with the concept that we had to share the neighborhood with other people. He was too small to look out the window, but I put a plush cube in front of it so he could hop up and see. People kept moving it away from the window, though, because he'd get up there and bark at everything that happened in the neighborhood. So he'd go back to his bed on the couch, but even though he couldn't see he was listening, and he'd just let out these little yaps all day long over every little car door and voice he heard out on the street.

Recently I rearranged my living room so there is now a couch in front of the window. Everybody thought this would be a real problem with Spikey, but it has actually proven to be the opposite. He liked to get up and lay on the back of the couch. He loves sunshine. So he just sits there and watches the world from his relaxed position, and lo and behold he has stopped barking every time someone parks on the street and gets out of their cars. Just now he watched a man walk down the street with two dogs on a leash, and not a peep out of him.

There is a lesson in this, you know, for dog owners, for parents, for everybody who deals with other people.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The moment our lives went off track....


I've been thinking a lot lately about life direction. My youngest child recently graduated from high school and has experienced entirely too much anxiety over what she is going to do with the rest of her life. And my own life ... well, it's kind of entering a new phase, and while I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do with the rest of my life, I've also had to look at where I am, and how I got here.

I can actually point to a moment in time when I feel my life went off track. I'm not going to describe it, because it would just seem too silly a thing on which to hang a whole serious disruption in a lifetime trajectory. But I know this is true, and I guess it just pinpoints the fact that it can be the smallest, most insignificant pebble thrown into the stream that can change its direction forever. I made one choice in one moment which put me in a different place at a different time, which put me on a different road, which changed the journey considerably.

I have heaped a share of blame on my parents for throwing me off track as well. They started pulling that "you have to" and "you can't" stuff on me. So I responded by showing them what I could and couldn't do. I got a full-time job, moved out, and did what they told me I couldn't do. Mind you, I didn't do it for very long, because they were right. And I wouldn't have done it for very long if they'd left me alone. I might have even listened if they had talked to me instead of ordering me, because they were right, and a little bit of compassionate understanding would have gone a long way towards helping me extricate myself from the situation I was in. One of the unintended consequences of my parents' power play was that I ended up dropping out of college, which neither I nor they wanted, and of course that put me on all sorts of other paths.

I think it's partly, but not completely, because of this that I allow kids to make their own decisions. I was going to say that I let them figure out what is best for them, but that wouldn't be quite true because believe me, I tell them what I think, sometimes to the point of being annoying. But they are not me, and they have to follow their own individual paths and pursue their own individual journeys, and I have to respect that. I have come to know that things just are not always what they seem. So it may seem counter intuitive to leave a higher paying job for a lower paying job. If you are happier in the lower paying job, there is something to that. But there are repercussions to each decision that cannot be seen ahead of time. What if at that lower paying job you will meet a person who will change your life forever for the better? The point of a job choice might not be in the job at all. The road has all sorts of mysterious turns and twists that we can't see. Our very best choices are going to be intuitive, even if they don't make any rational sense at all.

The essential question, however, is whether my life really went "off track" at that moment. I can have no idea where my life would have gone if I'd made a different choice. Maybe some things would have been better, and maybe the road would have been easier than the one I chose, but who is to say that I was meant to take that easier road? I have learned a lot of things along the way, have become who I am, and while who I am certainly has a lot of room for improvement, there are a lot of good things I have picked up, and most of them have come through struggles of one sort or another. I'm not sure you can even really recognize light if you haven't seen the darkness, and I know for certain you can never know its value.

There is one thing I can be pretty certain about though, and that is that if my life hadn't "gone off track," I wouldn't have had my kids. Oh, I probably would have had kids, but not the ones I have now. And I'm sure I would have loved whatever kids I had in that other life, just as much as I love the ones I have now. But the kids I have are very special. One of them has touched people the world over, has shone a light into their lives. Some of my other kids are pretty spectacular too, and while I can't tell you precisely what they will do or how they will touch the world, I have absolutely no doubt that this is going to happen. So that small choice I made changed not only my life, but changed the lives of every person who is touched by any of my wonderful children.

You can go on and on in your mind about what might have happened if your life had been different, if you had made different choices here or there. But you can never know. All you can know is who you are right now, today, and how you got there. For me, from the time I was in first grade I planned to be a writer. So hey, I am a success! I am a writer! Here is the proof right in front of you. I can write blogs all day long, and there are actually a number of people who read them. I write for a living, too. I am a paralegal, and I write motions and briefs and memos. But one of the best parts of my jobs is writing declarations. I work in immigration law, and I interview clients and essentially put their life stories down on paper. I have done asylum declarations for people from all over the world, including Rwanda, Uganda, Nigeria, Palestine, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua. I have written declarations from people about how they have suffered in their lives, and the hardships they would face if a loved one was removed from the country, or simply explaining why they did what they did. I take these stories and use every bit of wordcraft I possess to make them accurate, compelling, and on point with what the law requires. This is what I do for a living, so I am not only a writer, I actually get paid for it.

My most heartfelt writing, however, comes from my own experience of the life I lived. If I fulfill the destiny I foresaw from the age of 6 or 7, it will probably be because of the events that occurred as a result of the choices I made, even those that seemed wrong. So in the end, it seems my life didn't go "off track" at all. And probably neither did yours, if that is what you are thinking. Even if your life doesn't look exactly like you thought it would, if you look closely at it, you will probably see the essentials of your dream woven somewhere into your life. Just pick up those threads and follow them.

Like my daughter said in her commencement address, the secret to success is just to keep moving. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will end up where you are supposed to be. It may not happen in four years, or ten, or maybe not even twenty. But hey, this is not a race. It's your life. And it's not over yet.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Free Vegan Cooking Classes


Kris Carr has been one of my all-time favorites since I saw her "Crazy Sexy Life" on Oprah Winfrey's Super Soul Sunday show. Kris was diagnosed with a slow growing but untreatable form of cancer in 2003. This diagnosis was the starting point of a journey in which she had to learn how to live  all over again, with the knowledge of the cancer, and with learning how to defeat it and to live the longest and healthiest life that she could. This journey is beautifully chronicled in the DVD Crazy Sexy Cancer.

She has written several books since then, but what I'm writing about right now is the free vegan cooking classes she is offering online. Well, they aren't completely free. They are a gift with purchase when you pre-order her newest book, which will be out at the end of this month.

So if you are interested in this offer, you can click on this link to go to amazon.com to pre-order Crazy Sexy Kitchen: 150 Plant-Empowered Recipes to Ignite a Mouthwatering Revolution.

Copy your order number and go to http://kriscarr.com/cooking-classes/.  At the bottom of the page, fill in your information and the order number and you will get an e-mail with your invitation to the free online cooking classes.

I am doing this myself. Over the weekend I went to Whole Foods. This is not my neighborhood market, unfortunately. I have to drive to Berkeley, which is like a 30-mile round trip drive. So I can't go there every day. I picked up some of their quinoa salads, which I've bought before and which are delicious, and based on the recommendation of a friend I picked up some of their curried vegan chicken salad at the deli. Now this didn't look like something I would love. The vegan "chicken" was in huge chunks, which didn't look appealing. But it was absolutely delicious. Seriously, I kept waking up in the middle of the night wondering if it was time to get up yet and if it would be appropriate to have the leftovers for breakfast. I seriously considered driving all the way back to the store today to get some more.

I really want to know what they use for their "chicken," because I guarantee you that no meat eater would ever guess that it wasn't real meat. The texture and taste were prefect. But meanwhile, this has also convinced me that I really need to learn the art of vegan cooking so that I can make such delicious things at home. My repertoire is just way too small.

I do also recommend Kris's DVD. Her journey is inspiring. And her website is at kriscarr.com. She has a lot to offer, so take her up on it.