Enduring or embracing the hard times.

I often hear people say “Hang in there – this too with pass”.  But that doesn’t seem to be the point and so does not seem very good advice!  Life is not about enduring the “bad” until it passes in the hope that the next thing which happens will be “good”.    What are these definitions anyway?   Situations defined as “good” by one is often seen as “bad” for another.   Life is about embracing everything that happens without preference, accepting and going along with the light and the shadow.  It’s about being with the experience with eyes wide open, rather squeezing one’s eyes tightly until the situation passes.   It is only through experiencing all that which happens us that we are able to become truly alive. 

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Like the water in the stream which flows through this picture; it keeps flowing regardless of the light and shadow.   In some places it looks brown while in others white.  It changes every minute, sometimes “fast” and sometimes “slow”, but its essence remains constant; H2O.

If aim to hang on and wait for “bad” experiences to pass before we know it our lives will be over, we would have reached the sea having learned nothing from the journey.   Emotional pain and loss heighten our  senses which in turn leads to a greater appreciation for all that is in the world.

But does this mean that life is about being passive and simply accepting everything that happens?  No!  We work and try our best and then have faith and trust that whatever happens is the result of karma and know that by being awake is the only hope we have of changing negative responses and patterns of behaviour.  

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Interdependence

The endless knot, one of the eight auspicious Buddhist symbols, has no beginning and no end and is said to symbolise many, many things.  Today I am thinking of it in the context interconnectedness (interdependence) of all things.   We are all connected; we are all one.

I had a tarot reading done the other day; not really my thing but I was in desperate need for direction and unable to simply let life flow and trust the process.  The reading took place over the internet and the tarot reader knew only my name and my question.

I’ve always wanted to nurse and early in my career realised the importance of good teaching in nursing and how this influence potentially touches the lives of countless patients.  I trained as a nurse educator decades ago and for years managed to combine clinical practice with a teaching component.  After my daughter was born, the long shifts of clinical practice were no longer possible and I started teaching and eventually found my way to ad-hoc and short contract work at a University; somehow a permanent post eluded me.  It’s not that I’m a bad teacher; I always receive compliments and rave reviews!  Recently a colleague I’ve worked with for over 8 years, resigned.  I was her obvious successor, yet was told not to apply as a “person of colour” was needed.   Aside from feeling disappointed I had no problem with this decision.   Unfortunately the new incumbent has neither the professional qualifications nor the experience to lead the programme; and this year things have deteriorated so rapidly I planned to leave as soon as I found something else to do.

I asked the tarot man what direction I should take as I was torn between my dream of teaching, applying for a management position in a bureaucratic institution or taking a chance and working for myself as a consultant in the community.   He laid out the cards (on you-tube) and immediately said the joy had gone out of teaching and that I was only doing it for the money!  That made me sit up!  How can he have so accurately picked up my energy from so far away?

The endless knot of energy!  I’ve seen this in Reiki; people have told me of the benefit they receive from distance Reiki, sent across the oceans.  Yet sending healing energy felt different to transmitting such strong energy of discontent, that it could be read in the UK! Interdependence.  

Everything we do, both positive and negative impacts on everyone and everything in the world.  A single act of kindness can carry happiness around the world.  We each have the power to change the world; to keep our thoughts, words and deeds positive.

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Right work?

After years of consulting and contract work my daughter is now old enough for me to get a more permanent, salaried position.  A few weeks ago a friend emailed a job advert and I wasn’t particularly interested as it seemed like a regular management post; but then I heard it was a new post created explicitly to improve ICU standards of care and would involve a combination of research and clinical teaching. 

Earlier this year I decided to give up nursing and become more involved with work in the community and supporting NGO’s.  Work I’ve increasingly been drawn to, and which I’ve found enriching and extremely satisfying.  My decision was also made because the option to teach nursing is no longer possible because of my race.  A wise friend pointed out improving standards of care in a state hospital is probably the greatest gift I can give to the community; so I applied.  

According to Mahayana Buddhism everything an aspirant bodhisattva does should be guided by the single motivation to bring benefit of all beings.  The middle way speaks of right work as work which is moral, ethical and which does not result in harm to other beings.  My Yidam practice is Medicine Buddha which brings the benefits associated with the 12 aspirations of the Medicine Buddha, including an increase in healing powers and a decrease in physical and mental illness and suffering both for oneself and others.

During my recent Medicine Buddha retreat with Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, in Sikkim I felt concern that my decision to move away from nursing would limit my ability to work with the suffering of others, although community work clearly relieves some suffering.

I have been doing shift work in ICU over the past few months; long exhausting 12 hour shifts which I’ve not done for well over a decade.  It’s been an interesting to see how much I’ve changed and grown over this time.  I’ve always been clinically competent but now notice that I’m able to connect more deeply and empathetically with patients and their families, which brings them great benefit.   In the past I’ve resisted this connection as I struggled to “let go” of their stories which would burden me for days, years.  I think a lot of nurses feel this and protect themselves by creating distance.  My recent experiences suggest that this is contrary to healing, that by opening more fully to the experience, acknowledging how deeply their stories touch me and giving everything I have at that moment, I can relieve their suffering and incredibly walk away at the end of my shift without regret or doubts.

I need to remain involved with nursing and pray I did not fluff the interview yesterday.  Time will tell.

Tayata om bekansay, bekansay maha bekansay ratsa, samut gattay swaha.

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Insomnia and fear

Waking in the early hours, wet with sweat and a sense of panic.  Why?  My days are peaceful, calm and I feel centred.  Yet I’ve started to dread the nights, which makes matters worse.

I’ve had every test known to medicine and been given the all clear.  I don’t respond well to sleeping pills and have not wish to spend the rest of my life on medication.  An astrologist says my physical health is good and an intuitive healer says I know the solution.  Am I going mad?  Psychotic?

According to Louise Hay the probable cause for insomnia is Fear, not trusting the process of life or guilt.  Deb Shapiro explains this more deeply when she says that in sleep one needs to peacefully surrender, which is the exact opposite of what one does when subjected to anxiety about work and financial issues, self doubt and parenteral concerns.   I’ve minimal guilt but do identify with many of the other issues which I am tackling during psychotherapy.

Mooji says that fear is a product of ego.  Without ego there can be no fear, for what is there to fear if there is nothing to defend?

How do I put this all together so I can sleep without medication?   How do I let go or rather make ego let go?  “Make ego let go” as I write that it feels contrary to the Buddhist teaching!   The challenge perhaps is to simply to look at fear, to be with it without pushing it away?

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Beginning where I am

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This is the mighty Kāngchenjunga peak of the Himalayas which I photographed at dawn from Gangtok in Sikkim, India.   I’m don’t have the words to describe how imposing this mountain is; when you can see it that is!   Most of the time it is covered by cloud and anyone looking across the valley would see only the nearby hills, which are beautiful in themselves, and not suspect the majesty which lies beyond.

It’s a bit like travel in India where people often see only the filth and poverty and somehow miss the purity and richness which lies behind that façade.  Back home; I bumped into another dog walker who asked where I had been.  She was horrified when I said India.  “Why on earth would you waste money to go to that awful place!?”

To me Kāngchenjunga is a wonderful teaching on impermanence, a reminder that I and the people, creatures and things in my life change all the time.  A reminder not to take anything or anyone for granted.  Even those aspects which seem solid and unchanging are in reality changing minute by minute and can disappear at a moments notice.  If we are patient the clouds and mist may drift off to reveal the mighty mountain again with it’s seemingly solid peaks, more breathtaking than before.   More usually we have moved on or are looking elsewhere when this happens.

My oldest friend, whom I have known for almost 30 years misunderstood a hurried text message sent on my return and refuses to accept my apology or explanation that the intention was not as she interpreted the message.  Impermanence …

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