Today’s “Daily Dalai” is: “Sleep is the best meditation.”
Wow. To a Western ear, this doesn’t sound right. But when I take a moment to meditate on this which sounds so wrong to my ear, I begin to find layers of nuance.
Why does it sound wrong to me? I have it that sleep is “downtime” and as such unproductive, and being unconscious it is devoid of the opportunity for conscious spiritual growth. Dreaming can often be disturbing, but generally yields little that communicates progress emotionally, intellectually or spiritually. Most often I forget my dreams immediately upon awakening.
Hmmm. Keep looking then. There is more to this if I am ever going to understand how it can be that sleep is the best meditation.
As a Western thinker, I view meditation as an endeavor. It seems to me sleep is the opposite of endeavor. Is there a bias in my view? Am I missing the point of meditation? Perhaps. I do experience meditation as a respite from the chaos of our world with its unrelenting visual and auditory bombardment of our senses. What a welcome and needed, almost therapeutic relief meditation can be.
In that sense I can see how sleep also provides relief for the weary senses. But taking consciousness out of meditation and calling the resulting unconsciousness the best form of meditation really baffles me. I felt it was a deliberate act, a disciplined practice … not the ultimate laxity.
Well there you have it. I continue to struggle with this. I welcome discussion.
Today’s Zen lesson is:
“It is better to give and receive.”</em. (Bernard Gunther)
Today, allow yourself to receive your giving
Ah, to receive the joy of giving. I like it. Not suggesting we get full of ourselves and proud of our giving. “Look what a good person I am, see how much I gave.” Like trying to buy your way into heaven! I think there’s a song about that. Well, it’s futile of course. We’re all familiar with what Jesus said about the rich man getting into heaven.
Giving “in order to” buy look good or stack up karmic credits! This is ego and it’s not going to buy you a ticket to paradise. It’s altogether worldly and really counter to spiritual growth. So, how to give properly, as a conscious part of spiritual practice?
well, first of all to renounce being ego-centric doesn’t mean to give up being rewarded for giving. It is loving to enjoy the good we do. If love is what motivates your giving, then love will come from it. If trying to display your goodness is what motivates you to give, then it’s ego and no good can come from it. The joy you feel ought to be for the benefit you have given to others. This joy is not ego, and your own spirituality is enhanced by it. In this kind of giving both the giver and the receiver are blessed.
This is today’s lesson from the Zen Living Year of Transformation program, which by the way is available for free download at Cheri Huber’s website. Or on the App Store as “Transform Your Life.” Every day you are offered a quote and an accompanying assignment, including a suggestion that you journal at day’s end about your experience doing the day’s assignment. Today’s quote and assignment for me is as follows:
“The habit of giving only enhances the desire to give.”
Today, look to see if you would like to enhance the desire to give and what you would like to give to accomplish that.
This is my every day, my ongoing inquiry. It is what I think about, what burns in my belly: how to be of service.
This coming Saturday is the Spring Psychic Fair at the Unity Church on 29th & Bernard St. On the South Hill. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I bring my Reiki table and spend the day giving Reiki treatments to all who come.
I’m hoping I’ll be able to do it this time. My recent knee surgery and my aching back are conspiring to saddle me with a good deal of discomfort right now. But it’s what I live for. It’s what I love. So I’ll probably talk Richard into driving me and hauling my table in and out, and I may bring a stool to lean on to save my screaming joints. But I can’t sit with the thought of not going.
It’s because I have, as I have always had “the heart of altruistic service.” The need, not just the desire to be of service to others.
The Dalai Lama preaches constantly on the need for people to learn compassion. Perhaps it is because I have suffered so much in life, and still continue to suffer a good deal of physical pain, that I am in my comfort zone with compassion. But I see that there is further to go, and we all need to go there together. I hope His Holiness is right that learning compassion will awaken in people the heart of altruistic service.
I do pray for this.
Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them. (Dalai Lama)
Richard doesn’t get this. I have understood this since a very early age, back when I was able to get around in a wheelchair at St. Charles Hospital. I was five with paralytic polio and after months in bed, I at last graduated to a chair. I remember how exhilarating it was to be mobile. In the evenings when the lights went out, I’d get in my chair and make my rounds. I was the only girl able to get out of bed. I adjusted pillows, combed hair for the girl in the iron lung. I carried water in little paper cups. I even washed an older girl’s hair.
I knew then. I know now. Richard doesn’t have the heart of altruistic service. In this regard he is rather like most people who have yet to learn compassion as the central duty to all other sentient beings. I am always inviting him. Perhaps someday he will come.
In our uptight, under-pressure and in-tense society it is often suggested that one under-utilized antidote for our woeful unhappiness with life is laughter. To wit, we need to laugh more, do it longer and with more gusto.
This argument sells books and drives advertising. In fact, the popularity of laughter as a panacea is showing up these days in an array of new and even unlikely places. We have laughter yoga for those who prefer a formalized approach to increasing their merriment quotient. And the existence of “laughter therapy” attests to the inadequate application of this most basic human function. The health benefits of laughter are touted long and loudly in the mainstream media. A veritable panacea! Is there nothing laughter isn’t the “best medicine” for?
Well as a matter of fact, I can think of a number of things. And while there seems to be general accord that laughing is what we all need to do more of, more often, and more heartily, I nonetheless dare to proffer a different view.
For me personally, while I have no argument with laughter, and heartily support expanding its prevalence, I think it’s crying that’s under-rated, unappreciated, and even vilified in our society, and as a result most definitely under-used.
When have you been encouraged to cry? “Go on, have a big, fat, long, loud, gut-wrenching, soul-cleansing cry. Lucky you! Now isn’t that better?”
Afraid not. At best, crying is tolerated. We allow it may at times be necessary and even therapeutic. But desirable?
At worst, it’s seen as a display of weakness, ineptitude and lack of grace.
Mostly, it simply isn’t done in polite society.
Have you known someone who cries too much? Someone whose tears no longer elicit sympathy? Who interrupts the forward momentum of affairs with a response that seems not only unproductive but counter-productive, and whose absence is greeted by relief?
Indeed if laughing provides a refreshing break from the hard realities of life, crying looks like wallowing in our own muddy tracks on the unpaved and unwashed side is the street of life.
The human capacity to view reality in an agreed-upon way regardless and even in spite of all evidence to the contrary must have an important role in the survival of the species. This ability to ignore the evidence of our own experience because the group views it otherwise is quite uncanny. We do it all the time and resolutely refuse to see it.
We need an expert. Who shall we ask? More importantly what? But back to the main topic, what are the benefits of crying? We find they are almost one for one those same benefits we realize from a good belly laugh, just more so. Yes, that’s right, more so. More endorphins, more serotonin, faster recovery. It’s laughter taken up a level.
They say the definition of a fault is too much of an otherwise good thing. Someone who has the so-called “gift of gab” runs the risk of being criticized for talking too much; the assertive risk-taker may be accused of grand-standing or pushing their weight around. Just think of any strength and turn it over. It’s like flipping a coin.
When I am moved, I generally cry. I cry tears of joy, tears of sorrow, tears of compassion and happy tears. It turns out there are lots of times when I cry, but it wasn’t always this way.
From the age of seven until sometime in my late 40’s I wasn’t able to cry. During those years, the occasions when I did cry were few and far far between. This was a mechanism of survival of course. I was quite sure crying would be the end of me, bringing if not my physical demise then certainly my psychic one.
My father taught me the essential truths about crying at an early age. He underlined his most important points with black and blue marks. And for 10 years while I was growing up I refused to cry and he was determined to make me. Here’s Pop’s list:
1. If you cry, you are a “crybaby” which is to say powerless, stupid and in general despicable to the rest of us. Don’t embarrass us by doing it.
2. If you don’t stop crying I’ll give you something to cry about.
3. Don’t cry over spilt milk. Clean it up and get on with it.
4. You look ugly when you cry.
5. You’re ruining your clothes and you’ll get no new ones if you squander these.
6. Only weak people cry.
7. Don’t let the bastards see you cry.
8. When you cry you almost look human.
And, for my brothers:
9. Boys don’t cry. Crying is for sissies.
It’s easy to see how much crying, a healthy human response to upset, is valued or more accurately de-valued in our society. My father’s list is not so different from what most of us are taught about crying.
But so what? We just need to laugh more, right? Not really. Here’s what not being willing or able to cry costs us:
New York Times reporter Benedict Carey referred to tears in a recent piece as “emotional perspiration.” “I’m not going to apologize … because after a good cry, I always feel cleansed, like my heart and mind just rubbed each other’s backs in a warm bath.”
I found this list of how crying is healthy and positive on http://www.divinecaroline.com who attributed it to Therese Borchard on BeliefNet.
1. Tears Help Us See
The most basic function of tears is that they enable us to see. Literally. Tears not only lubricate our eyeballs and eyelids, they also prevent dehydration of our various mucous membranes. No lubrication, no eyesight. Writes Jerry Bergman: “Without tears, life would be drastically different for humans—in the short run enormously uncomfortable, and in the long run eyesight would be blocked out altogether.”
2. Tears Kill Bacteria
No need for Clorox wipes. We’ve got tears! Our own antibacterial and antiviral agent working for us, fighting off all the germs we pick up on community computers, shopping carts, public sinks, and all those places the nasty little guys make their homes and procreate.
Tears contain lysozyme, a fluid that the germ-a-phobe dreams about in her sleep, because it can kill 90 to 95 percent of all bacteria in just five to ten minutes! This translates, I’m guessing, to three months’ worth of colds and stomach viruses.
3. Tears Remove Toxins
Biochemist William Frey, who has been researching tears for as long as I’ve been searching for sanity, found in one study that emotional tears—those formed in distress or grief—contained more toxic byproducts than tears of irritation (think onion peeling). Are tears toxic then?
No! They actually remove toxins from our body that build up courtesy of stress. They are like a natural therapy or massage session, but they cost a lot less!
4. Crying Can Elevate Mood
Do you know what your manganese level is? Neither do I. But chances are that you will feel better if it’s lower because overexposure to manganese can cause bad stuff: anxiety, nervousness, irritability, fatigue, aggression, emotional disturbance, and the rest of the feelings that live inside my head rent-free.
The act of crying can actually lower a person’s manganese level. And just like with the toxins I mentioned in my last point, emotional tears contain 24 percent higher albumin protein concentration—responsible for transporting small (toxic) molecules—than irritation tears.
5. Crying Lowers Stress
Tears really are like perspiration, in that exercising and crying both relieve stress. In his article, Bergman explains that tears remove some of the chemicals built up in the body from stress, like the endorphins leucine-enkaphalin and prolactin. The opposite is true too. Bergman writes, “Suppressing tears increases stress levels, and contributes to diseases aggravated by stress, such as high blood pressure, heart problems, and peptic ulcers.
6. Tears Build Community
In her Science Digest article, writer Ashley Montagu argued that crying not only contributes to good health, but it also builds community. I know what you’re thinking: “Well, yeah, but not the right kind of community. I mean, I might ask the woman bawling her eyes out behind me in church what’s wrong or if I can help her, but I’m certainly not going to invite her to dinner.”
I beg to differ. As a prolific crier, I always come away astounded by the resounding support of people I know, and the level of intimacy exchanged among them. Read for yourselves some of the comments on both my self-esteem file video my death and dying video and you’ll appreciate my point. Tears help communication and foster community.
7. Tears Release Feelings
Even if you haven’t just been through something traumatic or are severely depressed, the average Joe goes through his day accumulating little conflicts and resentments. Sometimes they gather inside the limbic system of the brain and in certain corners of the heart. Crying is cathartic. It lets the devils out before they wreak all kind of havoc with the nervous and cardiovascular systems. As John Bradshaw writes in his bestseller Home Coming, “All these feelings need to be felt. We need to stomp and storm; to sob and cry; to perspire and tremble.”
So there, I declare with just a hint of triumph in my voice. So there, Pop. I’m not only allowed to cry (without sacrificing my psychic well-being), in fact it is healthy and good for me … and you.
It’s no mistake that my email address is “stillwalkn.” When I was five years old doctors told my Mom I’d never walk again. Apart from several months on the polio ward at St. Charles Hospital in Brooklyn Heights, New York I have been walking continuously for 63 years and I’m still walking! Don’t get me wrong. It hasn’t been easy. But whenever it starts looking like I’m going to be in a chair again, I just get more determined than ever not to allow that to happen. I have an aversion to being in a wheelchair again. Go figure.
When I was 20, doctors at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York advised me to accept my limitations, which included not being able to carry a suitcase or walk more than one city block, and the pain, always the pain. I became angry. I didn’t want to accept all of that. I felt the irrepressible need to rebel, and to prove the doctors wrong.
So I talked my boyfriend into a two-week hiking trip. Then I told my doctor. She “washed her hands of me.” Then I told my Chiropractor and he “washed his hands of me,” too. But he said if I was determined to do this insanity I should at least wear a support belt around my hips. I still have it. It’s two inches wide, quite thick, and closes with a clasp consisting of two incredibly sharp metal prongs. I wore it on the hiking trip, and it helped.
The initial ascent up Mt Washington in Vermont’s White Mts. With a 40 lb. pack was hard. i don’t think i could have done it without that elastic belt. But it got easier and the pack got lighter, and when we bounced and bounded out of the woods two weeks later I was in better shape than I’d ever been. Now when a doctor tells me to sit I stand, to rest I walk, to accept I fight. Which is not to say I don’t sit, rest or accept. I do them all and I do them often. But I’ve never ever given up.
But every time I overcome an obstacle another obstacle comes along. It’s the story of my life. The invitations to sit down and give up have paved my way. As I decline the invite again and again, my resiliency gets stronger. I heal faster and better than anyone I’ve ever met.
Doctors routinely misjudge how long it’s been since my last surgery. Recently, a PA at my Surgeon’s office insisted I was there for my 12-week check-up. It had been exactly eight weeks, not 12, but he wanted to argue with me. I finally convinced him to look at my file. “Oh,” he said, “you ARE doing well.” That’s how I roll. Life is short: heal quickly.
I thought there was nothing left to learn about my beleaguered low back. I had my first slipped disc at 13 and a fusion when the scoliosis was so severe three discs ruptured, one, two, three in a row like perverse dominoes. The Monroe Doctrine right here in my back. The fusion made a big improvement over feeling nothing below my waist, but pain right there has been continuous, varying only in degree from mild to incapacitating, more or less on a daily basis since the surgery in 1986.
My Surgeon at the time, Dr. John Bishop at St. Al’s in Boise told me at the time I had “unformed bones” from a birth defect, and he showed me the X-rays, but I didn’t know how those bones were supposed to look so telling me “See? They’re not solid” didn’t mean much and I filed it away in the vague and uncertain section in my memory. I thought no more about it.
None of my subsequent doctors, all of whom have scrutinized my various back pictures, has ever mentioned my birth defect, so I forgot all about it. Until last week when I met Dr. Patrick Soto. My polio doc sent me to him to see about getting some pain-relieving injections back there. We had covered my medical history thoroughly but he kept asking when did I have the laminectomy. I said I’d never had one. But then where are my bones? Oh, wait a minute…missing bones? The birth defect Dr. Bishop told me about?
None other. But now it has a name: “Spina Bifida,” and while a minor case of it is not at all rare, it could certainly have something to do with my unrelenting and quite debilitating back pain. You think?
I’m wondering how you fix something that isn’t there. But such questions must wait their proper time. Meanwhile just don’t ask me to sit down. I don’t know how.