Someone Died Unexpectedly Today

25 10 2016

Image result for impermanence

It’s true. It happens every day, numerous times every day. I hope it wasn’t anyone you knew though one day in your life, it probably will be. This is the tug of impermanence – the truth that all we have is this moment.

My dad used to say that the only guarantees in life were death and taxes, (and quoting Ben Franklin, apparently). I’m not going to comment on the taxes part but let’s just say – “message received”.

I have been very stressed lately about a house that will just not sell. It is in great shape and at a great price and it won’t sell. In addition, I am (laughably) being sued for it not selling by a certain former love as if it were my fault. The weight that these two situations places on me is heavy at times and waking up from this is not as easy as it may sound either.

So it is upon committing to a practice of meditation and simply being mindful of the moment and the feelings that present themselves while doing so without judgment that this heaviness starts to dissipate, for not only good things are impermanent.

It is in this practice that the clarity of time, or lack thereof, re-emerges. There is no enlightenment. There is no nirvana. There is simply presence of the moment and a call to take that with me one more moment today than I did yesterday.

I am grateful for this moment and the call to slowly lead the background to the foreground – the daughter singing, the son face timing his friend, the smell of the leaves when I open the door and the vibrating pulse reminding me that we are all energy and spirit if we take a pause to recognize it.

The unexpected condition we know as life is actually quite expected. It may only be that by walking toward it with clear presence that we can truly be free.

Until next time,

Marc

 





Acceptance AKA “What If…”

29 09 2016

whatif

There is a school of thought or belief that the individual journey we are on is exactly the one we are supposed to be on.

It is phrased in many different ways. Perhaps you have heard things such as “it was meant to be” or “it happened for a reason”. I don’t personally subscribe to either of these but do believe, as difficult as it may seem, wherever I find myself (physically and metaphorically) is really where I am supposed to be at that moment. It took me many, many, many difficult moments, however, to finally get here.

To me, I have spent more time than I care to admit thinking about life’s more challenging moments in terms of “why is this happening?” and “what is the lesson I am to take away from it?” However, it hit me today that I have never asked myself why certain things are not happening, as well.

I am incredibly grateful for the thousands of things that don’t happen to me and people I care about every day – illness, grief, pain, loss – particularly when these very things afflict so many innocent people all the time.

But what about all the good things that are not happening and seem to be so far out of reach and why stew on this today? Well, I am traveling for a few days and always feel doubly melancholy when I’m away from my kids and not within a 5 mile radius. Luckily, I’m on the same time zone, so it could be worse. With each time zone, it gets exponentially worse, in fact.

This made me realize that so many of the “dreams” that I have for myself – which all revolve around creative pursuits – would be pretty difficult to activate fully without a significant amount of travel, which would invariably take me away from my children a lot more and given the fact that homes schooling isn’t an option, probably for the best. So, what if, and I hesitate to even suggest this at the risk of sounding too “airy fairy”, but what if the universe was holding back knowing that it’s simply not the right time for this?

What if we had the knowledge that what we are going through and experiencing, both good and bad, is all purposeful because, believe it or not, this is the exact right time to experience it – as long as we did not miss the opportunity to take from it the lesson of its intent to move us forward on our journey? Similarly, what if we also knew that those things we long for so achingly may not present themselves just yet because it is simply not the right time? What if we had patience and faith and ignored all those self-help books that give us 10 steps to achieving all our goals in the next year?

I’m going to have to keep thinking about this one but I think there’s something there. Glorious, painful and mysterious all at once – just like life.

Until next time,

Marc





I’m back (and squishier than before)

24 09 2016
sleeping-woman

Teen car- sleeping was not as blissful as this but this rendition will have to do.

I haven’t written in a while.

I think about it every single day – and more than once.

There are a few reasons why this is so but none of them really matter. The best way I can describe the hiatus is similar to describing that closet or drawer that has been on your To Do list to “get to one of these days” that is so cluttered that you don’t know where to start. Moreover, it’s not just cluttered with junk – you know, all those annoying gift bag, crappy toys your kids come home with from every birthday party or even all those extra samples that come in the mail. Nope, this is a drawer or closet (or in my case, what feels like a compound) full of things that all hold such profound and deep emotions that to start to write about them is way too hard. It is much easier to peruse Facebook or Twitter and make snide, humorous comments until the bottle of wine is empty, the kids are in bed and you convince yourself that you were just “too swamped” to get to what you really want to do – write. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.)

(Deep sigh.) There, that feels better.

Not really.

Can I offer anyone a glass of a fine $9 2015 Tempranillo? Anyone? Just me?

So, today, on my car ride back from hiking with the kids and some family friends, I committed myself to writing – wherever it may go. I have a ton of topics – everything from Buddhism to relationships to finally running with no shirt on. (I know – whoa! Shit getting real, now.)

I think I’ll just start with today because as I am learning – painfully – today is really all that we ever have. Period.

The weather was absolutely beautiful and after leaving the mountain for a 90 minute drive back home with the kids, I finally felt a certain sense of peace that was literally the complete opposite of what I have been feeling for a while, despite a seriously increased commitment to meditation.

I looked over at my daughter in the passenger seat, earbuds in, head achingly dangling forward as to not even be able to envision an actual attached neck and completely passed out with the sun dancing on her lashes just like the day she was born. My son, taller than me now (not a hard objective, actually), was in the fetal position taking over the back seat in a sound slumber himself.

Both teenagers now, observing them asleep is the closest I can still come to some sort of God. I waited for it for a long time when I was younger. It came. And now, I am a witness to its slow passage. On the radio – “New Slang” by the Shins was playing. “I’m looking in on the good life I might be doomed never to find. Without a trust or flaming fields am I too dumb to refine?”

There I was – just me and my kids. I would have done anything to stay in that car with them on a sunny highway forever. I just started crying. I couldn’t help it. I’ve been crying a lot lately. For passages. For hope. For anything that helps open up blockages that keep the spirit from flowing. It sucks.

It’s hard for me to love because it really starts with oneself. This is both a fact and a confession – both embarrassing and true at once. For me, my kids are the only way I can tap into that love because I am really nothing more than a witness so it is completely pure. From their birth, the fact that their souls journeyed to me somehow is overwhelming. I have always said that they chose me somehow. It’s hard to explain but it was in their gaze toward me the moment they were born. There was a knowing there that was overwhelming, intimidating, and definitive, all at once. I can picture it clearly to this very moment.

This is not an endorsement for having children or for a belief in reincarnation. It is simply an acknowledgement that within each of us lies the ability to be cracked open a bit more regardless of whether we may consciously or unconsciously be willing to be an active participant. It is scary, sometimes immobilizing and absolutely necessary.

Luckily, I had Waze on to direct me on my way back and before I welled up too much, thereby restricting my vision, I heard a voice that alerted me: “Car stopped on shoulder”. I’m guessing that driver was having a moment, too.

Or that’s at least what I told myself.

Until next time (and yes, there will be a next time),

Marc

 

 

 

 





Groundlessness

30 06 2015

feet3

I am fortunate enough to be involved with a start-up within a larger organization. I say “fortunate” because it suits me personally – entrepreneurial, a bit risky, a bit improvised but with the security of people way smarter and talented than myself…sort of like my whole approach to comedy, I guess.

One of the “mantras” that our team has been guided to embrace is the idea of “being comfortable with being uncomfortable.” When I first heard this, I said something like “you obviously don’t know me that well; I have been uncomfortable my whole life.” While there is probably some truth to this, it is really difficult to feel uncomfortable. My natural tendency is to do anything to help get through it and fight against it, some of which is good (listening to or playing music, exercise, writing, having a glass of wine) and some not so good (I will let you use your imagination here…let’s say multiple glasses of wine for arguments sake). What this mantra is really telling us to do is accept the discomfort. Similar to the messages being relayed in the popular Pixar flick “Inside Out” – sadness is a necessary emotion that should not be suppressed. It is the same thing with discomfort.

This notion resonates with the Buddhist teachings of Pema Chodrun that I have read recently. The idea around groundlessness, as I understand it from my very rudimentary perspective, is that rather than use things, even spirituality, to ground ourselves so that we feel secure and firm “under our feet”, true spirituality helps us understand that the ground is really just a perception of sorts and the nature of life is forever changing, unpredictable and not within our control – essentially “groundless”.

If you weren’t uncomfortable before, you ought to be now. It’s interesting to me because I have had a really difficult time explaining to a few people how I really feel right now and I have used the word “untethered” a lot, not even thinking or considering this concept of “groundlessness”.

It’s an interesting word – untethered. It adequately describes how I feel – not tied to any one thing at any particular time and trying to figure it out. However, what if instead of trying to solve something that is unsolvable, I accepted the fact that this is a natural feeling, despite my false notions and perceptions of how I perceive the world to be? Would I be comfortable ever with the notion that there is not clear plan, 401K, house, family, trajectory, etc and even if there was, that it really could be fluid in nature?

Well, for me, the “reality”, if there is one, lies somewhere in between. Most people who plan over time will reap some sort of outcome for their efforts. That doesn’t preclude the fact, however, that the feeling that one receives may not be one of security. That won’t stop the groundlessness…nor should it necessarily. These “security” barriers that we work so hard for are not necessarily  a guaranteed home run – perhaps in terms of the material but not in terms of happiness. I know this is starting to sound…well, not like me but I guess all I am saying (and learning for myself) is that the acceptance of groundlessness as part of our real experience may lead to a lot more happiness than another upgrade on our car lease or piece of furniture.

Until next time,

Marc

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The Positive Side of Hopelessness

4 05 2015

Pema-Chodron_065

I have been reading a book by Pema Chödrön, “a notable American figure in Tibetan Buddhism” in which she talks about the benefits of hopelessness. That’s right – not hopeFULness…hopeLESSness.

This is not what I had expected at all, as you can imagine. In fact, I thought that in the practice of meditation and being one with  the present, that it was hope I would find. Rather, hopelessness is the beginning.

Here is what she has to say on the subject:

“The difference between theism and notheism is not whether one does or does not believe in God. It is an issue that applies to everyone, including Buddhists and non-Buddhists. Theism is a deeply seated conviction that there’s some hand to hold: if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us. It means thinking there’s always going to be a babysitter available when we need one. We all are inclined to abdicate our responsibilities and delegate our authority to something outside ourselves. Nontheism is relaxing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves. Nontheism is realizing that there’s no babysitter that you can count on. The whole of life is like that. That is the truth, and the truth is inconvenient.”

The truth is inconvenient? Boy, don’t I know it. Those are probably the truest 4 words ever spoken in the English language.

What Chödrön is essentially saying is that there is a benefit to the idea of hopelessness. If we are able to abandon hope it forces us to stop waiting for something better and/or not fully live in the present. Living in a present that is less than ideal is uncomfortable and inconvenient. However, doing so gives us great confidence in our ability to do just that because we have to face what is – whether it is good or bad – and after we do just that, we gain great confidence.

Basically, suffering is part of life. It is inescapable. There is great comfort and pride in actually doing something and dealing with what is here and now. I think that regardless of how badly a night of comedy might go, that is why I keep coming back. At least I was living. I couldn’t stand up there bombing and hope it would get better. I could deal with it right then and there and sometimes that actually turns out to be just fine.

And that is just comedy. In the grand scheme of thing, it is not important. Today, I went to a WWII discussion with 3 veterans on a panel and they all spoke to the daily uncertainty they lived with as young soldiers – having to deal with the very real present and death every day. They accepted this suffering and talk about it with great humility and pride. It has given them incredible resilience and perspective. Perhaps the hopelessness that they felt 70 plus years ago was the most pivotal thing that could have happened to them in their young lives because it forced them to accept what is and not what they hope it to be.

This is a lesson I am learning every day in my life. Through some of the most challenging days over the past 2 years, I have felt more grateful than I had ever felt before.

Until next time,

Marc








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