Yesterday I was counting all my losses, not my blessings. I nourished them tenderly all day long. I was miserable. The loss of Richard arose as unbearable loneliness. I seem to be in the middle of an MS exacerbation resulting in further loss of communication with my left leg. I am dragging it about lately. Despite an ongoing scheduling conflict that I could not resolve, I went to the first rehearsal for the Winter Solstice choir (assembled for the next big community wide celebration at Kendal) just to see what music they were learning. It was an impressive, diverse and complex selection. I am only a modest sight singing reader and many of those singers were, and still are, pros. They were terrific, the conductor was an enthusiastic force of musical nature (former professor of voice at Oberlin), and I realized I did not have the stamina required to challenge my brain and body and voice at that level anymore. Another loss that was sadly acknowledged on top of the rest of my losses.
What to do? My friend reminded me earlier that morning, that the first Noble Truth as stated by Buddha, is that mundane life is suffering, or Dukkha. Pain is pain, but suffering is caused by the very human tendency to reject it vehemently. I once wrote, “It is not easy to forgo suffering in the face of pain from … a chronic condition. Nor should you skip over it. It is an essential step in the journey to accepting pain for what it is (to embrace pain and work with it, not against it). We project endless suffering into the…future based on the fearful experiences of the past. Suffering cuts us off from the respite of … possibilities available in the moment. Learning to release suffering into original pain, brings us into reality, plain and simple. Life is no better or worse than what it is right now.”
Nice words, Judi, and the source of that wisdom was unavailable as long as I huddled inside my self-imposed dark cell. I came back to my room before dinner exhausted just from being an observer of the rehearsal where I had stumbled along, tracking the difficult (for me) musical scores. I found a small package waiting outside my door. A cousin of mine (John Moncure Wetterau), who I have not been in touch with for years, sent me a book of his poetry, Greeting Buddha. He had said he would send it to me after we had emailed each other around a larger family matter. He was in Greece at the time of our original communication, shortly to be on his way back to the States. I was as moved by the fact that he followed through with his offer as I was by his poetry. People often don’t take the time to put something in the mail when they say they will.
Greeting Buddha within me took the rest of the evening and well into the time before sleep. I was very entangled in my woes. I used every meditation tool l could think of. Finally I took Richard’s set of mala beads from the back of my bedstead, going around one hundred and eight times. I went first in one direction and then the other, over and over, making short prayers that were authentic to each round. After I could focus on genuinely praying for others, there was a crack of light as the cell door slowly swung open. I put the beads under my pillow and mercifully sleep arrived.
I wrote this chant some years ago and it was one of the tools I used to get me through until the new day.
In the dark before the dawn,
When I’m wandering all alone,
May I search for, may I find
A light to guide me home.
Hold to that light
Through the long night
Until my eyes
Bless the sunrise.