Neighborhood Flow

We had a few Easterly clouds this morning that kept the sun at bay for an extra hour and gave me an opportunity to satisfy my dog’s request for a morning walk.  She is not much of a walker, but she takes great joy in smelling things and hunting for stray pieces of partially eaten food.  We typically go over to the Family Services Center that borders our backyard.  They have a nice large parking lot and sometimes I let her roam off leash.

Today was one of those days.  I wanted to do my Tai Chi, so I let her run off and explore.  As it was Sunday, the usual homeless crowd was inhabiting the parking lot and eaves of the buildings.  Lots of people still sleeping, but a few up and milling around.

Sunnyslope Family Service Center Hatcher RoadI found a nice central location in the parking lot and began the Tai Chi form.  About five minutes into my form,  I noticed a tall woman in a sleeveless peach dress watching me.  Then, as she gracefully began to mimic my moves I could feel our connection.  She was stunning.  She was completely in the flow and beaming.  It was a beautiful moment.

I could feel my chronic anxiety as a tightness in my chest and abdomen.  She had none of that.  She seemed completely uninhibited.  And when I looked at her I could feel her flow.  It was like I was flowing.  She was just dancing with joy.  And I was connected to that.

I know this woman.  Although I don’t know her name.  She lives in my neighborhood.  The first time I saw her she was in the middle of the street in front of my house shouting at the house across the street.  It seemed like everyday for a week she would scream at the guy across the street and sometimes he would shout back at her.

I couldn’t figure why she chose to go by his house everyday when there were alternate routes to the bus stop and she seemed to dislike him so.  After a couple days I realized there was some dispute about missing property.  I also realized that she was getting some pay-off from the shouting matches.  They weren’t completely unpleasant for her.

Then, two weeks later I saw the same woman entering that guy’s house as if they were best of friends.  I marveled at the sight.  The actions of people are one of the mysteries of life.

This woman was just in the flow.  Whatever popped up she just went with it.  If it was anger, she was angry.  If it was Tai Chi, she was a zen master.  I imagined her moods could flip quickly and that she was unpredictable.

It seemed like she was just being, especially when compared to me.  I wonder how “enlightened being” is different from the state of just being she was in.

First enlightenment is characterized by no unpleasant emotions.  For me, being angry is an unpleasant experience.  I always assumed that enlightenment would mean the end of anger.  Hmmmm…. But for my friend it seemed like she might have found it pleasant.  Perhaps enlightenment could be getting angry and having it be joyful!  hahaha

No, I doubt that is the case.  Wisdom eliminates anger since it stops making any sense when you have the direct experience of how things are.  My friend is “being” in an unconscious sort of way.  It is awareness and consciousness that allows us to become fully liberated.  My friend is just a slave to her subconscious.

Before Dawn

A few times this week I’ve woken up around 4:15 am.  Intellectually this would be a good time to get up – no harsh sun and temperatures in the low 80’s.  Yet, I invariably fall back to sleep for another hour or so.  Today I decided to just try getting up and staying up.

I went into the kitchen and put my breakfast on.  This morning it would be cauliflower chicken curry and my usual cup of germinated brown rice.   I put the two into a small cast iron pan and turned the electric stove on low.  Breakfast would be warm in about 20 minutes and would not burned even if I became preoccupied and did not return for an hour or more.  When it was time to eat, I’d add some oil (flax or coconut to the rice) a dash of Spike (seasoned salt mix) and two raw large carrots.  I used to microwave my food, but this slow heating alternative pleases me.

My mind noted that this morning it felt like winter.  I was surprised by the thought and realized that it had been winter the last time I was up before dawn.  I am up before the sunrise almost everyday, but to be up while it was still dark and the stars were still shining was rare this summer.  Interesting that my body and energy associated this “being up while it was still dark” with “winter”.

I proceeded outside to do my morning practice of chi gung and tai chi.  My objective is to be 100% present and in the moment when I practice.  Although I have a body memory of the movements, and can go through the form on automatic pilot, I focus on my body and how the energy feels moving.

I noticed how wonderful the morning was.  It was getting lighter, but even the birds were still and quiet until about 15 minutes into my routine.  I was outside and it was early morning in the desert.  Absolutely spectacular!

I remembered my first trip to the desert when I was a teenager.  I took a course called the Natural History of Anza Borrego.   On the trip, I decided to sleep out away from the group at a location that was sure to get the first rays of sunrise.  The memory of the trip and the dawn’s first light brought me pleasure.

I continued to think about how I’d like to wake up like this every day and the best way to do that was to sleep outside.  When I sleep outside I am more in rhythm with the planet and my subconscious notices the changes in the environment leading up to dawn and awakens me.

I began planning where I’d sleep, how I’d hang my mosquito netting, what type of bedding I’d use, and alternates to all these ideas.  I was wondering how long before the nights became too hot to sleep outside comfortably.  I thought some about my plan, then have a memory of the past, connect the two and then focus on the smooth even flow of my tai chi movements.

Eventually I noticed that much of my thoughts were not in the moment doing tai chi.  I was in the past, remembering.  I was in the future, planning.  I was also a very good multi-tasker because my mind would flip back into being with the birds or the movements of my body, the now, before it would be swept away by another idea.  Indeed, it is possible for me to have part of my mind in the present moment and part of my mind planning or remembering.

It is really cool how the mind works.  I traced back the mindstream until I found the point of major deviation.  I found that the pleasure of being in the desert before the dawn triggered my mind to try to capture it and keep it.  Instead of fully enjoying the moment, I was figuring out how to have that moment every day.  Logically, if I liked what was going on, I would focus more on the moment.  Yet, I have the illogical mental habit of planning. Perhaps, I enjoy planning more than I enjoy the experience of spontaneous life.

I have been noticing recently how I think certain thoughts repetitively.  For instance, after several years of living on savings, I finally have work that pays my bills.  I tend to think about this with appreciation over and over.  It is like I’m using the thought to create a certain feeling.  I suppose I have a very subtle financial insecurity that this thought alleviates.  When I observe the thought and my body’s reaction very closely, I can almost feel a surge of some “pleasure” chemical being released.  Even if I don’t have financial insecurity, I am “using” the thought to produce pleasure in my body.  Does this mean I’m addicted to the thought and the chemical it produces?

The practice of introspective and extrospective awareness, sometimes referred to as mindfulness, allows me to know what I am doing,why I am doing it and the consequences of my actions.  This awareness can then inform my actions.  I am finding, through this practice, that I have many habitual mental habits that don’t appear to be useful.  It appears that my mind is awakening, but that it is still before dawn.