Grace in the face of oppression.
I thought I would try writing from inside the feeling of oppression.
Of course as soon as I write these words, I remember the meditation advice to “look for the feeling of oppression, where is it located, does it have any real substance of its own?”
I’m going to do that now for a moment…
Really, the question is “what is the self that is feeling the oppression?” It has been suggested, that the energy required to maintain even a temporary sense of permanency of that self, is enormous. That is my experience.
When I sit still, breathe, and look for that self, I find it is merely a construct of mind held loosely together by a collection of memories of temporary state and experience. As I step into a seat of awareness to witness that construct, I can see beside it the reservoir of energy that is the source of all creative response in the moment. Much of that energy must be directed to maintain a sense of solidity to that “self,” the one that feels oppression.
Allowing that idea of “Kabir,” who at one moment feels inside of oppression, to drift easily in the mind, not as the prison or source of awareness, but rather as an object within awareness, I can see more the dynamic nature of that self. That self ceases to be a conditional constraint through which creative energy must flow, obeying all of those “laws” of past experience and emotional state. Instead, Kabir becomes a fluid condition, much more easily mixed and melded with the flow of creative energy and response to what is arising.
It’s funny, I initiated this thread as a way of confronting a certain sense of despair (above called “oppression”). My initial thought had been to reach out to a friend for a sense of connection as a way of responding to the discomfort. Glancing quickly at my thread of text messages to see if anyone would catch my eye I found that (reflecting now) the sense of discomfort actually drove me away from those familiar names of friends. Rather than connection, I felt separation, as though there was not love for me there in those names, and simultaneously that I had no fullness and only need to bring to them anyway.
Feeling no love in connection, I thought I would try writing as a way of offering something into the reciprocity of the world. Funny that it took just one sentence to remember to look inward rather than out, for the source of connection. Better still that it took but a moment (literally less than three minutes between the third and fourth paragraphs above) to find the fullness of that connection inside.
Inside the fullness of awareness, the entire kosmos arises. I’m told that both the awareness and the arising Kosmos can be found to be one. I smile to myself now, won’t that be something to discover? For now I’m still practicing at the level of simply realizing awareness as the ground of itself, rather than Kabir as the source of awareness. For now it is enough to realize all of time and space simply arising in awareness.
Of course I digress. What is this feeling of oppression I referred to? Where does that come from, and how does it come to be a character in this story?
I think the sun must’ve come out for a moment here today. Mostly though, in the course of my experience from morning until now, clouds and cold and gray have held sway.
Just after 4 PM, nervous system aflutter, as I turned to share these words, I was coming out of about 90 minutes of online research.
The wise advice of my friend Dave, some time ago now, was to get out of the house, and actually visit a residential care facility so that I could start to put a face on that very real possible avenue for my future to be. I have been moving in that direction with some diligence, in parallel to many other tasks and opportunities. It has revealed questions I didn’t know that I had – am I looking for “Adult Residential Facilities”? Skill Nursing Facilities? Assisted Living Facilities? All of the above? What does it take to visit them? Which ones take the Medi-Cal that will provide the funding for such residency? And on and on and on…
So I opened the 10 tabs in my browser that I hoped would help further guide my search. 10 tabs turned into 20, state ratings visible only up to 2014, warnings of opacity, a focus on elderly and little mention of disability, and after 90 minutes I had an overwhelming and even frightening five-page checklist, a slight handful of personal questions, and a sense of enormity and danger.
This path of assessing possible care, and finding the way through is certainly no easy task, not for this humble servant, and I imagine not so for many others. Tomorrow I will make some calls, both to advocacy groups as well as potential providers, and I will find my way to visiting a few facilities this week.
Coming out of the research however – getting in as deep as I did today – left me with a feeling of having been abused. The weight of our care system felt as though it rested firmly across my body, the system itself disabled and paralyzed. As I described this, I remember a similar feeling just days after I was injured, paralyzed in November 2002.
I was in the hospital, filled with morphine. I was lying in bed, and the memory I have is that of calling out to my brother Ira (http://www.wtlrecovery.com) to explain to him that I had a corpse lying on top of me and that I couldn’t move.
The feeling this afternoon was a similar sense of disorienting oppression. There is much that is “unfortunate” about our world today. (Earlier today I reviewed this trailer for my dear friend Katie’s upcoming film – I encourage you to consider participating in funding her project.) There is much that is unfortunate about our world today. Often the “Self” that we find ourselves in lies paralyzed beneath the oppressive weight of the conditions of death and decay.
As Otto Scharmer describes in his book “Leading from the Emerging Future,” these conditions of death and decay can be found in our separations from one another, from nature, and from ourselves. This loss of connection that leaves us paralyzed, droning on in ignore(ance) of the urgency for our need to respond, drives us deeper into an overwhelming sense of disorienting oppression.
I guess what I find myself able to write here is a direct response to that feeling of depression. We, humanity, are not some static and eternal self. We are fleeting construct of the evolutionary mind. We have been shaped by the emotions of our environmental context, and the stories we have told ourselves and one another over time. Humanity today, like all species ever, is a temporary state. That spark of awareness within each of us, that endless well of creative force, the conversation we create in our minds and with one another now, that is the living awareness. That living awareness, both the witness of itself, and the emerging dance of constructs, is the force that meets this evolutionary moment, transcendent, earthly, and powerful, and carries through it our deepest and longest held aspirations for love and care and connection.
Love and care and connection, and beauty, and grace, when we can set aside a moment, that identification with a momentary reaction to eternity, these are the things that pour out of us.
Really, that was the greater tone of my day today. I don’t know if it was sunny out, not because I was depressed and turned inward, but in fact because I was engaged and focused on love and care and connection and beauty and grace.
Caitlin, making accommodations for our brother Greg who is still healing from his cold, rose early today after a late night to come to my service. We stirred around 7:30 this morning and like the loving trooper that she is, she came and got me up, fed me breakfast with a smile, a loving caress, and her bright mind. She left me to my weekly review of tasks and projects and the energy of getting organized.
I ran payroll for my care team, a simple clerical errand online that always refreshes my sense of gratitude.
I turned my attention to reading, a regular part of my Sunday routine – today, a story of one of my favorite Tibetan figures, an article from Dave about the importance of wisdom for treating loneliness in senior living facilities, (I queued that for later study, and also queued the Musing Mind podcast as a possible future engagement before moving on), I read a moving article from my friend Spring, and an exquisite poem from her friend (which I immediately added to my list of random email signatures.)
Fresh with the nutrients of new insight, I turned my attention to the other sacred Sunday activity – that of clearing my inbox of informal and friendly correspondence. I learned of the passing of basketball star, Kobe Bryant — the fourth and least personal death to which I’ve been exposed in the last 48 hours. I was reminded of this special Internet phenomenon by an email shared in memory of one of those passed, and was introduced to this ancient wanderer.
I was privileged to read the words and correspond with not fewer than 10 really wonderful people who have come through my life at one point or another. It was from that wellspring of love and care and connection and beauty and grace that I moved into position under the weight of the world.
I am further along now the task of finding my way to a better understanding and greater capacity to move gracefully into a formal care facility if that is to be my next home. It is in no small part thanks to the encouraging words of my friend Dave, and the connection to that community of friends who managed to find their way into my inbox, text threads, and memories, that I have the strength to meet these uncertain and challenging tasks. It is in no small part thanks to the grace of having received the teachings of meditation that I can find within myself that profound well of creative source to walk through the wilderness of our human illusion, and bring forth an offering of love and care in connection to you dear friend, wherever you are.
I have run long today, thank you for your attention if you have made it this far.
God gets to know things, we just get to ask questions…