Thursday, August 21, 2014

Northern California Family Dog Cancerversary event

I volunteer at Family Dog, and founder Angela Lucia Padilla was celebrating twelve cancer-free years. (Go Angela!) This picture was taken with me and Xena, one of Angela's amazing dogs. I love it and made it my Facebook profile pic.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

More on the second step

From the OA book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions:

Compulsive overeaters are often people of extremes. We overreacted to slight provocations while ignoring the real issues in our lives. We were obsessively busy, then we were 'wiped out' and unable to act. We were wildly excited then deeply depressed. We saw the whole world in black and white. If we couldn't have it all, we didn't want any; if we couldn't be the best, we didn't want to play the game.

So, then, overeating is a symptom? That seems so much like a duh, ten-four good buddy!, but I don't think I realized it until right now. In going to these meetings, we're not necessarily tackling just the symptom. We're looking at the cause.

I'm not saying I'm an OA cultist. My father-in-law went through that for a period and I know it was destructive not only to him but to his family. I go to one meeting a week, not six. That said, I know I can be an obsessive and compulsive person. I can also be bipolar -- either really up or really, really not. This has been the most heavy-duty period of working on myself that I can remember. Let's see where it gets me.

Monday, August 18, 2014

And more Awakening Joy

"When you slow down and pay careful attention to what is happening inside you and around you, a new world opens up. Everything comes alive. In fact, you may notice that surges of joy arise in you spontaneously, even when nothing special is happening, and even in the midst of difficult times. ... With mindfulness we can appreciate that every moment of life, whatever our experience, is precious. When we live in this way, a certain kind of vitality comes into our lives."

So if I pay attention to what's going on right now, what do I find?

I'm at Cafe Trieste at Dwight and San Pablo. There's a decent-sized crowd here, mostly either people alone or in pairs. I just switched away from this blog to check my email. I'm so used to doing that, but doesn't it take me out of the moment? See, there, I did it again. I've conditioned myself to jump into the future -- what messages have I gotten -- instead of just experiencing the present. Why is that so damn hard? I'm listening to Jim Croce's "Photographs and Memories: His Greatest Hits." The song that's playing now is "Rapid Roy" (that stock-car boy; he the best driver in the land) and I just stopped to put that on Facebook. I'm always switching back and forth. I'm not sure if that makes me happy or not. Sometimes it does. There is a guy in a blue shirt ordering his drink right now. He just took the honey and asked that it be added. Or maybe he added it himself, I couldn't see. For some reason I just thought about that old saw that always goes around Facebook (see, Facebook again): Be kind to those who you meet, for everyone is fighting a battle you may know nothing about. That can be easier some times than others.

Outside it is gray and cloudy as it has been all day. People are coming in and out of this cafe the way thoughts do in and out of your head all the time. What draws people here? I know for me I get lonely, even with the dogs, and need to get out in the world. I've always worked in cafes. I just took a picture to add to this post so that I can visually remember, even though I always know what Trieste looks like. I've been here millions of times. Okay, maybe just thousands. Hundreds, definitely.

Thinking about the second step

The OA second step is: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. First off, I don't see myself as insane, but okay, I understand what that means. As I wrote yesterday, I've really been hedging on this whole Higher Power thing, but then I went to the East Bay Meditation Center half-day workshop, where they talked about Nirvana. In part, Nirvana is defined as release, a liberation. Mushim brought up the idea of a clenched fist holding a desired object. In Nirvana, the fist naturally opens and its contents fall out with no rancor.

Could that be the meaning of recovery?

Nirvana is also, according to Thich Nhat Hanh, the release of notions, of the ideas of the way things should be. In accordance with this definition, does that mean that my Higher Power is the absence of these notions? Is my Higher Power within me?

Wild wacky stuff.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Nirvana versus Higher Power

This morning I went to a half-day workshop at the East Bay Meditation Center. The topic was Nirvana, and teacher Mushim (Patricia Ikeda) greeted us with the following Thich Nhat Hanh quote:

Nirvana is the ground of being, the substance of all that is. Water is the substance of the wave ... we carry in us the ground of interbeing nirvana, the world of no-birth and no-death. Nirvana is the complete silencing of concepts.

We did some reflective journaling on our ideas of nirvana. This is what I wrote:

What comes to mind with the word nirvana? There is the idea of a waterfall, something clean and spilling with no dictation from above or below. Nirvana is something achieved, but not demanded. I wonder if it's possible in this lifetime, at least on an ongoing basis. We achieve moments of it, but a solid state? That seems quite a bit more difficult. I'm not even sure I want ongoing nirvana. Wouldn't it get a little tiresome. Then again, maybe the pollyanna definition of the word isn't the real thing. I'll probably never know. 

In Mushim's dharma talk, she addressed the three seals that indicate the truth: 1) impermanence; 2) non-self; and 3) nirvana. Nirvana, she said, was part of the Buddha's spiritual practice and is the realization of truth with no greed, no aversion (hatred) and no ignorance (delusion). There are no fixed thoughts, no concepts and no perceptions. Mushim suggested thinking of thoughts as objects -- heap them into a giant pile and burn them. No ashes, nothing. Gone.

She warned that nirvana can sound unsexy and unexciting. No desire? No suffering? No craving? No urge to shop? "There is no shopping in nirvana," she said.

This got to me. I've been busy transferring my food addiction over to shopping -- clothes, jewelry, boots, all the girly stuff I always claim to hate. Could a nirvana state mean an end to that kind of craving and searching? Perhaps. I may never find out for myself.

It also got me thinking about the Higher Power they talk about in Overeaters Anonymous. I have such issues with the idea of a Higher Power, even with their codicil: as you understand Him. I'm not sure I know or understand Him or Her or It at all -- and I'm not an atheist, just a skeptic. I do believe in a God, but I don't know that I need to turn my life over to that concept.

What, though, if the Higher Power is Nirvana?

Whoa. That blows my mind on a Sunday night. Does that mean that instead of turning my "recovery" over to some sort of god, I'm surrendering to the progress toward nirvana?

I gotta think about it.