Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Family Camp -- A Reflection


I feel a need on this sultry summer late July morning with the air so close and my skin sticky to write about last August’s family camp experience with my boys.  The journey was one that really brought me into my physical body and gave me great confidence and courage in my path.  Almost a year later I am in a much different place in my mind, yet my body is right where it always has been.

I have been feeling this course correction experience and experiencing time in a very different way.  Just yesterday I was thinking of this very notion of course correction and of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and throughout out the day at least three times these very notions appeared along my path.  Now we are preparing once more to embark again on a family trip, just mom and her boys heading again to Vermont and family camp.  We have an idea of what to expect but good sense tells us not to have any expectations at all, it is a new year, new people, new mindsets and hearts.  We are all the same but completely rearranged.  One thing for certain, summer really just brings me into my body, its feelings, its smells, it sensory expressions. 

(August 5, 2011) 
I sit here resting my bottom on the earth looking out over the mountain range of the Green Mountains of Vermont.  It is serene and my only company is the tiny gnats flying around my head and the voice of the insects hidden in the nearby trees and brush.  I am planted for a little while in this meadow writing about my travels with my adolescent and teenage boys to a family camp in northeastern Vermont where we are destined to arrive tomorrow. 

My boys and I began our journey yesterday staying in Albany on Thursday evening and tonight we are staying at the quite eccentric Wilburton Inn overlooking Vermont’s Equinox Mountain.

We visited my friend’s daughter and the organic farm and bakery in which she works; we tasted plump messy juicy pear tomatoes and ate fresh-out-of-the-oven raspberry popovers.  We found a watering hole to swim in, a small creek with rushing cold stream.  The stone and rocks were quite hazardous, slippery when traversing them and the water on this humid August day was refreshingly cool.  It looked black from the rock beneath like a frothy Irish Guinness.  I abandoned my usual more cautious and prudent modus operandi and threw my body into the unchecked cold mountain stream entering the water with a loud gasping sign, grateful for the cooling effect of the water on my boiling skin. 

I am now sitting here with these insects at sunset with a glad and a grateful heart. I am somewhat tentative to go to camp out for eight nights in a place I have never been with two hundred strangers; a bit anxious yet feeling bold and daring about embarking on this adventure in the first place.  We are headed to the Northeastern Kingdom of Vermont to a family camp at Karmê Chöling, a Shambhala Mediation Retreat Center.  I am interested in continuing to pursue my training in Shambhala, a lineage that teaches about how to be awake in our world, awake to basic goodness, both our own and the world’s.  It is a path of training in mindful awareness through meditation and takes meditation a step further from the individual to societal, exploring how mindfulness can be beneficial for our immediate worlds, our families and communities. 

I have been thinking about my body as my teacher.  How do our relationships with ourselves, loving ourselves and loving others help benefit society?  How can we love in a way that is beneficial and less self-focused and self-serving?  Love rests in the body; our first sensations are physical as we descend out from our mother’s through the birth canal, touching and being touched by our mothers for the first time, our first breath of air, nuzzling into our mother’s breast.  The beginnings of our worldly experience are all physical, just as love is experienced in the body.

Our body is the vessel for all our life experiences.  Even thoughts take place in the body, in our brains and send out signals throughout our brainstem, along our spinal column, out to our limbs.  It is so precise and available, the thinking part.  Then there is the mind’s creation of a storyline as related to our emotions and past experiences.  The knowledge and awareness of our bodies is precise and direct; it occurs to me that we never really forget anything that happened to us or any of our encounters or experiences however peripheral.  Our brains are so clever and keen and catalogue it all away in our minds, the great big mainframe of our bodies.  We cannot possibly consciously remember it all, but there is cellular, subatomic memory.  Perhaps that is why we are so adept at building storylines, protecting ourselves from some hurt or pain we suffered in the past.  Being aware that we build explanations is very helpful, at least we know we are doing this as some sort of protection or coping.  Realizing that storylines may actually not always serve us may lead to greater understanding.

In a recent article I had read the author explains rather insightfully and convincingly that directing all our energy at trying to explain away the hurt or immediate feelings we are experiencing actually serves to rob us of the vast amounts of information and moments of consciousness surrounding the space about us.  Actually listening to the sounds and pauses, the spaces in between all the information bytes so to speak, the sounds and messages of silence provide tremendous possibility for awakenment.  This view of pausing, slowing the mind, stopping for a moment the mind’s storyline, represents a paradigm shift, a more whole way of being awake and aware in the world.  It first takes noticing, becoming aware, pausing, then reminding ourselves over and over to pause.  It doesn’t happen naturally for adults since we are all so conditioned to explain what we are feeling.

Last week I spent a Saturday afternoon with a new friend.  It was a special few hours; I just wanted to listen to him, to take him in, to open my heart and welcome in his whole being, physically and spiritually and emotionally and even cosmically.  I didn’t want to open my mouth, words felt too small, too constricting, and too ambiguous.  If I had something to say, I felt I needed to say it by listening.  As he talked I listened and my eyes met his straight on.  We walked over to taste something from his garden, our shoulders brushing each other’s, I could smell him so close to me.  In that moment, for me, there were only the two of us in our world.  And then it was over, those moments that had just passed stood still, or stood outside of time somehow, soon to become part of the near past joining the river of all events that have already happened.  I wasn’t thinking in these few minutes, simply feeling, being with what was in my body.
I return now to my body sitting here writing this on my sun porch on this humid July morning in 2012, thankful for an occasional breeze, reflecting on all that my body has experienced in these last couple of hours – the morning chorus of the birds, the din of the traffic, the sound of the wind in the viburnum with the brief visit of a chickadee alighting on the branches right in front of my eyes.  All the while my body continues to heat up and bake on my porch and I can only think of throwing my body into the relief of that cold refreshing Vermont mountain stream.

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