Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Moon and Jupiter -- Our Little Spot on Earth Can Make a Big Difference

“The inconceivable wish to help all sentient beings always begins with oneself.  Our own experience is the only thing we have to share.  The inability to measure up to our own standards is decidedly humbling.  It allows us to empathize with other people’s difficulties and mistakes.”

Pema Chödrön, NO TIME TO LOSE, A Timely Guide to the Way of Bodhisattva


Last weekend was full of wonderful moments to come alive, to be myself, to offer gratefulness for my good life.  Perhaps I just noticed the workings of the way of the world around me; perhaps I was just a tiny bit more awake.  Whatever it was, I am glad I noticed my world, the people, the happenings and all the being in my world.  I was not only more peaceful and content, I was actually joyful, a genuine happiness not predicated on changing my life circumstances, just direct and present joy from being with what is offered in each moment. 

The weekend started out by simply paying attention to my world, that is, to the way my body feels in the world.  This means being with what is and what our senses are showing us.  Now let’s start with the eyes.  My eyes caught sight of the moon this past week, a big, gigantic, round, full luminous body so near to us in the sky that I felt ready to reach my human hand out to caress it and feel its smooth marble coolness.  As I was cleaning up dinner dishes, the moon whispered into my ears, “Look at me rising through the trees and call that son of your to come see me.”  I shut off all the lights in the kitchen and called Aidan, my youngest to also enjoy the display.  He willingly came and looked upon our celestial neighbor with a rather blasé casual glance, as if to say, “Yeah, I know, she is there always orbiting about us.  And, oh by the way, you see that giant star at ten o’clock, that’s Mr. Jupiter so loud in the sky and oh, so far away despite his brilliance.”

As I was driving to a dinner business meeting the day before, which was a day punctuated by emotional upheaval, I also witnessed the moonrise and realized that despite the illusion of difference, we are all seeing the same moon in the sky, from our own spot on the earth.  It gave me some reference point, some shared connection, some unity despite my trepidation and feelings of trembling as I wade through this world, our shared world, remembering we all stumble at times, we all struggle and we all feel sadness, and to keep in mind that these feelings pass, they are fleeting like the weather.  Look at that celestial neighbor and know that we see the same through different eyes, on our own wee little dot on motherearth.

The week began with some challenges and struggles.  For me, these center on being a parent.  I love being a mother; I feel I was designed for this work.  But also, at times, being a mom presents so much uncertainty and I fall into my personalized trap of reacting to circumstances rather than pausing.  My older son is struggling with his first year in high school.  This is not uncommon.  I can state all the reasons that it is more challenging for him but that is just building a case of why rather than just going with “the what” of the situation.  The craziness that I was feeling also brought amazing realization – I may feel mixed up, scared and uncertain, BUT I have never, ever been alone.  This awareness was profound for me.  It felt like a gentle hug that awakened me.  Call this awareness, call this God, call this the Great Mystery, call it whatever you like, the name doesn’t matter as much as the wakefulness quality it gave me for absolutely nothing in exchange.

As the week wound down towards the weekend, I spent most of Saturday going about household chores as one son did homework and the other played. As Aidan and his friend enacted “Shoot the Zombies” around the house and I washed and vacuumed floors, I felt content, I felt that I belonged here, I felt I could release the clinging and grasping and wishing for a different now.  There was a moment when Aidan said my name, “mom”, and a complete and utter moment of peace in my present washed down me, from head to toe, and I found myself smiling.

I think sometimes that we get depressed because we overthink our lives.  We all have our mental lists and our banal tasks of living and our hooks and habits that cause us to trip and trap us in thinking which depresses us not only mentally but physically.  The secret is to keep moving forward, while staying present.  For me, I have wishes and dreams and aspirations, and these keep me moving ahead.  The key for me is to not live in those places all the time.  When I am present to what is, whether that be washing out the kitchen sink while the laughter and flight of play of the boys is happening around me, I physically sense the goodness of life, that is what pulls me out of my habitual mind of worry and wishing for something else. 

Upon awakening on Sunday morning, I felt good that I had accomplished the chores of yesterday and that my boys and I had enjoyed a performance at Canisius High School of Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” and continued our evening at a wonderful local restaurant in the city.  Prior to entering the school, friends of my family were exiting the school gym with their brood, and it struck me that true happiness comes from being present with what is, what life is presenting at the moment, that the precious joys of life are meeting old and new friends alike, in  whatever iteration life offers them to us.  The joy of life is linked directly to the serendipity of life and even through the inevitable tragedies and suffering and changes that we all encounter, there are surprises if we remain open.

I have felt the repeating treadmill of chores, and work, and going to the office to see the same faces, and cracking the whip as mom coach, understanding why this might feel so endless and fatiguing.  This is natural, many of us feel this.  If we are constantly searching and expecting to be entertained from our mind’s boredom, then of course, we will suffer more.  Becoming aware of the amazing every day reality through true perception of our senses can be lifesaving and certainly joy-producing.  It may feel the same, or we may think we are just going to the same place over and over, but that is an illusion, it is our mind creating our illusion, almost as if we have horse blinders, feeling like we are in a cartoon reel repeating over and over.  Each moment is new, fresh, and heretofore unlived.  Each moment offers a new chance to be touched by our world, to touch our world and those in it, to make a difference, to relieve someone’s pain or sadness, to make an impact, a difference, to extend some human kindness.

And, sometimes, we may have a realization that we need to change something about our lives or our environment, it may be as simple as a small shift in the way we think about, talk about, or view our world.  Small shifts over time create new worlds. Sometimes it is time to drop our warm but totally claustrophobic cocoon with gentle courage while holding ourselves as we traverse new paths.  Sometimes it is time to move on from relationships, gently but definitively saying goodbye.  Hanging out with the right crowd that supports our path is important, shows compassion towards our self and towards our immediate and ever-present world.




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