I have been feeling sort of philisophical and meditative the past couple of days, and I think a lot of it has to do with my friends in the blogosphere. Some was the general conversation (and what a week! mons pubis, mons phallis, depression, heartbreak…all of it!). But there was also Ruby’s post about why she’s not getting treatment, and the article that she linked in. I read that article, and it made me think. And then Mother Wintermoon, who I just met this week, has such interesting thoughtful things to say, that I couldn’t help but to think about things a bit deeper.

I’ve been drawn to buddhism for a while. I heard Thich Nhat Hanh speak in Denver almost two years ago, and the one and only time I can remember that I believed head to toe that world peace was possible was while he spoke. There were probably thousands of people in that place, but it was so hushed and intimate-feeling that it was as if he was speaking directly to each of us. At least that is how it felt for me.

So I’ve read some books he’s written, and some others by Pema Chodron. They say things I need to hear, like don’t let your heart harden. Be mindful in each moment.

Things that sound so abstract until you actually try to be that way, and then you realize that they’re achievable things, at least achievable in the sense that we can accomplish them with conscious thought, and maybe someday with unconsciousness.

I’m impatient, moody, far from serene and balanced. I’m not drawn to Buddhism as a spirituality, just as a philosophy. I can’t seem to believe in anything beyond that, and I’m comfortable with that. As a philosophy, I think it is the kind of thing that everyone should read about, independent of where their personal spirituality (or lack of) falls.

I had a rough year, and I put aside the Buddhist reading, feeling like I’ve been too busy trying to just get by, get stable. Yet when I chose a therapist, I chose one who has a “focus on mindfulness.” I was drawn to her for that reason, and I waited a few weeks until she had an opening rather than try to find someone else. Despite that it was part of my reason for choosing her as a therapist, we haven’t talked about mindfulness all that much, perhaps because I haven’t been ready for it.

Most of you probably know that I’m an animal rights activist (with some other causes thrown in there for good measure). If you didn’t know that, this is me telling you – I’m an animal rights activist.

Part of what this means is that I educate myself on the issues. It isn’t pretty. I sometimes wish I didn’t know the things I know, but at the same time…I really am not content to live unaware. So I learn, and in learning, I hurt. (And I’m not just learning about animal-related issues. I’m learning about human rights issues and environmental issues and a huge spectrum of things that are all tied together for me.) As I go about my day-to-day life, I block out most of what I know. I have to, really. Sometimes, generally when I’m already feeling hurt about something and my emotions are riding just under the surface, seeing all of this makes me feel battered and bruised inside.

My therapist said that when I’m feeling this way, to just focus on the color of the sky, the trees along the road, the color of the cars, the leaves, the flowers, the sound of everything around me, the feel of the air, to concentrate on these details, and in that way to live fully in the moment. To be aware that I’m alive, and what that means.

And damn, if it doesn’t work.

It reminds me of something I read in Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Peace is Every Step,” a book I highly recommend. It is like a modern-day guide book on how to deal with all the crap that makes our world what it is. The traffic, the cube farms, the ringing telephone, the constant movement, noise, appointments, rush, homeless people, myriad natural (and unnatural) disasters, racism, sexism, *-ism, changing climate…all of that, and more.

He talks about “walking meditation,” and this is something I need to do more often. Walking for the sole purpose of walking. Not to get in shape, or to get to a destination, or to walk the dog, or any of those things. Walking to walk. Feeling the earth beneath our feet, the air on our skin, the sounds around us. To be fully aware.

Here is a poem called “The Sun in my Heart” by Thich Nhat Hanh:

Thousands of tree bodies and mine.
Leaves are waving,
Ears hear the stream’s call,
Eyes see into the sky of mind,
A half-smile unfolds on every leaf.
There is a forest here
Because I am here.
But mind has followed the forest
And clothed itself in green.

goat ps

Juniper is a goat who was rescued from extreme neglect, after having been abandoned and left to die. Before she was abandoned, she was someone’s pet. She survived against all odds, survived a winter with no food, no water, no help. When she was rescued, no one thought she’d make it, but here she is. She is a testament to the strength of will, the determination to survive, the trust that there is something better, if only we hang on for one more day. And then another and another. I can’t really verbalize why this feels tied in to the topic of walking meditation, but somehow it is, for me.