We all recently passed the nine-month mark since Nancy’s passing. It’s damn spooky (or maybe just divinely perfect) that she died on the longest night of the year, and every change of seasons for the rest of my life will remind me of her. But there is something special about nine months. It’s our special, human period of gestation. I wonder how I’ve been gestating.
I have to start by saying that grief is still ongoing, I feel sadness several times a day. It’s not massive, the hole in my heart is healing, but there is still pain, my attachment to her was deep. Fog pours over the Marin headlands, and the beauty reminds me of Nancy, how we would delight in it together. Tears arrive. I drive in the fast lane to work, and I remember how she hated to be near railings, would ask me to move over toward the middle of the highway. Tears again. The reminders are endless and frequent, although now I just feel sad for a few minutes. I don’t have to pull over to the side of the road, racked by sobs any more. I wipe tears away, and move forward.
I also keep myself in my grieving, tracking my feelings by writing this blog. This is helping me to heal, I can feel it. I’ve just gone back and re-read parts of my blog after she passed, the night of her 49-day ritual, and my eyes are wet now. It’s all still tender.
…so empty. The white roses from tonight’s altar are on the table next to me, lovely and simple like the ritual Val Szymanski led tonight. Zen teaches the beauty of emptiness, and I can feel that through the memorial service, and through the loneliness of my silent home. The cooling fan in my laptop is the only sound, except when I click the keys to write this. Or sniff back my tears.
Brings me to a funny painful story. When I started riding my motorcycle to work again a few months ago (1+ hour commute to San Bruno), I found out quickly that it’s really hard to deal with a wave of grief while riding. At 70mph on the freeway, a wave hit me, and I made the mistake of opening my visor to wipe tears. Big error. The tears streaming down my face immediately splattered all over the inside of the helmet, like driving through a rainstorm without windshield wipers. I managed to pull over and compose myself without accident, before making my way home. I haven’t made that mistake twice 🙂
So, what is happening at nine months? A week ago, on the equinox, exactly nine months, I was in a weekend workshop on deepening spirituality. I believe that says it all. Right now, I’m in the middle of a four-day workshop at Sukhasiddhi. I’m beginning a two-year program of deeper buddhist practice, called ngöndro, the basic practices that relieve negative karma from past lives, and put our ego in right relationship to bring ourselves and all humans to enlightenment. In particular, I’m starting the preliminaries. The picture above shows the dedication at the beginning of the text.
This is a difficult learning, as hard as anything I’ve ever done. Holding a visualization, memorizing & reciting a Tibetan prayer, and doing a physical movement (prostrations) at the same time is challenging. Aaaand, we had a wonderful dharma talk last night about how this rewires the brain. These practices light up both sides of the brain and put them in relationship, so that cross-connection occurs. There is ample scientific evidence, researchers are doing MRI scans of monks in specific meditations, and wondering if the MRI equipment is broken. People who undertake these practices can make deep shifts in the way their bodies and minds work.
I will say this about the workshop. When forty people chant a prayer together, in that spacious and rhythmic way, as we did at Nancy’s 49-day ceremony, something wonderful happens. If you open to the sound, you can feel how the prayer rips through the space-time continuum. It’s like hearing the Gyuto Monks chant together. I’m spending four days in the beautiful and privileged place of doing this, moving this, hearing this.
I’m going in. Again. That is what is being birthed. I’m converting an empty bedroom in my home into a practice room. And I am trying to figure out how I can spend one to two hours each morning doing these practices. Now I’m up against my ego. Again. Will my attention go towards making this easy or difficult? Perhaps this will be both easy and challenging at the same time, and I just get to sit in that.