this too
Tuesday, August 23, 2005

“Hey lady, you can cross now”, says an irritated voice from behind me. I haven’t noticed the pedestrian lights change to green because I have both hands in the pockets of my waterproof jacket and I’m flapping them to and fro against my body, feeling the several inches of space where, a few weeks ago, this jacket barely fastened. Disconcerting, watching yourself shrink.

So, what’s this blog thing? I’m not sure I remember. And do I want to write in it? Apparently, not much. There are several reasons. A dear person is very ill and it’s rather hard to think about anything else. That’s a reasonable reason. The others are vaguer and weirder. Since the zen retreat, I feel as though I’ve been hit on the head with a large, though benign, wooden mallet. Dazed, though not confused. Quite calm and centred, but flayed, feeling everything as though I had no skin. Feeling everything deeply, but unable to poke it and prick it and push it, in my usual fashion, into manageable boxes. Feeling, I suppose, rather a lot of what Ezra Bayda calls ‘the anxious quiver of being’. Whilst this may be fruitful, may bring real shifts in perspective, it’s not very conducive to getting on with anything, like all the work to be done before the new academic year begins in one month’s time, and the translating and copyediting jobs I feel unable to refuse because I need the money.

Oh well, sometimes you just do what you can, stick with the feeling instead of burying it in food, keep taking the next breath. And by way of distraction, wide-eyed, you watch yourself shrink, smile nervously at the space just in front of you – where your belly was.

I'm sorry to hear about your sick friend. Given all that's going on, some "ebb & flow" in your enthusiasm for blogging is natural.

I had to chuckle at the beginning of your post, though, since last week in Findlay, I found myself missing the *buzzers* that signal the cross-walks here in Keene. Although these sounds (bells, cuckoos, buzzes) are supposed to help blind folks know when the walk signal has changed, I find they help *me* since I'm usually looking *everywhere but* at the traffic signals.

In Findlay, there were no *sounds* signalling Walk or Don't Walk, so I usually spent a while standing slack-jawed looking at something *after* the light had changed.

And they say this Zen thing is about awareness, huh? ;-)
Mmm. We do have bleeps to alert visually impaired people that they can cross, but I was well and truly lost in the space between my jacket and my tummy... have a LONG way to go as regards being more present/aware...
I do wish I could smile at the space where my belly used to be. I can't seem to get it to the "used to be" stage.

Welcome back, addled or not. Sorry about your friend.
Perhaps I should hasten to clarify that quite a lot of my belly is still here.
Hi Jean :)

In my experience, the transition from the landscape of silence to the landscape of pedestrian lights can sometimes feel quite daunting. Yet, gradually, over time, I begin to paint them both on the same canvas and a whole new set of colours appears.

If you could name that space just in front of you where your belly used to be, what would you name it?
Of course, this is my koan! I shall start patting the space where my belly was and saying 'what is this?'.
Re-entry from retreat is often disorienting like that. I remember one man telling how he was driving home after a week's retreat and stopped for gas. The attendant walked up and said, "what'll it be, bud?"

He just stared at him. What'll it be? The question ran so many ways, and it was so freighted with bizarre assumptions, that it took him a full minute or to to gather himself together to respond.

I think when your sight clears a little, the ordinary activities and preocupations of life can look really really weird. I remember times where the whole shebang just seemed baffling. They expect to get happy doing *that*? And they expect to avoid suffering with *those*? What are we all doing here?

And then you have to deal with seeing the robustness of all your usual habitual tendencies, without being as fooled by them as usual, which can be depressing as hell. I actually think that retreats ought to be sold with warning labels. "Caution: may cause disorientation and dismay. Do not operate heavy quotidia while under the influence of this retreat."
Dale ~ I love that... "Do not operate heavy quotidia while under the influence of this retreat." LOL
Sounds to me like a good state to hold on to for as long as it lasts. Being in the moment yet not *of* it.
Your blog is a great discovery! Thanks for visiting mine, so that I could find yours. I can commiserate about the post-retreat blues. The rest of the world can be so outlandish and incomprehensible, when you've just been basking in pure existence.
Heighted sensitivity... I was told once my son did not have as many "censors" to limit what he sensed and therefore was experiencing a whole heck of a lot more of the world than I was. I am sure if I was in your shoes, I wouldn't be noticing the walk signal change either.
Take care of yourself Jean.
Ah - you are inspiring me every step of the way, Jean. The discussion here is inspirational too. Am reading another book by Geneen Roth called When "Food is Love" which is very helpful to me in understanding why I eat when I'm not hungry. Am still oh so not good about holding still with my discomfort. So much to learn always.
That sounds like a book I should read!
What you describe here -- the post-retreat hit-on-the-head feeling -- is so familiar to me. It's oddly disconcerting to see it described so well in somebody else's terms, as though you'd crept inside my head for a moment!

Good luck navigating these difficult days. I wish for your friend a speedy and full recovery.
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