i'm not really here

Epictetus was right.
JUNE 15, 2012 7:11PM

stick buddhist

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I know. I know. I haven’t been around here in ages.  Sorry about that. I do have a soft spot for all of you and wonder how are you doing. I see many new faces around, people I obviously do not know, and I am glad. 
I have been trying to get up to speed with reading but you all write faster than I can read (which is excellent, in the larger scheme of things). Know this, I do miss all of you. I think often on how life is at that bit of earth you call home.  Most times, I see many of you in Facebook, which is the one page I mostly keep open. I click on it as a nervous reflex when I am writing.
(I am writing, something else, hopefully for commercial profit. Probably a hopeless endeavor. But writing makes me extremely tense to the point of being almost ill and I tend to click on web pages to run away from the dread of writing. I read a bit, laugh at memes, and then I write a bit more. It is a most ineffectual form of writing.)
My brother Pilgrim has told me that I need to breathe the compulsion away. Foolish Monkey has offered great advice that I must act upon. In the time I’ve been away I’ve been busy trying to be a stick Buddhist.
“Being a stick Buddhist” comes from a conversation (I call them conversations, though I realize that is not an appropriate definition) in Facebook regarding wrinkles. My actual comment was “trying to be all Namaste about wrinkles/failing miserably”.  
I started laughing from the first comment: “The wrinkles on my face honor the wrinkles on yours.”
Brassawe called me out on this. He said “What kind of a stick Buddhist are you that you cannot handle a few wrinkles?” “But I’m Catholic”, I complained. And he said, “The Buddha doesn’t care if you are Catholic.”
Of course, I burst out laughing at that one. But Brassawe always manages to call me out. And keep me in a good mood while at it. 
While in college, decades ago, my summer philosophy course (I had to take three blasted philosophy courses for my major) was on Buddhist philosophy. I think it was the only available course that session, or I would have taken something else. There were a few flaws in my plan to take this course. One, I was eighteen and, therefore, absolutely not interested in learning anything profound. Two, it was a summer course, and I live on a Caribbean island. I mean, really? Three, it was at seven in the morning every day and I spent every night with my cousin at one of the island’s casinos, trying to woo one of the card dealers. (He was thirty something and still living with his mother so I think I dodged a major bullet there.) I came late to class every day, including the day of the final exam, when running into the classroom I pushed the door so hard it banged against the wall. The professor, who was probably Buddhist for all I know, looked at me and said in a soft voice “You still have time. Calm down.”
Poor man, it would take me another twenty years and a visit to the ER to take his advice.
(No, I do not like casinos.  I find them dark and depressing. The ER thing is age and genetics catching up with me. High blood pressure.)
So now I do yoga. I do breathing. I gave up coffee and soda for tea. I garden. I try to understand the eightfold path. (Of course, it makes no sense to me. That’s why I have Buddhist friends. They try to explain it while I pretend to understand.) 
I went to the beach today. I am sorry I have no pictures. My camera is officially dead. There was a bit of beach there full of baby hermit crabs and a wondrous sea urchin, a blood red body, black spines. The sea would come in and almost hide it, but as it went out it was like looking through a sharp glass, gorgeous.
I tried to engage my children to come see it. “But Ma! We want to stay in the water!” I insist, of course, because that part of me who is obtuse thinks this is something they need to see, they are islanders after all, imagine these kids going around not knowing what a sea urchin is. When I finally get them interested enough to navigate slippery rocks I realize there are a few other kids around me. I wonder if there is this invisible to everyone but me tattoo that reads ‘teacher’ on my forehead. So I keep going, telling the universe please don’t let these kids fall and secretly wondering where the heck their mothers are. And we see the sea urchin. It’s not ooh and ahh and my kids desert me quickly, but the others straggle behind, asking me questions. One of the boys tells me there’s another one up there on the rocks and we go to it. “Well, that’s not a sea urchin, that’s a crab. But I think it’s dead.” “How do we find out?” Asks one of the kids. “Do we throw sand on it?” “Ah, no. Let me find something…” and I keep looking until I find human-left behind debris, as always, and I turn the crab around. It’s dead and I holler at my own kids a bit more, "come see a crab, a dead crab” I add, to engage their Gothic natures, and they come and look at it half-heartedly and leave, but of course, the other kids are still there.  “How do you know it’s dead?” “Well,” I say, “there’s nothing but the shell, I mean, all the meat is gone.” And as I scoot it around until it falls into the water and returns to the sea (as it should) and the inquisitive boy asks “Well, who ate it?” “Probably a bird.” I say. And as his mother finally approaches (but of course, I’ve got teacher tattooed all over my face and I wear a big floppy hat and an appropriate for my age swimsuit and she has probably guessed I drink tea and do yoga so she is not worried), the kid fires another question. “But, why?” “Well, because birds need to eat. Just like you probably like hamburgers and no one will ever complain about that.” I smile at his mother who smiles at me and I go to my I-am-so-not-interested-in-getting-a-lesson-here kids and get back into the water.
This is what I found out today on the path to be a stick Buddhist. One, sometimes karma is quick. (At least, I think it's karma.) I saw a glass bottle on the water. (Sigh…yes, how can people do that?) I pulled it out. As soon as I did that I saw a sea urchin fossil on the sand. I had thought but a few moments before how much I wanted one. It stands on my bedside table now.  And two, you can actually do Tolasana (lifted lotus pose) while in the water.  I know it’s cheating but what did you expect from a stick Buddhist, anyway?

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I called you a weak stick Buddhist, Vanessa. I apologize for using that idiomatic expression from whence I come. Nonetheless, I so liked the idea of a "stick Buddhist" that I ran with it. It led to an amusing exchange.

In the meantime, keep writing, madam. It matters not to me what excruciating work it is for you. I am greedy that way.
Namaste, my dear friend, Vanessa. This makes me smile so big. ~r
It's cheating, but it feels so good!
Namasté, my dear!
Sounds like a wonderful, peaceful day.
Great to read you again (and thank you for the comment on my post) and grand to know you are well. Kids and dogs, as they say, both know quality by instinct.
I'm guessing you had no fear while writing this love letter to us, Vanessa. It certainly doesn't have any fear in it. I know what you mean, tho, because that how I write the serious stuff. Write a sentence or two and do a hand or two of solitaire or check Facebook or OS and email then back to the writing, sentence or two, repeate the drill until I need a nap or something to eat.

The Gothic nature of your kids, I wonder where they get that?

Delighted by your visit.
Namaste, sweetie. Missed you, too. Eight-fold path? There is no path. "Before I traveled my road I was my road."- Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943, (translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin)
If there's any fairness, you just earned some karma credit for sharing this warm, laid back, Caribbean island ocean rhythmed post tht got me smiling and breathing good. The stick in me honours the stick in you. namaste.
How beyond lovely, Vanessa, to hear your voice, to be with you on your beach and for a while ... to walk with you. Sea urchin fossil ... on the sand ... and, at long last ... you ... as though you've not been ... gone ...
nice to see you here again.
"The Buddha doesn’t care if you are Catholic." brilliant!
I loved reading about your day. I found a sand dollar once in Florida. Very pretty. A sea urchin would be a great find.
Vanessa, on the drive home, it struck me how much I appreciate you sharing your nervous reflex of clicking on FB to escape the dread of writing. Writing my story is often hard - HARD - and I need to escape too. FB is such a convenient escape and tension breaker. I feel a lot better now about not being able to stay with the writing as much as I'd like to, knowing that I'm not alone in the struggle to write. Thank you, Vanessa!
This was very relaxing to read as you wrote about releasing stress, I giggled because your kids had no interest in what their mother was showing them and the other kids did. It brought back memories, I wonder why mom is so boring to her own kids?

I tend to plow through things and having read this I wonder if I might try taking 'breathers' when I write. Anyway I'm grateful you posted here for us to enjoy, no matter the lapses, it's good to see you again.
I know, I know. You haven't been around here in ages. Or you'd know about the facebook/share button tendril of seaweed that dangles into your words. Loved this, Vanessa. Maybe you are a BendyStick Buddhist by now?
Thanks for this welcome update, vanessa.
It's not cheating, it's just water yoga. Fish, crabs and urchins do it all the time. Personally, I think giving up coffee is overrated, so if you need to reconnect with it, that doesn't make you a bad buddhist. Good karma is reducing suffering, que no?
Sitting here sipping some very delicious cafe con leche ;), I am struck by how much I don't believe in giving things up. But, then, that might just be a measure of my addiction.

To the real points: 1. You read so easily in this--and so richly and densely (compliment that, as in "packed with suggestions") often, that it is difficult to think you struggle with it, though I know it must be true because I also hear it in your words.
2. And Jesus doesn't care if you're a Buddhist, either.
3. I love the whole description of the visit to the beach: you picture it for us. And your self-deprecation, too. Matthiessen's guru makes sense: "expect nothing." We must be that way with life; parents must be that way with children. Then we open ourselves to the wonder of the world rather than wallow in suffering.
4. Your answer to "Why?" shows why you have that label on your forehead. They came to you because they sensed they would get answers like that.
sticky buddhas...

indeed, may help in your search for the Taíno ,
I wish you well, as always, y el café para un buen despertar .

"Sea urchin" seems so much more endearing than "erizo" (de mar)...
Try turning off the lights and shining a flashlight inside one, Beautiful!
Winkles are yoga for the face? Whatever they may be about, they will never hide guapura pura, esa luz de los latigos...

Breathe and stretch and let the gods finally catch up with you...

suerte con cada palabra y con el bodhisattva ~
How DELIGHTFUL to find you here this morning!

I still do not understand what is meant by a "stick Buddhist", but so much of Buddhism is like that.

Here's how I see that eightfold path: it's all stuff you always knew since you were a child–don't kill stuff, don't steal stuff, don't say mean stuff. When you drink your tea, drink your tea. When you examine a sea urchin, examine a sea urchin. It sounds like you've got it!
Glad you are back. Love your writing, you always teach me something.
Your prose is so lovely.
I'm probably a newbie to you, but reading this post brought to mind a Bhuddist tale about a Zen Master and his three disciples. Walking in the mountains the disciples followed their master until he stopped, pointed to a dead fall tree limb with his walking stick and asked the first disciple to explain it.

The young monk picked up the limb, held it in his hands fora long moment then launched into a monologue about the cycle of life and death in the nature of the physical world and after he finished, the master struck him on his head with his walking stick, turned away and continued walking.

Some time later they came upon more dead fall and the master stopped and asked the second monk to explain. This young man considered the fallen branch from a distance and began to speak about how in the nature of the world it is best to let things lay where they fall... but before he could say another word, the master struck him with his walking stick and walked away.

When they came upon a third fallen branch, the master questioned the third monk, who picked up the branch, stripped away the twigs and leaves until he held a wooden staff in his hands. He then looked into the eyes of the master saying nothing. Lifting his walking stick, the master said, "I am waiting."

Shifting into a defensive posture with the branch squared across his chest shoulder high, the disciple replied, "So am I."

The Master laughed, turned away and continue the journey.
loved JMac's buddhist story - ha ha ha ha! HA!
a daily 7am summer class on a caribbean island when you're 18? Wow.
not the best intro to buddhism.
Good luck on your writing project, vanessa and thank you for letting me imagine myself on the beach today.
I have been working on a Karma piece but could not come up with an ending I think you may have giving me the way to end it! I love that teacher is who you are, is who you are gracefully seen as :)
I have been working on a Karma piece but could not come up with an ending I think you may have giving me the way to end it! I love that teacher is who you are, is who you are gracefully seen as :)
I think your Stick Buddhist is more authentic than my Stick Sane Person. It is good to see you back here in the feed...write on, whittle yourself some knees, then you can sit in the lotus position while you ponder.
Great story! I used to love seeing the sea urchins on the beach in PR - there were tons of them on the rocks at the beach in El Condado. By the way, my sister also has "teacher" tattooed on her forehead - she's known as "the jellyfish lady" at the beach every summer and is always surrounded by hoards of kids! :-)
My mother was a teacher, my daughter is. I think I got the bossy know-it-all aspect in my genes. People are always asking me if I am a teacher. I guess the stick Buddhist answer would be, "Yes." happy you are you, and that you so generously share with us.
I very much enjoyed this. I think your reflection on karma at the end means you're far more than a "stick Buddhist". Or if you are, I want to be one, too - stick Buddhists are deep!
welcome back island girl. I enjoyed this post, reminds me of visits to my inlaws on the island!
Years ago. I went to Japan to practise meditation in Hakuho-ji Zen temple.

Just tried to find information about the place in the Net. Funny. It seems that I found in the Net one German guy with whom I climbed mount Fuji.